Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Nagging Questions After Watching Chappie

Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver with Chappie
This Wednesday evening I had the privilege opportunity to attend an advance screening of Chappie. No, it won’t be in the running for best sci-fi movie of the year. Not even close. Still, it raises a number of important questions, not the least of which is, When will man create the first robot that’s human? First, however, a few other questions.

1. What’s with the name “Chappie”? Whatever you do, don’t slap this name on your next child. If you don’t know why, imagine your child’s kindergarten teacher reading roll call and saying his or her name aloud. Yes, you know what happens next. Not good. They’re already saying the same thing about the movie.

2. Why such a flat storyline? Sci-fi is supposed to spark our imagination and offer possibilities, even epiphanies, about other (future?) realities. Chappie the movie (not your kid) starts well. The first few minutes raise expectations fairly high. The next 110 minutes, however, relentlessly swear, threaten, shoot, stab, maim, kill and grind those expectations into the grimiest parts of Johannesburg, South Africa. True, you grow to care about Chappie and his creator, and a bit for ¥o-Landi Vi$$er, and the last few minutes offer a predictable but sufficient ending. Even the best of endings, however, can’t atone for such flat screenwriting.

3. How can great actors fail us? Not one, but two of Hollywood’s most consistently successful actors, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, find it impossible to rise above the movie’s flat storyline. Not even for half a minute. I don’t know how much they got paid, but their star power is tarnished, if only for a season.

4. Will this movie bomb? The screening audience laughed. Once. For the wrong reasons. When it was over, applause was muted and mercifully brief. Chappie the movie might last in theatres for two or three weeks. Then again, that’s probably too sanguine. Already the Internet is abuzz with “Chappie is c*appy.” Call your next kid anything but.

5. What about the movie’s premise? Doesn’t Chappie win points for tackling a pressing question? After all, the title character runs a Google search for “uploading human consciousness” and a few hours later declares he’s learned everything he needs to know. Try the same search in March 2015 and you’ll be surprised at the vast array of search results. Everything is in place, including confidence. Oh, except for the “how.”

6. When will man create the first robot that’s human? If you believe everything you read, this is supposed to take place by 2030. You might think of it as the Garden of Eden II—the opening chapters of Genesis reimagined in the not-so-distant-future. Instead of God, we have a youthful and geeky engineer. Instead of creating Adam, he creates Abel, who lands in the wrong hands, falls into sin, becomes Cain, and then is redeemed.

Last but not least…

7. Is it worth seeing at least once? Sure. Without the kids. Fifteen years from now. Just be sure to ditch any and all expectations. If you laugh, that’s okay. If you yawn, that’s okay too. Just be thankful Jackman and Weaver went on to make more great movies.

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