Chappie – “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.”

Chappie - dog scene

Chappie is full of archetypes–the corporate CEO (Michelle Bradley – Sigourney Weaver) whose every action, decision, and motive is concerned with shareholders and profit; the seemingly stable employee (Vincent Moore – Hugh Jackman) who, after growing tired of having his ideas and ultimately his entire existence ignored, turns into a villain blinded by his intense ambition to be seen and carry out his own plans for robotic law enforcement; the celebrated employee who does not fully consider the consequences of his actions to create a conscious life in the form of a robot; the “original villains” who “unexpectedly” turn “good” when they become personally involved with Chappie, who is innocent and trusting; and the regular people–those who simply react to Chappie with violence, disgust, and fear because he is–well, different.

We see these character types in films and in life, and the fact that technology is the catalyst in the film is, in my mind, irrelevant. Technology is just another tool that brings out the worst in people (or, on a more positive note, who we really are). It doesn’t have to be that way, but we make it that way because technology has become something we hide behind and something we use as “extensions of the hand” (click to read USAF Academy’s Thomas Vargish’s “Technology and Impotence in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” ) that allow us to be lazy and to do less. I couldn’t help but notice that people sat on their butts on chairs while they controlled the robotic police force. That image was never more vivid than during Vincent Moore’s final undoing when everything falls apart for him. He is left sitting helpless on a giant chair back at headquarters. That is what happens. We use technology to evade responsibility, but the mess we make is our fault alone, whether or not we are physically present at the sites of destruction. And, of course, near the end of Chappie, they end up sending out 150,000 human police officers and halt all production of the robotic officers. I could see that coming–anyone with a brain could. But, unfortunately, too many people are still too obsessed with their buttons and screens, and they are blinded until something drastic happens to them–personally.

Even the seemingly comforting solution (I won’t spoil it here) that Chappie finds for himself and for his “Maker” (Deon Wilson – Dev Patel) is disturbing–because technology, in or from the hands of humans–or anywhere near humans–is disturbing. Thoreau was, of course, right: “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.” We keep letting it, and we keep screwing up.


The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (with a magical, out-of-body experience)


The last time I had an out-of-body experience at the movies was during Lincoln (2012). Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln) was bringing it in the most intense private scene with Daniel Day-Lewis (Abraham Lincoln). With Field’s sheer brilliance and the passion that poured from her, I was reminded that I wouldn’t witness much like that in the cinema. This time, I had the magical out-of-body experience during a scene in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in which Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade) and Maggie Smith (Muriel Donnelly) are the only two players. It’s just the two of them. Sitting there, it was as if I took it all in–these icons together at their best (which they display in everything they do). I felt fortunate, and not since Lincoln had I actually had that out-of-body feeling. The movie is worth it for those few moments, but it is more than that. It combines the wisdom of the old with the “wisdom” of the young. The “wisdom” of the young, however, begs for the guidance of the experienced, and the relationship between Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Smith) is something we need more of. The mixture of youth and experience is something else we need more of (as well as, of course, a focus on older characters in and of itself). I certainly learned and gained insight. And sometimes I like to teach a bit. And hearing the names of the rest of the cast, including Bill Nighy (Douglas Ainslie), Penelope Wilton (Jean Ainslie), Celia Imrie (Madge Hardcastle), Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins), Lillete Dubey (Mrs. Kapoor), Diana Hardcastle (Carol Parr), and Richard Gere (Guy Chambers) makes me yell, “Yes!”