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.