After the blistering success of Neill Blomkamp’s feature directorial debut District 9, his big budget follow-up Elysium didn’t quite manage to strike the same chord with audiences and critics. Blomkamp’s third sci-fi feature, Chappie, seems as though it will fall somewhere between the two movies in terms of themes, exploring the future of technological advancement through a robot with AI that makes it capable of thinking and feeling, thereby making it a target for the authorities.
Chappie stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as Chappie’s “father”: an ambitious inventor responsible for creating a robot police force. His colleague Vincent (Hugh Jackman) has obviously been watching the same kind of AI apocalypse movies that we have and knows that sentient AI will lead to either the destruction or the enslavement of mankind; and thus, becomes determined to have the robot destroyed.
The main challenge that Chappie (the movie, not the robot) has to overcome is the fact that the subject of artificial intelligence that approaches human intelligence has been explored countless times before in science fiction, whether as a potentially good thing or a potentially very bad thing. The new UK trailer for Chappie, much like the previous ones, seems to fall down on the “very good” side (with those opposed to Chappie acting appropriately villainous), but perhaps Blomkamp will surprise us at the eleventh hour by having Chappie turn evil.
Chappie‘s cast also includes Signourney Weaver, Yolandi Visser and Jose Pablo Cantillo, along with Blomkamp’s old friend Sharlto Copley providing the mo-cap for Chappie. The film was co-scripted by Blomkamp with his wife, Terri Tatchell, who also penned District 9 together.
If nothing else, Chappie will provide a nice counterpoint to Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which an insane AI decides to rain down death and destruction on humanity. Maybe Ultron just needs some kind-hearted Johannesburg thieves to teach him how to be a good person.
Chappie opens in U.S. theaters on March 6th, 2015.