Friday, April 28, 2017


Year 9, Day 118 - 4/28/17 - Movie #2,612

BEFORE: Now I'm really glad that I switched the order around and moved "Australia" up on the list, and moved this one back - because it puts the three sci-fi/comic/fantasy films with Hugh Jackman all in a row now.  I don't know why I didn't see that when I first put the chain together.  Oh well, I do allow myself a little bit of flexibility for just this reason.  After this I'm going to drop in that extra Hugh Jackman film that I saw earlier this month, since I want to hit Mother's Day on time, and I'm a few days behind in the count for the year anyway.  As a result, I'm going to be counting four movies in three days, and that allows me to make some progress in reducing the watchlist for the first time in about two months.  I'm tentatively back to adding one for every two I watch, so by the start of next week I could get the watchlist from 133 down to 130.  But then, I'm sure that the new month will bring new movies to the pay channels, and that will slow me down again.

We're also going off on another road-trip to Atlantic City on Sunday, so I'll try to watch my Sunday movie before we go and my Tuesday movie when we get back, so I'll only have to watch one movie late at night in our hotel room, on my wife's laptop.

THE PLOT: In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force.  When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

AFTER: This one's been on the books for a while, I think I missed my chance to link to it from "X-Men: Apocalypse" so it was down in the unlinkable section of the watchlist for a while, and then along came "Pan" with Hugh Jackman, and with it a renewed sense of hope.  Then of course, "Logan" came along, and "Lion" seemed like a good way to get to Dev Patel, so there you go, it's back on the books.  ("Australia" and "Eddie the Eagle" were last-minute additions, they were airing this month, so they were along for the ride.  1 loss and 1 win from adding them, so really, it's a wash.)

Now that I've seen "Chappie", I don't really know what to make of it.  It wants to badly to be like this modern-day mix of "Frankenstein" and "Robocop", or maybe that's just me.  There's some good metaphorical point to be made about people creating robot life and robot intelligence, which would make people like gods to the robots, and therefore the robot/human relationship would be symbolic of human's belief in a Creator, but the film didn't seem very interested in exploring this.  It came close, but I feel like it dropped this ball, or else it didn't want to play in the first place.  Chappie was created with a bad, non-replaceable battery, so his existence is doomed to end in 5 days, which is a bit like humans wondering why they have to die - that's about it for the symbolism here.

They do sort of draw an analogy to a just-awakened robot to a human baby, who needs to learn language and behavior and, well, just about anything - but that process can't be the same for a silicon-based creature than it is for a carbon-based one, who has to breathe and nurse and be protected from danger, can it?  Thinking that the process is exactly the same would sell the robot experience short, I think - but there's zero explanation here regarding how it might be different.

I also didn't understand how there were two different robot programmers working for the same company, and one works on the successful police robots, and the other keeps pushing for the bigger, more impractical war-type droid, that the South African (?) government doesn't even want.  At first I thought he worked for a rival company but no, he's part of the same corporation, which is somehow competing against itself for the state's contract.  Huh?  Why can't he get on board with the company line, which seems to be what the government is actually interested in buying?  And if he can't, why is he still employed there?  Something's not adding up.

I'm also not exactly sure why Deon, the programmer of the successful police robots, wants to go and spoil everything by continuing to work on creating robot consciousness.  If the robots are working fine without it, why keep trying to crack this problem?  For the good of science, sure, but there's no money in it, and it can only lead to bad things like robot slave revolts and larger questions about whether humans are now gods.  It's better to not even go there.  Especially if your BOSS tells you to drop that project, you'd better drop it if you want to keep your job.  Save the robot consciousness program for 5 or 10 years down the line, when you're out of the militia game and working in the private sector for some company that cares more about artificial intelligence, right?

Chappie might have worked better if he hadn't been corrupted by these Mad Max-style thugs, who want to use him to pull off a heist.  He ended up developing speech patterns and mannerisms that were common to gangsta rap, which then mixed with his innocent sort of baby-talk and the actor's South African accent to make this jumbled-up speech that was quite difficult for me to understand.

I can't really refer to my major NITPICK POINT without giving away the ending, but let's just say that there's a big leap in technology between what we see the neural interface do (allow a human to control a robot remotely) and then what the interface gets used for later.  That's not what the tech was designed to do, it's hard to believe it could be re-purposed like that.

I swear, it's just another coincidence that last week there were news reports out of Russia about a robot that can shoot guns...

Also starring Sharlto Copley (last seen in "Maleficent"), Dev Patel (last seen in "Lion"), Sigourney Weaver (last seen in "Ghostbusters" (2016)), Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Castillo, Brandon Auret (last seen in "Elysium"), Johnny Selema, Bill Marchant, Anderson Cooper (last seen in "The 33").

RATING: 4 out of 10 flash drives

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