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Chappie: a movie review

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Chappie, a police droid, who is re-programmed to think and feel holds building blocks spelling out his name in the theatrical release poster (Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/lyy7y0QOK-0?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa a few years in the future. By this time, the regular police force has been largely replaced by human-sized robots, called scouts, which feature advanced artificial intelligence and heavy weapons. Their approach to law enforcement is shoot first, ask questions later. The scouts were developed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), the lead programmer at Tetra Vaal, and have cut crime rates in Johannesburg drastically while saving countless lives. All in all, they are a huge success but Deon is not satisfied with simply creating effective police officers. He has dreams of crafting a robot that can learn and think like a human. His boss at Tetra Vaal, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), is less enthused about the notion but Deon ignores her warnings and decides to test his new program on a severely damaged scout that was scheduled for destruction.

Before he can install the new software, Deon is captured by three criminals who believe that he can shut down the scouts, thereby allowing them to pull off a heist that will pay their debt with the local crime lord. When they discover that Deon is unable to shut down the scouts, they spare his life in exchange for activating the damaged robot. They do this in the hope that they will be able to use it to help them successfully pull off the heist. The new software is successfully installed and the damaged scout is reborn as Chappie (Sharlto Copley).

The remainder of the film largely centers on the question of what it means to be alive. As Chappie becomes more self-aware and develops his own personality, the need to understand his existence takes on an increasingly greater level of importance. This need is made even more acute by the realization that the damage done prior to his reprogramming has left him only a few days before he is permanently deactivated. This desire to continue living drives him to find a way to transfer his consciousness to another vessel, thus essentially becoming immortal; an ability that calls into question the nature of the soul when he claims that it could also be applied to people.

Ultimately, Blomkamp seems to want the viewer to walk away from the movie with the belief that consciousness is equivalent to the soul and that the ability to think and learn is what makes us alive. This view is made most clear when Chappie states in defense of his existence “I’m consciousness. I’m alive. I’m Chappie.” But is life really so simple? Can our existence be boiled down to our ability to think and interact with the world around us?

While such abilities are absolutely a significant part of what it means to be alive, Blomkamp’s view leaves out the vital element of purpose. It is not enough to simply exist. We were created for more than that. God gave us life so that we might live it in relationship with him. In fact, he desires that relationship so much that he was willing to send his only Son to die in our place so that it might be restored (John 3:16). Apart from that connection, there will always be a fundamental aspect of our lives that is missing. That is the point that Chappie fails to take into account and Blomkamp’s answer to the larger question of what it means to be alive rings somewhat hollow as a result.

However, your life does not have to reflect that void. Augustine wrote of God in his Confessions that “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” God would love nothing more than to help you find that rest today. If you have never accepted the invitation to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then he stands ready to welcome you into that relationship this very moment. However, even after making the choice to follow him, we have the propensity to waver from the path, to wander off from following. When we do, aimlessness replaces purpose and life is no longer characterized by rest but unrest. If you have made that mistake, God’s call today is for you to return to him and find the rest and purpose that only he can provide.

From time to time, we all need to be reminded of how crucial our walk with God is to living a full and meaningful life. What we do with that reminder determines whether we merely exist or truly live. How will you respond today?