Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Chappie’ (2015)

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

The feeling- and consciousness-infused machine has been one of cinema’s more popular go-to sci-fi archetypes. Add the titular robot of Chappie to that list.

Set in a near-future Johannesburg that’s riddled by crime gangs, Neill Blomkamp, the movie’s co-writer and director, has created a parable – sandwiched between two revenge tales – about one man’s and one special robot’s embrace of higher consciousness and a yearning for immortality and transcendence.

When we enter the story, the city’s police force has installed the world’s first cadre of “Scout” robotic law enforcers, whose feeling-enhanced technology, embedded in the robot, was created by boy wonder Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), an engineer at tech company Tetravaal. Deon’s gain and prestige has been at the expense of fellow engineer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). Tetravaal’s enthusiasm over the “Scout” has resulted in the firm’s increasingly diminished funding of Vincent’s human-operated and clumsier “Moose” technology. Vincent’s anger at being professionally marginalized leads to his desire to even the score by undermining the “Scout” and taking revenge on Deon himself.

Meanwhile, a drug deal gone wrong has prompted three unappealing and none-too-bright criminals (Ninja, Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo) to kidnap Deon to get hold of the remote system that controls the robotic scouts, and which the thugs hope to program to their own advantage. In short order, Deon creates, in a stroke of luck, a higher-consciousness creature named Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) with capabilities beyond the “Scout.” Chappie’s sheer genius and adaptability will make him something of a pawn in this eruptive good vs. evil scenario – where yet another crime lord wants revenge – none of which is especially riveting on the screen.

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

Far more intriguing is the script’s clever archetypal play. Once Chappie is ensconced in the culprits’ household, he starts addressing two of them as “Mommy” and “Daddy.” He also refers to Deon as the “Maker,” but viewers will have by now already recognized that the name “Deon” is a stand-in for the Latin-derived word for God. In the end Chappie – unable to be duplicated because, as a conscious creature, he is devoid of data – is all these archetypes, clearly becoming a “Maker” himself at the movie’s conclusion, which adds a fair amount of spiritual undertones to the proceedings.

Chappie tackles the larger themes of Uranian technology and the collective, Saturnine compartmentalization and rules to keep society in check, Neptunian transcendence, and Plutonian control which is the reason that conglomerates like the fictional Tetravaal exist in the first place.

Archetype: Sentient Technology. Conscious Robot.

Astrology Archetype: ♄ ♅ ♆ ♇ (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

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