I know, you’re either attracted to the idea that this is a robot movie, or you’re repelled by it. It is a robot movie, but it’s also so much more. When children are born, their minds are blank slates, but their growth is slow. You don’t hear their thoughts on the world for quite some time. Chappie presents a chance to explore the idea of a blank slate entering the world in an adult body. He can comment on the world as he discovers it all, for the first time. Instead of watching a boy grow up through the years, we watch Chappie grow up in a matter of days. The accelerated process gives us some insight and a perspective we don’t always get to have. Granted, if I was choosing which movie to buy to watch over and over, I may be more inclined to purchase The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (released the same weekend) because I gravitate towards light-hearted, feel-good comedies for re-watchability…but be sure that the movie I have been intrigued by and discussing the most, the one which has the best opportunities for discussions about our feelings about our Maker, our influence, the things which influence us, etc… that movie is Chappie!
Deon worked at a factory creating artificially intelligent police robots. On the side, he was working to create a conscious robot. He wanted to create something that could learn and think and feel. (He wanted to create life, essentially.) As the idea of a robot who could write poetry didn’t appeal to the defense contractors, he was denied. So, Deon stole a damaged robot that was sentenced to destruction to try out his new micro-chip on, to see if it worked…if the robot would be consciousness.
He and the robot were kidnapped by thugs looking to make some money, the end result of which is that the robot, Chappie, was “born”, briefly met his “Maker” but was raised by thugs. They didn’t kill Deon, but they had their own purposes for Chappie and didn’t want Deon sticking around.
This is where it gets interesting. Deon is enthralled with his new creation and eager to be a part of his life. He’s limited, however, because the thugs don’t live in is world and he is not welcome in theirs. (Do you see how this echoes the Christian story? We have a Maker, but His involvement in our lives is limited as well, by sin, by the fact that He isn’t always welcome…) Deon comes to visit Chappie when he can, and at first Chappie is very eager to know his maker. He is open and eager and loving. He loves anything that his maker gives him. “This is my book from my maker—Black Sheep—can I read it?!” He is eager to do whatever his maker tells him.
Deon teaches him about beautiful things like books and painting. He urges him to be creative and to learn. He also cautions him against doing things that would be harmful to his growth. “Chappie, please—have respect for me. I’m your maker! Listen to me. I’m your maker. I brought you into this world. You must not engage in these people’s life styles… You must promise me. You can’t break a promise. You must use your mind… books… paints…” To which Chappie eagerly replies, “Chappie wants to paint!” The life Deon set out for him was one that appealed to him.
However Ninja, his “daddy” was tempting him with another way of life, and teaching him about the hard things in life. He gave him a “real world” education. He took him to a dog fight and afterward, looking at the two dogs, one alive, one dead, he said, “Out here in the wild, life is hard. You’re either that dog [points to the live one who won the dog fight] or that one [points to the dead dog who lost].”
Do you see your life in this? We have a Maker and He gave us a book, the Bible. And in that book, He urges us to spend our lives doing beautiful things, things that fulfill our souls and things that make the world a better place. He also cautions us not to do things that are bad. He warns us not to engage in bad people’s life styles. He tells us not to steal, not to murder, not to do things that would hurt other people. And some of us, like Chappie, promise Him we won’t. But then…we have a Ninja in our lives who shows up, pretending he cares about us when all he wants to do is use us. He starts by teaching us about the world, showing us the “real” world, teaching us the “hard” facts. He tempts us to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the very tree our Maker warned us to avoid. But we are curious, and we like him, and we are eager to make Ninja happy because he says he cares about us.
Ninja didn’t just give Chappie a tough education, but he used him and he lied to him. Ninja needed Chappie to help him commit various crimes—stealing mostly, but inherent in that was killing people who stood in the way.
Chappie: I can’t do crimes. I promised my maker. Ninja: Not crimes, special gang stuff. You wanna come with? Chappie: Yeah, I wanna come with!
Ninja lied. He made Chappie feel special, a part of the gang. He wanted to teach him how to shoot, but Chappie knew guns were bad, so Ninja taught him how to use knives and Chinese stars and so forth…promising Chappie that they would help people “sleep”…and people like to sleep! When Chappie hit a guy with a Chinese star and the man didn’t die but laid there, bleeding, asking for help, Chappie began to apologize profusely. “I thought you would sleep!” He was so deceived. Ninja was crafty. He knew Chappie was resolute not to break his promise to his Maker…so he renamed things and he changed definitions. He played with semantics so Chappie wouldn’t know he was doing wrong. (Kind of like Satan does today, with us. It’s not an affair, it’s a soul mate. Abortion isn’t murder; it’s a choice. It’s not selfishness, it’s defending your rights. It’s not stealing; it’s creative accounting, etc.)
Chappie may have been deceived and doing a lot of bad things, but he still loved and believed in his maker. Ninja had to ruin that if he wanted to have control of Chappie. So he told Chappie about how his maker had wronged him, cheated him, held out on him.
Chappie: I’m titanium! I’m invincible! Ninja: You’re broken! He put you in a broken body. Chappie: My maker loves me! Why would he do that? He wouldn’t do that!
The truth of that sank in hard to the trusting Chappie. His body (the one that was doomed for destruction) had a flaw. His battery was dying and because of the bullets he had taken as a soldier before Deon saved him, the battery was fused to his casing and could not be replaced. In other words, when the battery died, Chappie would die. Chappie was furious, betrayed.
Deon: Why won’t you talk to me? I’m your maker. Yolandi: Why you trying to control him like this? Just let him be. Chappie: Daddy told me about you, how you put me in a body that will die. You’re my maker. Why did you just make me so I could die? Deon: I didn’t make you to die. Chappie: I want to live! I want to stay here with mommy! Deon: How was I supposed to know that you would become…YOU?
Yolandi, his “mommy,” taught him that his body was temporary, that his consciousness was really a soul and that wouldn’t die. “It’s who you really are inside your soul. The outside, this is just temporary. When you die, the soul, it goes to the next place. What’s inside you—that’s what mommy loves.” That’s when Chappie began to think about how he could save his soul.
There comes a time in all of our lives when he have to face the reality of sin, hurt, pain and death in our world and in our lives. Our enemy whispers to us the truth that we are going to die. He whispers to us that our bodies are broken and that our world is broken…and he lets it sink in. We have to wrestle with that. We have to wrestle with two truths that seem to be at odds with each other. How can we have a good God, a Maker who loves us, and yet have broken bodies, pain and suffering? He wouldn’t do that to us, we think and maybe we even scream.
Deon’s answer to Chappie’s question is that he didn’t know. He didn’t anticipate all that Chappie would become. God’s answer is far better. He DID know. He did anticipate. And because he foreknew that we were the ones who would break our bodies, we were the ones who would let sin and pain and death and suffering into our world (He didn’t do that!)…since He saw that coming, He began to work out a plan of salvation. He began to work out a cure.
In the end, Deon found a new body for Chappie. An upgraded, better body. (He got one for himself, and for Yolandi and Ninja too—who were redeemed through their love for Chappie, but that’s a whole other can of worms…several, actually!) And they all lived together after that in more or less immortal bodies. Chappie’s ending is okay, but ours is MUCH better. God has new, immortal bodies for us as well. And we will live together with him and with all who are redeemed…in the new heavens and the new earth. Everything gets made new, upgraded and improved. Because God DOES love us and he didn’t make us to die.
Questions for Discussion:
- How is it different watching Chappie learn and grow than watching a human child do the same?
- Chappie had to choose between pleasing his maker and his “daddy”—have you ever been put in a similar situation?
- Ninja’s way to get Chappie to do bad stuff was to call it something good. Have you ever done something bad, not realizing it was bad because it had been renamed, or re-described? Have you ever been deceived like that?
- Have you ever gotten mad at God because he let bad things happen?
- How did having Chappie in their lives change Yolandi and Ninja?
- Do you think it will ever be possible to create a robot with a soul?
- Do you believe in a Maker? What do you believe about Him?
- Do you believe we have a soul and that it goes on after our bodies die? What do you believe about the afterlife?