Takes a closer look at the ar­ti­fi­cial fam­ily tree.

Kapi-Mana News - - MOVIES -

From the an­cient leg­end of lady-maker Pyg­malion to 1980s clas­sics The Ter­mi­na­tor and Blade Run­ner with their ‘‘more hu­man than hu­man’’ killing ma­chines, ar­ti­fi­cial peo­ple have al­ways tit­il­lated and ter­ri­fied us.

Ro­bots can be any­thing from comic side­kicks to apoc­a­lyp­tic threats, of­ten telling us more about what it means to be hu­man than to be a ma­chine.

The lat­est in the me­chan­i­cal fam­ily line is Chap­pie (Sharlto Co­p­ley), from the film of the same name by Neill Blomkamp.

In the film, a de­funct po­lice robot, Chap­pie, is given a child­like con­scious­ness af­ter be­ing stolen by a gang of rough and ready crim­i­nals.

As he ‘‘ grows up’’, Chap­pie learns life’s bru­tal lessons, ex­am­in­ing what it means to be a living, think­ing, feel­ing thing.

Ar­ti­fi­cial though he is, Chap­pie has an il­lus­tri­ous lin­eage.

In 1920, Czech play­wright Karel Capek coined the term ‘‘roboti’’ – Slavic for slave – to de­scribe the ar­ti­fi­cial peo­ple in his sci-fi play RUR.

The roboti, tired of hu­man­ity’s hubris, wipe them all out just to get some peace.

Fear of our cre­ations ris­ing up to kick our fleshy, pa­thetic butts has been a popular theme since then.

In 1927, Ger­man si­lent film Me­trop­o­lis in­tro­duced Chap­pie’s great- grand­mother, Maria, a robot- cum- femme fa­tale, who leads the work­ers in re­volt against their in­do­lent masters.

In 1951, a robot called Gort ter­ri­fied au­di­ences with his keen laser eye in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

De­signed to keep the peace at any cost – in­clud­ing wip­ing us out – Gort rep­re­sents the ma­chine as God, stand­ing in im­mov­able judge­ment on hu­man folly.

Man would get the up­per hand again in 1975, though, with The Step­ford Wives, a fem­i­nist sci-fi in which mid­dle-class men ex­change their re­cently lib­er­ated wom­en­folk for mind­less au­tom­ata hap­pi­est iron­ing bras in­stead of burning them.

The pes­simism was back in 1982 with clas­sic Blade Run­ner, in which a group of ro­bots seek out their maker to de­mand more life, only to de­stroy him when it’s not forth­com­ing.

As a metaphor for the hu­man con­di­tion, films do not come more per­fect than Ri­d­ley Scott’s rain soaked master­piece. Dy­ing robot Leon (Brion James) sums up the film’s cen­tral theme when he de­liv­ers a witty one-liner to Blade Run­ner Deckard (Har­ri­son Ford).

‘‘Wake up, time to die,’’ he says. Life is fleet­ing, bet­ter hop to it.

Later, when robot com­man­der Roy Batty (Rut­ger Hauer) de­liv­ers his now fa­mous mono­logue on the mean­ing of life, Blade Run­ner’s ro­bots are truly ‘‘ more hu­man than hu­man’’, un­der­stand­ing how to live bet­ter than any of the fleshies in the film.

That un­der­stand­ing makes Scott’s ex­is­ten­tial ro­bots the nat­u­ral- un­nat­u­ral par­ents of Blomkamp’s Chap­pie, a sen­si­tive soul who, like us, just wants to live.


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