Sunday, June 7, 2015

Chappie (2015 film) + what is scifi?

Oh my god. I am crying. I am giddy, emotionally elevated, crying, upset. And just coz I just finished watching Chappie. wtf?! I’m partly crying coz it was sad. So sad when “mommy” died and “daddy” was devastated, holding her in his arms, and crying tears of utter despair. But I’m also partly crying coz Chappie was a great scifi and yet got such bad reviews and word of mouth. But it explored the root of what scifi is! And did it well! Scifi asks “what if...” and then explores it, explores it so thoroughly that it’s real. That it is a true commentary on what life is, what life can be, what life should maybe be. I’m crying coz Ex Machina, also an A.I. based scifi, made me cry for different reasons. It made me cry in utter exhaustion at the misogyny in our world, and most especially in our entertainment. A movie that supposedly commented on sexism and objectification of women, but portrayed it so thoroughly, that whatever commentary there was got lost in the plain abuse of women, even if they were just “robots”. And I’m thinking long and hard here, what is so different about these two A.I. movies?!?! I think... TRUE scifi takes the “what if...” and explores it like I said. Chappie did that. Exploring it means... if A.I. existed, if police robots existed, but those things were placed in our world, it would change the way our world worked. This movie explored, the “what if” this A.I. was raised by a bunch of thugs. “What if” these thugs were just regular human beings trying to survive and make their lives make a little sense. So many other “what if’s” are in there too. What did Ex Machina do? Explore “what if” sentient robots were hot chicks we could abuse?! “What if” they acted just like human beings, with all the human machinations and revenge desires?! "What if" they stood around naked for lengthy periods of time?! Sentient A.I.’s are like children. They are our chance at redemption. The chance to see if could we turn out a little different with a different upbringing and different origin. Chappie showed us that. Ex Machina didn’t explore anything. It transposed standard human abuse and drama onto some robots.

OH!!! OH MY GOD!! MOTHERFUCKER!! I KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS!! Good scifi to me is defined as a story that is dependent on its speculative setting. Battlestar Galactica didn’t depend on its setting... replace cylons with another race or group of humans, and spaceships with seaships and you can have the exact same story. Star Trek: TNG on the other hand depended on its setting. That the universe is huge, varied, that sentience doesn’t only come in 2 legged format, that we interact with other races in a way that we currently do not. Battlestar is just a tranposing of our current human culture into space. It does not speculate whether humans would behave differently. Ex Machina is also NOT dependent on its setting of scifi. Minus the conversations about A.I. and our knowledge that she is a robot, the story is one we’ve seen a lot. The abuse of women by men who have power over them. Do we see the ending a lot? I don’t know. There are times when we’ve seen a story that has the abused female character go on a revenge spree. But again none of these story aspects are dependent on these women being robots. There was zero variance from what a human existing today would do. While Star Trek: TNG speculates how would humans behave if we solved our major societal ills. Even if there weren’t aliens or tech, right there it explored a very interesting “what if”!!!!

Scifi and genre movies can be so much more than they’ve been lately. We do not need another action movie covered in a thin veneer of scifi. We need real scifi. Scifi that dares to ask questions, to speculate and ask “what if”. Scifi that lets us explore the human condition. That sometimes lets us imagine new and better futures. That is the scifi I want to see.

(ps. The pic is from when he was stealing cars! Those scenes were hilarious!! Haha!)