Chappie, Meet Ultron

Later on today, we’ll be publishing our review of Chappie, the latest sci-fi thinkpiece from Neill Blomkamp (Elysium and District 9). I’ll be interested to see what our reviewer Bob Hoose has to say about the flick, but the trailers suggest that Chappie’s a violent, R-rated version of Pinocchio—about a manmade creation who becomes a real boy.

Meanwhile, a new trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron has galloped onto the Interwebs, giving us a much different picture of what artificial intelligence might look like.

The trailer gives us a good look at the sort of content we can expect from this movie—and it’s not so very different from the Marvel flicks that have come before. Viewers may expect to see moments of pulse-speeding heroism and snappy one-liners. They’ll be bombarded with scads of violence and mayhem and destruction.

But I think the trailer also suggests the movie will deal with something rather important and even spiritual: What makes us human? And what ultimately sets us apart from the things we make?

Ultron follows a long litany of failed manmade superinventions that, in the movies, don’t go so well—from the automaton in the silent movie classic Metropolis to Frankenstein’s monster to the rebooted dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Movies caution us to not play God, and with good reason. Technology, it would seem, is our modern Tower of Babel.

I’ve written here and elsewhere that we humans are made to create. It’s a mimicking, in a way, of God’s own character. We have a creative impulse, and that comes out in almost everything we do, from our books and buildings to what we make for dinner.

But we’re fallen creatures, and everything we create carries with it that blemish of sin and failure. And so it’s only natural that our most grandiose creations would also have some devastating flaws in them.

So it is with Ultron—clearly a technological (ahem) marvel that lacks a soul and cannot understand our God-given spirit. Ultron does not see us as marvelous creations in our own right, it would seem, but simply parasites to be eliminated.

“People … look to the sky and see hope,” Ultron says. “I’ll take that from them first.”

That’s a telling statement—an admission, in a way, that Ultron does not have anything it can call hope. It is something outside its programming, something other that Tony Stark couldn’t give his creation.

“Here we all are, with nothing but our wit and our will to save the world,” Nick Fury tells the assembled Avengers. Note that he didn’t say anything about an awesome hammer or rockin’ shield or green superstrength: He said wit and will—traits that God gave us all, whether we wear capes to work or not.

It’s not the super part of superhero that makes these characters special and important to us: It’s the hero. And will is, I think, the core of what makes a hero. Our will to hold onto hope and love and truth, and sometimes sacrifice for it.

None of these meanderings should be taken as an out-of-the-gate-months-before-the-movie-arrives endorsement of the newest Avengers movie, of course. As I mentioned, everything we humans create is bound to have flaws, and I’m sure Age of Ultron will have its share. But the themes I see in play are, at first blush, encouraging. I’m looking forward to seeing if the movie follows through.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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