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Review: “District 9”

August 29, 2009

I tried my best to watch District 9 fairly.

Having been on vacation when the majority of my friends saw it, I am considerably late to the alien apartheid. However, I didn’t read any reviews, avoided online articles, side-stepped conversations and generally went out of my way to ensure the most subjective viewing experience possible.

Still…

Watching District 9 was like dating a girl who’s way too hot for me. I walked out of the theatre thinking: “Huh. That wasn’t anything at all like I imagined it would be”.

This is not to say there isn’t anything to like. Certainly D-9 is amazing to look at. The CGI work on the aliens is top notch, and the creepy-crawlies blend in seamlessly with a grim and grimy Johannesburg. The aliens, weapons, gadgets and environment have just the right amount of lived-in vibe to make everything feel appropriately weighty and believable. These effects are even more impressive when you consider D-9 cost $5-million less to make than ‘The Hangover‘.

More importantly, the conceit of the film is, without a doubt, original and captivating. In terms of aliens-visit-Earth movies, D-9 manages to illicit an intelligent discussion while still providing plenty of summer entertainment value. If you don’t think that balance is difficult to strike, please try watching ‘Contact‘.

Still…

When it comes to movies, like women, I am ultimately attracted to intelligence. Propelled by the documentary style direction of co-writer Neill Blomkamp, the first half of the movie is an entrancing educational film about the nuanced geopolitical and socioeconomic ramifications of 1-million alien refugees.

Indeed, the fascinating inter-species scenario is broached with such attention to detail, I was rather disappointed when the tail end of the movie (d?)evolves into a rather predictable and formulaic action tale.

Not to ruin anything, but there are scenes with 1) mechas 2) giblets 3) heroic redemption 4) poignant alien posing and, at one point, a character utters the line “I won’t leave you behind!”

I’m not saying this was a bad movie. Heck, I thought it was pretty good. I’m simply saying I expected more.

District 9 admirably balances two permutations of science fiction, better than any other film in the genre has ever managed to do. I just wish it had chosen one route and gone at it full-bore. Be smart and blow my brains away, or let me turn it off and enjoy the fireworks.

Some will call this nitpicking and I won’t much disagree. Leaving the theatre though, I just couldn’t help thinking about what could of been instead of enjoying it for what it was.

This is further exasperated by the fact that in Blomkamps original short ‘Alive in Joberg‘, he manages to deeply explore the political plight of the aliens much more succinctly than during his big-screen interpretation.

As a result (and not to play this analogy out), District 9 is hot enough to brag about. I just ain’t falling in love.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2009 4:46 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. jeflee permalink*
    August 30, 2009 10:44 pm

    Ah, so glad to see this post. The fawning over this movie is ridiculously unwarranted. The actions scenes are standard video game scenarios, so it misses me on that level. The apartheid parallels I thought were lazy and unearned; it’s great to see sci-fi that recognizes the rest of the non-USA world, but setting a film in Soweto doesn’t by default make it mind-blowingly enlightening. It still falls in line with a billion problematic sci-fi films by not featuring any noteworthy black characters. If the prawns are meant to stand in for any group ethnic people, well, don’t get me started on that.

    People are tripping over the aliens-as-illegal aliens angle as if the ‘Alien Nation’ franchise never existed.

    p.s. The best scene in the previews, the alien interview where the prawn says he just wants to go home — was that lifted from ‘Alive in Joburg’? Cuz it wasn’t even in the movie, and to be honest, it could have used some scenes like that.

  3. Anupa permalink*
    August 31, 2009 3:49 pm

    This is why we blog together.
    I left feeling pretty unsatisfied, although pleased with the film aesthetically and in terms of entertainment value. I remember the one scene where the Nigerian gangster wanted Wikus’ arm to eat; my roommate and I just looked at each other like, “Are you serious?” Completely unnecessary and trope-enhancing storyline.

  4. Shawn C permalink
    September 7, 2009 2:13 am

    Jef.
    Love the gf comparison.
    Didn’t watch D-9 but I already know what you mean.
    I won’t even bother if it ever comes time to deciding to watch it. 🙂

    • jeflee permalink*
      September 8, 2009 1:03 pm

      Shawn: Simon wrote this piece not me. But thanks for checking the site. Stay tuned!

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