District 9 Short Review (4 of 5)

This movie is best (as all movies usually are) if you know nothing about it going in. The only things that I had known about District 9 before I actually saw it was that Peter Jackson produced it… It’s about aliens put in a refugee camp… The aliens have a ‘mothership’ that hovers over Johannesburg. The last one kind of filled everything in for me. Most people are calling this a science fiction movie (which there are certainly sci-fi elements in it), but to me this was more of a parody, There were a lot of different genres that were spliced together and things borrowed from other films that I’ve seen before, but was done well enough that you look past any of its flaws.Elements of sci-fi, parody, reality TV, action, horror, suspense, mocumentary, comedy, and drama are all evident. There were actually a few plotholes (that I guess were somewhat explained), and if you thought about them too hard then it would be a lesser movie, but (director) Neil Blomkamp and crew did a good enough job to avert your attention from too many problematic details.

D9-Poster

This poster's ad-line is a little misleading.

The basic premise is aliens come to Earth in very bad condition. The reason that they have come here is unknown. The people in the surrounding areas are fearful and distrusting of the the aliens since they do things (sometimes destructive things) for no apparent reason and because they look humanoid lobsters. They’re are labeled with the derogatory name ‘prawns’ and treated as refugees. The alien spacecraft hovers over the camp like a black cloud that reminds everyone  within eyesight of the ‘problem’ of these space refugees for the local inhabitants. Obviously, the aliens are stand-ins with anyone who has the tiniest knowledge about South Africa (or Africa in general). 

sharlto-copley-peter-jackson-neill-blomkamp

Copley, an apparently very short Jackson, and Blomkamp.

The movie it has a couple of standout performances. One is by Sharlto Copely who carries the movie as  Wikus Van Der Merwe, a bureaucrat that is put in charge of moving the aliens further away from the city (to District 10). Wikus is as oblivious to the conditions that the aliens have been subjected to and to their general treatment by the government and the locals. He has little empathy for the prawns. He’s just doing his job. Everything is perfectly legal, UNTIL….

He meets Christopher Johnson (and his son). This second standout performance comes from the effects department.  There were many times where the CGI was pretty seamless. There were still some ‘CGI moments’ where the characters or machinery where the effects were TOO obvious, but for the greater part of the movie the effects were very well done. This movie had much more of what I personally like to see, which is the animators that are creating the movements of the CGI characters took some care in giving ‘weight’ and ‘mass’ to what they are working on. When there is an action, there is a reaction. The aliens were ‘grounded’ in that you never see them doing ridiculously impossible flips and maneuvers of cartoon characters (in movies like The Incredible Hulk where the Hulk moved like he was a CGI Spider-Man or the ‘Accelerator Suits’ in GI:Joe). They created some very cool (and grotesque) effects involving the aliens and some of their machinery/weapons, but their biggest achievement was the humanity that they managed to incorporate into the characters of Christopher Johnson and his son.

 

District 9's Christopher Johnson

District 9's Christopher Johnson

I would almost go as far as saying Mr. Johnson should be up for Best Supporting Actor if he weren’t just an animated character… Almost. I’ll say no more about the story details, though.

I’ve heard complaints about it being overly long, but I disagree with that. I don’t even know how long it was, but it went quick for me. I even heard some people (Rob Liefeld even!) say that the movie was boring, but I suspect some of those people hadn’t really seen the movie and were talking out of their @$$. It never dragged for me. Some of it was predictable, but if you know how stories work, of course some things are going to be. It borrowed from other films that I’ve see (or at least used the same ideas) from movies like David Cronenberg’s The Fly and Alien Nation, but this was presented in a progressive way. 

The hardest part of the movie is the opening half hour. It’s shot and edited in somewhat of a documentary/infomercial style. That started to wear on a little bit, but they finally abandon that when Wikus is going house to house getting prawn signatures to move their camp. The movie really begins to pick up when Christopher Johnson is introduced. It takes some interesting turns and I really didn’t expect some of the things that transpired onscreen. The dialogue wasn’t always the greatest especially when Wikus was in duress. He and the 2 scriptwriters seemed to only be able to think of 2 words in those moments throuout the film (the ‘F- bomb being one of them… It’s rated R…I wasn’t offended by any means… It just seemed like bad dialogue in a lot of parts)There were moments where I thought I was going to have to sit through ‘torture-porn’, but the film-makers went up to the line and didn’t cross it (at least it my eyes. There were some gore-filled moments in the movie, but it wasn’t gore for the sake of itself; it was just part of the story. Based  on the subtext, I would’ve thought that this would been a much more sobering movie, but it retained a sense of fun for me,  if that makes any sense, and it seemed to just keep getting better by movie’s end. They left the ‘door open’ at the end of the story and I will be looking forward to District 10 if the film crew give this same degree of effort and execution.

I think the final product was pretty good, though. Definitely watchable through repeat viewings. I haven’t seen it for the second time yet, but I will and I’m sure it will have things that I missed. It did have some holes, though, and the whole movie was a flight of fancy (would we REALLY be so loathesome towards a technologically advancedrace that had travelled light years to Earth? Don’t answer that. I’m not so cynical….). Overall I… Geez. I really… REALLY… need to come up with my own rating system…. Overall I say 4 of 5.

 

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