Saturday, August 22, 2009

District 9

I went to see District 9 yesterday. The movie has enjoyed critical and financial success so far, and I guess my expectations were fairly high.

I can't exactly say that I enjoyed the movie, though. It was definitely an original mix of elements, though it borrowed heavily from a lot of SF source material. The plot, as many have pointed out, was similar to the movie/TV series Alien Nation. It also had influences from Cronenberg's version of The Fly, RoboCop, and others, especially the recent technique of making the unreal seem more real by employing a pseudo-documentary style, e.g. Blair Witch, and Cloverfield.

The film definitely kept you engaged. It was alternately grotesque and action-packed. But the acting was relatively poor; the plot was fragmentary and incomplete; and the characterization was pretty much 2D. The bad guys were a favorite villain of modern cinema, the multi-national corporation, and they're portrayed without even a hint of conscience. The middle-level bureaucrat at the center of the film seems to have a change of heart, literally and figuratively, but it was pretty heavy-handed, and when all was said and done, the film seemed more like a set-up for a sequel than a self-contained film.

The production values were great, though, and the aliens and their tech were interesting and well-developed. Strangely, though, a major scene from the trailer, where an alien is being interrogated about how his weapons work, was not in the film. Weird. The movie had a number of striking images, and was actually cringe-worthy in a lot of scenes. But great SF is about ideas, and even though there were parallels between the 'prawns', as the aliens are called, and other refugee populations, I didn't see their plight used as much more than a set-up for gross-outs and action. I'm not sure what the point was, and part of this was because the movie didn't really resolve anything.

I've heard people comparing the other smaller-budget SF movie that came out at the end of the summer, Moon. There are definitely parallels, especially the use of corporations as the bad guys. But Moon was a much more thoughtful picture, and was ultimately a much better film. Still, I'd marginally recommend District 9, if only because there are scenes that you simply won't see in any other movie.

1 comment:

Kenny Wyland said...

One of the things I particularly liked about it was that in one part of the movie they were able to make me feel begrudgingly ok with the derogatory term "prawn" and almost pull me into their way of thinking where the aliens were just disgusting animals. However, as the movie progressed they were able to switch me over and view them as, for lack of a better term, "human."

I think the point is that we're sharing the path with Wikus. We're experiencing what he is experiencing but he's allowed a bit of optimism in the beginning whereas we are not due to the past-based nature of the documentary discussions that set up the story.