Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9...I actually really liked it!

I know I know, technically District 9 is not a horror film. Its SciFi. Very well done SciFi with some really great gore, but not horror. Regardless, I felt the need to comment on it simply because it has been the best movie I've seen all summer. Granted, most of the summer films for me have me Meh at best. But District 9? Fantastic.
I won't give any spoilers since I feel that experiencing the movie with knowing very little about it is what makes it so good. But if I do give out a little squeak here and there, forgive me. I'll do my best to keep my damn mouth shut. But I do have a lot to say about this movie...probably not intelligently but I DO have a lot to say.

Shot in a sudo documentary style, District 9 is basically about aliens getting stranded on earth over Johannesburg 20 years ago. These aliens aka prawns become refugees and the organization MNU attempt to be the ones to take care of them. "Taking care of them" is used VERY loosely because the Aliens are treated as second class citizens, live in slums, and are subjected to some horrible things.I truly believe that if this film was set anywhere other than South Africa it would have come off as completely absurd. The setting is what makes the film work. The whole story is heavily symbolic of apartheid and it does not treat the subject with kid gloves. There was many a scene in District 9 that truly got under my skin, the weapons testing scene in particular. Racism (or in this case species-ism?), torture, and human (alien?) rights are strong themes through out the film and the director does not candy coat anything to make it more "action-y" or "summer film" style. Its a gritty, hard, and sometimes bleak film.

The movie starts out like a documentary, the back story told to the audience by witnesses of the "incident" that happened in District 9. The film later slips into a more traditional film narrative but continues to keep the documentary feel with its camera work. The transitions were done extremely smooth and half the time I didn't even notice the style jump. But despite the heavy subject matter the action sequences are fantastic. After we are given a detailed account of where the aliens came from and what District 9 is, It jumps right into the heart of the story. Once the action starts it never slows down. The movie is relentless and down right brutal at times earning its R rating. The CGI is flawless. And I mean that in every sense of the word. The Aliens never look rubbery or pasted on. They are extremely realistic down to the subtle emotions they show on their faces. The giant mother ship that hovers in the background looks completely believable. So much so that you sometimes forget its even there. District 9 also has some of the best mecha animation I have seen in any film....and using the word mecha has completely shown my nerd status... For you gore hounds, let me just say, when someone goes down, the go down in a splattering Technicolor dream. Its brutal, I tell you! But it never goes into the realm of clown gore.

If you're planning on District 9 being a popcorn flick, think again. This really is nothing like the usual summer fare (Transformers 2, G.I Joe, Harry Potter, etc). Not that I have anything against popcorn films. I tend to thrive off them. But it was nice to go into a film that made you think and feel more than just the usual "Awww Shit! Awesome!" that many popcorn flicks do. District 9 is far more complex and asks more questions than answers them. And it does so in an intelligent, non-pretentious way that doesn't insult its audience. It also leaves the ending open for questions instead of a sequel. I'm sure there will be fans out there clamoring for a sequel. But I truly hope they never make one simply because I feel tying up the lose ends will cheapen the meaning of District 9.

So my recommendation? Go see it! Now! Pronto! And on the big screen if possible too! It is definitely worth the ticket price!


Stac said...

Crap!! I gotta see this! GOTTA SEE THIS!!

The Man With No Name said...

D9 was a phenomenal film. The CGi was amazing, Weta did an excellent job. I guess the director was a lead animator in South Africa since he was 16. Guy has talent.
No shameless promotion here but I wrote up a review for D9 check it out:

Bevin said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I'd like to at some point. It's funny, I saw the trailer initially at a friend's place, since someone else in the film program had ordered him to watch it. He and I had very different reactions to it, which I thought was interesting. To the alien being interrogated by the authorities, he felt it was untrustworthy and creepy, and I felt sympathetic towards it. Interesting how two people watching the exact same thing can read it two completely different ways.