Thursday, August 20, 2009

So I went to catch the super-hyped District 9 on Friday night, and let me say, what a surprise. When I heard that the movie was going to be some sort of metaphor for some history crap that happened in South Africa, I yawned. Boy was I wrong.

A quick synopsis of the movie: An alien ship shows up one day in Johannesburg, humans find a bunch of worker drone aliens inside, and 20 years later the aliens are in concentration camps, acting like hobos and eating cat food. The movie is what came to be after Peter Jackson's Halo project fell through, when the studios were apprehensive about giving newbie director Neill Blomkamp the money he needed for the big budget film. I think they may have changed their position after seeing this flick.

The actual story takes place 20 years after the arrival of the aliens, when they are treated like dogs in a fenced off area, "District 9". We follow the newly-promoted Wikus van der Merwe (Pronounced Vickus van der something), who is assigned with presenting eviction notices to the unruly aliens. The movie is set in a documentary format, flipping back and forth between interviews and live action. Think "The Office" meets "Aliens", in which a seemingly slow start turns into a thinking man's stone-cold killer of a thriller.

I won't discuss any actual plot twists and turns, but this movie is stellar, all the way through. The aliens earn our sympathy, and pan out to be rife with a visceral human emotion and conflict. Some of the most powerful scenes take place between an alien father and his son, and some of the cell phone calls between Wikus and his wife are extremely heart-wrenching. Seeing how the aliens are treated really makes you think about how people are treated in some far off corners in the world that seem unreal to us. This movie assures us, these places are VERY real.

If you aren't in to the lame thought-provoking stuff, this movie packs some straight up badass action, and weapons that seem to come straight out of video games. A gravity gun, a lightning gun, and a robotic armor suit (very Gundam Wing-ish) play out to be some of the most believable, intense, and powerful alien weaponry we've ever seen in a movie. I absolutely loved that the weapons wouldn't work for humans, that put a kabosh on any thoughts that this movie was just a Dwayne Johnson style shoot-em up ala Doom.

Overall, this movie gets 4/4 stars from me. I can't wait to see what Blomkamp comes up with next, as he did an incredible job at dropping us into the story, and making us feel familiar with the material. The face to face interviews at the start gave us a sense of humanity, believability, and a gauge of the depth of the film that had me on the edge of my seat from the start.


P.S.-Leave a comment with what you thought about the movie! (or bash my review into the ground, up to you! Careful though, I fight fire with fire.)


Arvin said...

Epic Movie, Glad that you thought the Gravity gun was in it too. Kind of a Half-life esque. Good review, totally agree.

Cory said...

The line you wrote, "turns into a thinking man's stone-cold killer of a thriller." Classic. That's good stuff man. I really liked this movie. I went and saw it by myself 'cause a) I have no friends in Tampa (lulz)and b) my family is not into Sci-fi, but I enjoyed the hell out of it nevertheless. I'm going to start searching in the trash for alien parts with that liquid so I can start playing around with the legendary lightning gun. There is a few people I wouldn't mind exploding from the inside-out. Great blog, bud.

Aar0n said...

I thought this movie was awesome, too. There are two things I want to mention: what this movie is based on and what it represents.

You mentioned that this movie is based on something that happened in South Africa's history. That's very true, but it's actually very reminiscent of the current conditions there. There are still huge slums filled with refugees, so this movie is particularly poignant there.

The other thing is what this movie represents. It would be nice to say that it just represents some places that exist on the other side of the world, but that's not the point. What the movie is saying is that, if the aliens look different enough, then men who kiss their wives goodbye in the morning and read stories to their children at night can leave their homes in the morning and be a torturer when they walk through the office door. I think Terry Pratchett said something akin to "One man's horrible torture is another man's boring job."

At one point in the movie, during a talking head sequence with apparent random South Africans on the street, one says, "If it were people from another country, it would be different, but they [the aliens] are from an entirely different world." The thing that's so meaningful about this one sentence shoved into the movie at roughly the halfway point is that it's a complete lie. It wouldn't be different because it never has been.

One reason I love this movie so much is because of its honesty. It not only tells the story of what men are capable of, but what they are apt to do. When the aliens are different enough, be they human or prawn, we will always find it easy to offhandedly hate and condemn them, deserving or not.

d0cta ew said...


Great comment man, and thanks for reading. You bring up some great points, I remember when one of the first interviews, in the very beginning said something like "no one had any idea that he would have done such terrible things" and I was like, what in the world, and then they show Wikus.

This little dude in a suit basically, and all that unravels when he goes out to hand out the evictions and starts doing some pretty terrible stuff in his treatment of the aliens.

I definitely agree with your idea that if the aliens/people/whatever are different enough, we will find a way to condemn them.

arkansawriverwriter said...

I was not sure what to expect from the movie, but in the end, it offered the very traditional sci-fi formula of cool technology and social commentary, that is often credited to Arthur Clarke and Ray Bradbury. Good review, good movie, highly recommended.