Thursday, July 21, 2011

District 9 (2009)

District 9 Is No 5-star Film

- As if Africa did not have enough problems. War, genocide, corruption, poverty, disease.... aliens - Africa just cannot seem to catch a break.

District 9 (2009) begins two decades ago when a large alien spacecraft hovers over Johannesburg, South Africa and a human-sized insect-like alien race is introduced to Earth. The aliens (called "Prawns" by humans) quickly overstay their welcome. The Prawns' animal-like behavior and lack of understanding of personal property anger the South African population and end up forced into a segregated community that resembles a fugitive camp. When Prawn crime, weapons exchange, and inter-species prostitution continue to plague the town of Johannesburg, the Multi-National United (MNU) attempts to relocate the Prawns to a more secured camp outside of the town. The Prawn round up, headed by MNU man Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), does not go well and leads to many alien deaths. Wikus specifically finds himself infected with a strange Prawn substance which changes him in a drastic way and makes him a wanted man.

The biggest name associated with District 9 is The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and King Kong (2005) director Peter Jackson, who produces the film. Like the Peter Jackson films mentioned, District 9 is a stunning special effects piece. The animated Prawns are amazing (not looking computer generated or artificial at all) and the film is filled with giant explosions and other big action sequences.

The film is also interesting in many respects as well. Since the film is primarily South African-made, the political undertones most likely reflect the filmmakers' thoughts and experiences with the Apartheid and other South African issues, not American ideas of left vs. right that many have been claiming. The film however does portray an interesting and believable scenario of how humans would deal with an alien situation like the one shown in the film. The world is filled with those who fight first without thinking and hug first without thinking, with the level-headed population in the minority. District 9 portrays this well. The way this is played out in the film is very believable, I can definitely see how there could be horrific violence against an alien race and an idiotic movement towards alien rights at the same time if such a situation could take place.

The lead character, Wikus van der Merwe played by Sharlto Copley, is also a very compelling and relatable character. He is a flawed everyman, dedicated to his job, deeply in love with his wife, and has to go to extraordinary lengths to overcome the grim situation that faces him. Copley is excellent as Wikus, giving subtle depth to each scene, the right amount of intensity, and some real heart that lends itself wonderfully to the more tender and heartbreaking scenes.

The film unfortunately disappoints in other areas however. The film paints the Prawns as animal-like, stupid, savage, and the like. As a result, I had a very hard time finding sympathy for these aliens when the film tried to show violence and abuse towards them. Also, just as often as the film offers interesting themes and ideas, it turns around and dumbs down in a blink of an eye. Disctric 9 far too often resorts to soulless live-action-video-game-like filmmaking and heavy gorenography (including some of the most pointless and over-the-top movie violence to date outside of the Saw films) which greatly turned me off to the film.

I honestly cannot decide if I truly liked District 9. I suppose I would say that it is a good film overall and worth a watch but I would not call it a great film with all of the poor elements.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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