June 13, 2011

District 9, Enjoyment 6

No, I would not like to read any pamphlets.

District 9 was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, which is quite the achievement for a foreign-made science-fiction film about bug-like aliens who are essentially forced to live in a South African interment camp after their spaceship runs out fuel in orbit over Johannesburg. 

There are so many things that work in this film, most notably the special effects which are so seamless, you easily forget that these creatures aren't actually living, breathing entities. Unfortunately, even though I was able to fully immerse myself into the movie, eventually, it collapses under its own weight, and by the final act of the film, whatever interesting social commentary had been present in the first half of the film (the "aliens" are more "human" than can be seen via the lack of humanity shown by humans to each other) disappears and you're left trying to figure out when Michael Bay took over the director's chair and when Shia LaBeouf is going to jump out and join the explosion-fest. 

How do you say "Optimus" in Swahili?

Not only was the film's final act "transformation" unfulfilling, but the whole concept of the movie was that we were watching a documentary about what happened to main character Wikus. Interviews done after-the-fact and found footage are weaved artfully together to get us up to speed on how the aliens arrived and what they are doing on earth. The film does such a good job in this regard that it didn't even occur to me to question the fact that every alien understood English and every human understood Bug-arian, when in practice, that wouldn't make any sense. 

After a time, though, you realize much of Wikus' journey would never have been captured on film, and while it is a testimony to Neill Blomkamp's direction that the story doesn't screech to a halt due to this erratic inconsistency in the point of view of the storytelling, it still counts in the "imperfection department" as a strike against the movie.

There were plenty of things to like about District 9. The achievement in special effects is to be praised. The overall concept was sublime. But in the end, it just didn't hold up to all the critical acclaim. An "A" for effort, but at best, a "B-minus" in terms of delivery. 

1 comment:

  1. I used to think that the transformation part of the movie was a little boring. But after watching District 9 a few more times, I came to realize that it was really meant to be a slow buildup. While he was completely human, Wikus was not a sympathetic character at all. It was only when he started to become a “prawn” that he really transformed into a protagonist to care about. He using the exo-suit was the moment he really came into his own, and it wasn’t about being human or alien – it was about doing the right thing. I think that is where the movie really triumphs.