Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: District 9

District 9 (2009)
Genre: Sci-Fi
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Neil Blomkamp

District 9 is a frustrating movie because it has such a promising premise that unfortunately fails to deliver its full potential. It's a social commentary that may ended up being a bit too oblique and unfocused to properly deliver its underlying message to the general public. It's just one of those movies that could have been so much more but for the fear of being a commercial disaster - not to be confused with being a bad movie - it takes away quite a lot from its viewers. Oh, it also uses Peter Jackson's name like its success truly depends on it but that's what happens when you have an overzealous marketing team responsible in promoting your movie.

In District 9, a large alien spaceship has stalled above the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. An extraction team later infiltrated the floating spaceship to discover that its occupants, who are later named "prawns" because of their similarities to said crustaceans, are seriously ill. They brought these brings back on land to save them and then later confine them to one area - District 9 - to control their population as well as their immediate interactions with human beings. Two decades later, a team is sent into the area in an effort to move the aliens to a different concentration camp and this lead to an uprising that pits the humans against the prawns. The movie starts off as a "mockumentary" and this film-making style is its greatest strength. You see people from all walks of life being interviewed about the events surrounding the movie and this indirect style of storytelling is quite effective in conveying the feeling of frailty and uncertainty to how this alien contact has changed the nature of the world for everyone involved. Then, all of a sudden, the movie switches gears mid-way through as it abandons the documentary film-making for a straightforward narrative. The brooding commentary on class-separation and social injustice suddenly turns into a typical, obligatory excuse for weak government conspiracy exploration and explosive, bloody action. The tonal shift really throws me off but the movie is able to remain watchable all the way towards the end - the convincing special effects of the prawns as well as the ensuing violence have a lot to do with that.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with trying to get things exciting for the audience but District 9's method of getting there feels very cheap. As a matter of fact, I think it would be more exciting to see what happens in the end through the eyes of a person watching a news report of it from behind the camera instead of being there in the midst of all the action, without changing the major flow of the story. By knowing too much, big holes in the plot also emerge and they all have something to do with the validity of the predicament that the prawns have found themselves in being stuck on planet Earth, treated like they are of lesser beings. The movie ends with more interviews and news reports just like the ones seen at the beginning but by then, it was too late to repair the highly unimaginative mid-section of the film.

RATING: 3 out of 5


Blake said...

I love reading your movie reviews, mainly because I get a kick outta two different takes on a movie.

Yours and mine, which usually seems to be from different ends of the spectrum. lol, I find myself disagreeing with what you didn't like, and myself liking it for those same reasons.

Its just shows human nature and individualism, just like games. Where you have 2 people who love video games and one hates video games with Grind missions while the other loves video games with grind missions.

I just find it very interesting. What you say is the reason a movie fails, is the same reason why I think its succeeds, That's just plain funny!

Sean Weatherby said...

D-9 definitely has a lot going for it -- character development, great acting a at least a few people, awesome alien weapons; it felt a bit preachy at times at different times though