Let me begin my brief movie review of District 9 by apologizing for the title of the post. I doubt that referencing the Postal Service is really the most appropriate way to introduce a sci-fi film, but it’s late and it’s the best I could do at 12:20. For that I apologize. I’m also sorry that I went to the movies instead of taping 18 Plays. We’ll correct that tomorrow night.
As for the movie, it’s better than I had hoped…and I expected good things.
In brief, District 9 is the story of what happens when an alien spaceship inexplicably lands over Johannesburg. The aliens, nearly a million shrimp like creatures, are herded into a giant ghetto and subjected to inhumane conditions. As is obvious from what I just wrote, there are clearly and intentional parallels to Apartheid to made. The good news is that while they add resonance to the story, the movie does not use them as a crutch. It paints a rather bleak portrait of human nature and the future which reminded me of the excellent Children of Men. It is true science fiction in the Shellian sense. The morality play at work enriches the story of Wikus the Government Pawn as he becomes, well Wikus the Alien Prawn. The character of Wikus around whom the plot unfolds reminded me eerily of Murray, the New Zealand Consol.
The movie was well acted and directed. When I first heard that it was shot documentary style, I envisioned Blair Witch meets Cloverfield. Instead it was more Saving Private Ryan meets Aliens. This is a good thing. It would have been easy to make a bad movie that combined South African politics with documentary style shooting, but fortunately, Peter Jackson didn’t direct the film, he only signed the checks. The result is a horrifying and engaging tale that entertains as it pricks the conscience. While there are certain leaps of logic required (why didn’t anyone bother to talk to the aliens and find out what their deal was), ultimately, the story and the motivations are believable.
But suppose for a moment, that you don’t give a crap about science fiction and don’t want to waste Friday night being preached at. This is your movie. It is full of wonderfully violent shoot outs that are actually exciting as opposed to boring. There is plenty of cool alien tech and lots of heads get blown off in spectacular ways. In fact, the action sequences reminded me of Transformers…only, you know…interesting, because there is actually something at stake.
Everything about this movie exceeded my expectations. If you want to see an exciting movie where stuff gets blown up and dudes get shot…go see this film. If you want a smart morality tale about human nature…go see the film. If you are a sci-fi purist who enjoys the creation of other worlds, species, and cultures, go see this film. If you want a tragic tale of love, loss, and being the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time…go see this film.
If you heard something about District 9 that made you think it might be lame or trite, be assured, it is neither. It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and one of the best pure science fiction films of the decade.