It’s been awhile since I blogged about something that I’ve seen, heard or read so I figured it’s time:
This is a quick review, no spoilers hopefully.
Went to “District 9” tonight.
Paid $6 per ticket, That’s the Criterion Cinemas, New Haven, CT special Tuesday night Member’s Price. Pretty cool.
I’ve been inundated with hype surrounding this movie. Seems that EVERYONE who has any blog or site related to movies has seen a preview of it and declared it the best movie of all time.
I was looking forward to it.
Here’s what I knew about it before going it: It’s a fictitious documentary (aka Mockumentary) about a species of aliens who have been relegated to living in a refugee style slum for the past 20 years because their spaceship stalled over Johannesburg, South Africa. The human locals of Johannesburg grow tired of the Alien population and violence begins to break out and conditions (bad as they were, deteriorate) A huge multinational military defense contractor (Halliburton) type company is tasked with relocating the 1.8 million Aliens to “District 10” which is a new, refugee camp with shining barbed wire and white tents. And then all hell breaks loose.
“District 9” was EXCELLENT.
But I didn’t love it.
Let’s start with the good:
The Acting was phenomenal. Due to the “documentary” style the performances HAVE to be spot on and they were, especially the lead Sharlto Copley playing Wickus Van De Werwe. A+
The special effects were FLAWLESS. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why any movie with a budget over $30 million should ever have unrealistic digital effects from this point forward. The spaceship, the aliens, I don’t even know what else was digital because it was all blended perfectly. A++
The Directing Very, Very good. But this could be debatable because I’m not sure which of the script aspects of the film below fall into the lap of the director.
The Style: Remember the fictitious documentary style I just mentioned? The filmmakers (script? Director?) only stick to this format for about half the movie and then it transitions (not very gracefully, or completely) to a narrative cinema-verite style. When the movie (any movie) is 100% Documentary, awesome. When the movie is 100% narrative fiction, awesome. Blending the two, not awesome. Especially since there isn’t a ‘hard line’ distinction between the two. I’m watching the “documentary” “District 9” and all of a sudden there’s narrative footage of Prawns (the derogatory name for the Aliens) digging through a garbage pile. My first thought is: “What part of the documentary crew shot this footage???” Then a short while later the narrative style is more and more frequent (now we’re seeing scenes INSIDE the Prawn’s shacks?? The documentary crew got some AMAZING access and just at the right time 😉 ) And then the documentary style falls by the wayside completely. I understand WHY the second half of the movie isn’t documentary style (because A) It would be ridiculous to think that a documentary crew would follow Wickus around at this point and B) It would be ridiculous to think that Wickus would allow a documentary crew to follow him around at this point). But I don’t like it. If you’re going to have a gimmick this powerful, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t ditch it because it’s too hard to creatively develop the story with this kind of ball and chain, embrace it and make a better movie despite the limitations of the style. OR ditch the documentary style and go cinema verite narrative fiction THE WHOLE TIME. The movie would not have suffered from it. Hell, even start the movie off with some exposition as a documentary (a la the propaganda films in the beginning of Starship Troopers) but please do one or the other. Reminded me of “Diary of the Dead” copping out on the “found footage” style and adding in additional external footage (albeit “justified” in their minds). The blend of the styles didn’t work for me and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what purpose having it half and half served (other than the “cool factor” which isn’t a real purpose)
The Script: HORRENDOUS. Yes, HORRENDOUS. General plot was okay, but there are some specific plot issues (I’ll get to those in a minute). But this script has some SERIOUS issues with really, really bad exposition delivered by the aliens. Unless maybe this race of aliens ALWAYS says what is EXACTLY on their mind in order to fill in the blanks. Worse than any exposition M. Knight Shyamalan has ever written. Really depressed me whenever they would talk to each other. There’s a few timeline issues I won’t go into for fear of giving away plot points but usually when a Multinational corporation has a timeline to move 1.8 million beings that timeline is adhered to. I still don’t know why the ship stalled (and this is kind of important).
I really, really should have liked this movie. I should have loved this movie. It’s sci-fi with heart and meaning, it’s deeper than the surface it’s got all these aspects of what I think makes a really great movie. But for some reason, halfway through I started to wonder why I didn’t like it, and that’s never a good sign. Sure I liked PARTS of it. The last 30 minutes or so is pretty thrilling. But as a whole, something didn’t work.
I can’t not recommend it but I also can’t recommend it. You’ll have to see it to decide for yourself. I’m glad that it is making a killing at the box office, maybe more “smart” sci-fi genre stuff will get out there in mass distribution. If you’ve seen it please comment I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read the comments, I can’t guarantee there won’t be SPOILERS.