Bionic Commando (radiumx) wrote,
Bionic Commando
radiumx

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District 9

District 9 is the best science fiction film of the year... with the exception of "Moon", which I haven't seen yet, and "Star Trek" which was as much an action film as anything. D9 may even be the best science fiction film in the last few years, since I can't really think of anything else quite on its caliber - with the possible exception of "Children of Men".

Unlike "Children of Men", D9's bleak view on human nature is somewhat tempered by a more personable protagonist. The film begins documentary-style, then progresses into a more traditional action-film format while occasionally reverting to drive home subtle points.

Subtlety? In an action-sci-fi flick about aliens? The themes expressed in painful detail are greed and xenophobia, both masterfully set against the background of south African poverty. The parallels to apartheid are uncomfortably close to home, but the director Neill Blomkamp never preaches to his audience. There's no brute-force moral at the end of the film, and no public service announcement about 'love-thy-neighbor', but District 9 accomplishes two things rarely seen in a Hollywood summer blockbuster - it makes you think, and it's genuinely entertaining.

The first half may drag a bit, especially if one expects the movie shown in the trailers - full of gunfights and robotic alien exoskeletons. Don't give up on it. The scenes filmed in actual south african shanty towns are authentically filthy. The CG aliens blend perfectly with the environment, both due to rendering quality, cinematographic composition, and the director's skilled ability to treat the CG actors almost as human characters - not just digital artifacts.

District 9 definitely earns its R-rating with scenes of gore and brutal violence. While some might feel it unnecessary, I felt myself genuinely unnerved by some of the scenes - both the body-horror moments of inhuman transformation, the agonizing pain of torture, and the disturbingly real portrayal of violence against the aliens - scenes that play out against humans on the nightly news. There is vomit, gore, cannibalism, alien dissection, gunshot executions... but it's never done to impress, only to convey the reality and deadly seriousness of this film.

Not to say that it's a boring piece of work. Despite its brutal themes we see a wide spectrum of emotion - both human and inhuman - that somehow never feels out-of-place. There are laughs among the horrors, touching moments are found in between moments of nauseating violence, and real romantic feeling hidden behind intolerable cruelty. In one film, we cover the highest and lowest peaks of feeling, and it's never fake. This is the power of good cinema - to take the truth of human existence and distill it into a tale that resonates with every sentient being.

You will feel bad by the end of the movie. You will think deeply. You will cheer the protagonists, and thrill at the well-choreographed action, but you will trade in a bit of your faith in humanity. Neat gadgets abound within a fully realized world, but at its core District 9 represents the purest purpose of science fiction - exploring a future that hasn't happened yet, based on where we are right now. There are very real situations exactly like this film, being played out in third world countries all across this globe, and if a science fiction film about aliens opens people's eyes, then Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson deserve far more recognition than simple box office gross.

District 9 is an impressive film by Hollywood standards, but by human standards, it's a work of art. Don't let the exploding people, cool alien weaponry, and intense firefights distract you from the true message of this film - we treat humans as badly, or worse, than the aliens of District 9 - with an equal amount of greed, exploitation, xenophobia, and contempt.
Tags: district 9, movie
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  • 10 comments
I found myself literally holding my breath during the eviction scenes and the weight of the significant parallels to apartheid made me heartsick.

If it has that kind of effect on me... then it's bloody good.
When he's reading the eviction notice to Christopher and he knows his rights, so they start threatening to take away his child? Absolutely infuriating... and that's not even unique to third world countries.

I can't count the number of times I felt genuinely angry and disgusted during the movie. It was so well executed, I can barely believe it.
I've heard several mixed which initially made me want to wait to see this film, but Justin, your review is top notch; I think I will actually go see it now.
Two things--

One, I agree with most of what you're saying, and I think the film has a lot of merit, but I personally did not enjoy watching it. Too violent, too cruel, and not overall entertaining for me, which is where movies end up in a difficult place artistically, sometimes, as do books and theater, because they can't stand on their own so much as other art can, as they are directly addressed to their audiences, who are used to viewing these things as entertainment and expect to get some out of it. I was impressed by District 9, but I was not entertained. Your review rings true, but I don't know how I would have felt going into to see this had I known what it was about or what it was like before I did, as the trailers gave almost no information and thus much of it was a surprising experience. I think I might have given it a pass.

Two, I don't know how much we should/we can empathize with Wickes, given his behavior at the beginning of the film, which I don't think can be left alone just because of what happens to him later. I do feel for the aliens. Who are...well, for lack of a better term, people too.
Just saw it the other day, amazing film. Not sure if it's over-rated or not, going to have to see how it fares years down the road, but having an entertaining film that makes you think is something that's wayyyy too rare these days.
Beaut of a review, Justin. I completely agree.
I completely agree with your review of District 9. Since I saw it a couple weeks ago, I have been encouraging others to give it a shot who might otherwise have passed it by.

Just FYI, as I see you added me to your Friends; first, thank you! However, you should know that I no longer post to Livejournal, except for my participation in certain communities. All of my public entires on films, design, etc. can be found at my blog AnachroLush.blogspot.com

Hope to see you there sometime!
Ah, thank you, I added you a bit quickly through a comment you made somewhere else, and didn't have a chance to send you a message or catch the information on your new blog. You mentioned how you were wandering around Venice, and since I work in the area, it might be fun to meet up someday. Hooray for new LJ friends, yes?
Absolutely hooray! Venice, CA, right? I'm in Valencia.
Ah yes, Venice, CA. I grew up just a few miles south of Valencia!