Monday, December 11

Movie Review: District 9 (2009)

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This sharp-edged, down and dirty science fiction film incorporates a great deal of big budget elements in a part fake documentary, part body horror, and part robot flick. And as a comparably “smaller” offer, it’s still utterly reminiscent of the failed alien and mechanical warrior franchises of “Terminator,” “Aliens vs. Predator,” “Transformers,” and “G. I. Joe” – with good effects in par with them, but with creative quality being much better in so many ways. This is not to say that the original “Alien,” “Predator,” and a few of the first “Terminator” series are not good, but their latest sequels are definitely poor releases especially if compared to the many aspects of “District 9.”

The good thing about “District 9” is that it’s both intelligent and entertaining. For the audience, no need to dumb out to be able to get that combination of funny, violently gross, and wildly enthralling speculative fiction flick with genuine emotional resonance.

The film is unlike any of those mostly seen in the sci-fi canon. Actually, those who are not too favorable with psychological and physical gore would probably feel a little uneasy, at the least, covering their eyes at some moments. Some may find it kind of stressful to watch certain scenes. But sitting through it has its price – a fresh and thought-provoking, if not groundbreaking story, making a good point about racial prejudice and posing a number of serious questions about the state of humanity. It’s a superb realization of a poignant satire, irony, humor, violence, and drama that is not afraid to examine the essence of what it actually means – and what it might cost – to be human.

“District 9” is an edgy, provocative commentary on the human condition. It has a heart and soul to its piece while keeping up with its own technical challenges. As a science-fiction actioner that entertains mercilessly, it opens up a certain compassion and humanity to its audience. It is a swift and subtle movie that trusts its viewers to do some of the work – and it’s quite effective at that. It serves as a pop allegory for the racial tension of apartheid, issues on mass immigration, and man’s inhumanity to man – and the non-human.

Director Neill Blomkamp has packaged this imaginative sci-fi tale and gritty actioner with a boldly exciting piece of pop entertainment. People have seen much alien invasion flicks before, but nothing anything quite like “District 9” in terms of its carefully merged compelling dramatic story, biting satire, low-key CG inventiveness, tightness of editing, and carefully rendered set details. The special effects don’t overwhelm the harrowing story, which makes it quite emotional at that. The gross and drama, together with the big guns, chases, and explosions, are appropriate to the storyline. Thus, paving the way to a fresh franchise potential for the producers and filmmakers.

A modestly budgeted project with an actual idea in its head, the film marries breathless action, political satire, poignant drama which can generally hold the viewer’s attention from start to finish. Produced by the people behind LOTR including Peter Jackson and company, it delivers its universal message about ethnic tolerance through the story of a doomed extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, mainly in a South African ghetto, and suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology.

This film proves that sci-fi flicks don’t have to be automatically star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually intense, remarkably executed, and thoroughly entertaining. Its unknown cast works pretty well. Lead character Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe puts the right dose of pathos for the film through grit, charm, naiveté, and humor.

People have seen many aliens come to earth movies. Many have seen the finest use of computer-generated imagery on the big screen; but it’s rare to see an intriguing, sci-fi fable that is consistently gripping. “District 9” makes itself an original classic in its own right.


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