Sunday, August 24, 2014

A-Z Movies, D: "District 9"

Recommended by:
Helen (friend)

Movie Stats:
Released 2009 (7 different countries simultaneously)
American, New Zealander, Canadian & South African, in English (translated alien language; several different African languages, mostly translated)
Director - Neill Blomkamp
Stars - Sharlto Copley, David James

Plot Summary:
Twenty-eight years after an alien race has landed on earth  in Johannesburg, South Africa, a munitions corporation by the name of Multi-National United (MNU) has been tasked with forcibly moving the alien refugees to a camp farther outside of town. MNU employee Wikus Van De Merwe (Copley) has been tapped to lead the operation, but disaster unexpectedly befalls him. James co-stars as the MNU’s lead thug, Koobus Venter.

A truly impressive amount of violence & gore; lots of blue language.

Bad Stuff:
[SPOILER] I still don’t understand how, if one of the aliens could fly the damn thing all along, the mother ship ever got stranded on Earth. I also don’t understand how, if the alien weapons were so massively powerful, and they could seemingly build them out of junk quite easily, the humans ever overpowered the aliens and kept them interned in a refugee camp. The movie sort of glossed over it, and my husband tried to fanwank it for me, but I still thought that these were huge plot holes. [SPOILER]

I also didn’t understand why the human thugs in the refugee camp were Nigerian. The movie made a point of being very clear that they were Nigerian, not South African as one might assume since this is set in South Africa, but never explained what the Nigerians were doing there. Am I to assume they were refugees as well? Nigeria and South Africa aren’t even all that close to each other geographically. Perhaps this is simply my ignorance of world politics talking here, but I’m going to guess most people are just as ignorant as me, so an explanation would have been nice.

Good Stuff:
It’s a pretty good metaphor for the hopelessness of the refugee experience. The aliens were trapped and homeless, unwanted, forced to live in terrible conditions, and treated horribly. I felt awful for them. In light of recent events regarding refugee children seeking a place in the United States - and the horrific things some people have said about them, like we should shoot them on sight - it felt extremely timely.

All of the human reactions were very real and believable to me. There was the heartlessness of the corporation, and of its best lackey, Koobus Venter. There was the scorn and fear of the average Joes on the street. There was the greedy entrepreneurship of the thugs. And then there was Wikus, who was completely callous to the aliens until the situation began to affect him personally. There wasn’t a single scene when I thought to myself, “No one would react that way.”

Speaking of Wikus, I thought Sharlto Copley was amazing. He’s largely unlikable for 90% of the film (Especially in the beginning. [SPOILER] The way he gleefully destroyed the alien eggs he found honestly made me sick to my stomach. [SPOILER]). And yet, Copley plays the character just likable enough that by time he has his epiphany and does what’s right, you end up feeling sorry for him. I consider that a fine piece of acting.

The Verdict:
I thought it was pretty decent. The movie itself didn’t feel long but some scenes did, especially toward the end. This is a problem I have with action movies in general, the old “you have one minute to disarm this bomb but it’s going to take twenty minutes of the film for you to do it.” There wasn’t an actual countdown this time, but it had the same feeling for me, where I start to wonder, “Are they done shooting at each other yet?” I also had a hard time letting go of the plot holes/Nigerian thing. 

Overall, though, I thought it was entertaining. It was also a lot deeper than I was expecting. I finished the movie about 45 minutes ago and I still find myself mulling it over, thinking about the implications of it. It’s more of a thinking person’s action flick, and that’s not a bad thing.

I give the movie 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

Matt saw this, but I didn't. I think he thought I would like it. Or perhaps not because of the violence.

balyien said...

It's definitely one of the most graphically violent films I've seen in a while (except for the Scorsese films, but there was more of an "ick" factor to this one). I'm not sure if you'd like it, but you certainly have enough other films to watch to bother with it.