Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Second class aliens

Today, Brutus and I went to see Peter Jackson's latest blockbuster hit, District 9. Apparently, this movie was so amazing that it not only received universal acclaim but also drew several of my friends to tackle it on opening weekend. I, however, noted with disappointment that this Jackson-Blomkamp collaboration was born out of the ashes of the Halo film, which promised to revolutionize the success of video games in movies.

As an avid movie-goer, I was absolutely horrified by the pre-feature trailers. Seldom am I treated to so many crap horror/thriller previews back-to-back-to-back. Clearly, I was not the target demographic.

The movie itself was actually quite enjoyable, despite the fact that I went in with hugely inflated expectations. The key strengths lay not in the plot, but rather with the excellent tempo and cinematic style. The film was well paced and kept me at the edge of my seat. The rough documentary-style filming provided a well-executed mood seldom seen in this genre.

Warning: Ahead spoilers lie...

Interestingly, it is District 9's plot which often receives the most attention in casual conversation. A group of alien refugees have arrived on Earth with incredible technology, but over twenty years, they become second class citizens confined to an impoverished South African slum. While at first pass this sounds like a singularly unique twist on the science fiction genre, I assure you that it is not. In fact, the film borrows liberally from tried and true plot elements - alien metaphors for racism, the heroic individual who bridges the gap (and shows the two sides that they can get along after all), and action packed fight scenes.

Further inspection reveals a number of logic-defying plot elements:
  • The aliens spend twenty years collecting alien liquid from their own technology. If they had needed it so badly, why didn't they hang onto it in the first place?
  • There is apparently enough of this liquid to travel back to the aliens' home planet. If this is the case, why are they getting trapped on this hellhole known as Earth? Why didn't they just keep moving?
  • The aliens express a great desire to actually go back home. Yet, they're portrayed as refugees. If home is still welcoming, then what was the purpose of the journey to begin with?
  • How did Wikus and Christopher sneak out of the slum and through Johannesburg to the MNU headquarters in broad daylight? How did Wikus sneak back to his wife's doorstep at the end of the movie? Surely, an alien walking around outside District 9 would be rather obvious.
  • The aliens could clearly kick our asses and retained much of their weaponry. Their reasons for putting up with subjugation are not clear. It's certainly not because they like us.

Brutus: "Don't worry, the movie was just about explosions."

Andy: "No, no, clearly it was about racism."

Despite these meaty holes in the story, District 9 delivers some value entertainment. Whether or not it is a four-star performance is up to you.

1 comment:

shirls said...

LOL at the exchange between you and Brutus.

The aliens are benign creatures who only wanted to stop at earth for a break before they continued on their exploration of the galaxy. Little did they know that the inhabitants of the green and blue planet were greed stricken, power-hungry creatures!

Hannah saw the movie yesterday. I have heard good things about it but have yet to see it.