Sunday, August 16, 2009
D9 = A+
There seems to be a good deal of buzz surrounding the latest sci-fi flick District 9. Having gone to a matinée this afternoon, I can tell you it's well deserved buzz. Without giving away any spoilers or major plot twists, I'll give a good ole rundown.
The time period is present day Earth (actually it's 2010, but close enough) and a huge alien mothership has been stalled over the South African city of Johannesburg for the past twenty years. The alien refugees, over a million of them, have overstayed the human's patience and have been rounded up into the fenced shantytown known as District 9.
Living conditions are deplorable and what you would expect from any real world snapshot of impoverished, third world citizens scavenging through garbage just to stay alive. Human tolerance treats these aliens as less than equal, to put it kindly. Heavily controlled, monitored, and policed by a corporation, the aliens have lost all traces of their 'humanity'. The social satire is not lost here with the actions of the human government on the non-humans echoing many minority groups around the world today being subjugated.
The movie largely consists of television news coverage and the like, lending a very documentary feel overall. Even flashbacks and the like are handled by handy cam, interviews, and more news reels. There is action involved, you've seen the commercials, but it's minuscule and takes a backseat to the story itself. The special effects are done well, and they have gone to great lengths to make the alien technology incredibly fantastic while simultaneously being both believable and sublime; it's not an alien tech flaunt-fest.
The main character gets special mention. You really become invested in Wikus Van De Merwe, at first he's a joke, then a jerk, and then hero. You're either laughing at him, or hating him...at first. Then events start unfolding, and he grows on you, and before you know it, you're looking at the primary protagonist of the movie which kind of came out of nowhere. This is his acting debut as well, so that was refreshing to see as well.
I could go on and on, but I feel I've slipped too many details already. I will say it's graphic at times, so don't take the squeamish (or kids!), and there is a very dark and gritty manner in which the aliens are mistreated by the humans, it's not a popcorn fest. Oddly, for a movie about a mothership and its castaway aliens, it's very believable on every facet (and it has many facets), which lends a somber undercurrent to everything else. It's intelligent, well acted, a unique vision, and certainly worth getting out there and watching.