Movie Review: District 9
By Matthew Huntley
August 25, 2009
It's interesting how the movie views the aliens. On one level, they're a species with highly advanced technology; on another, they're bottom-feeders given the nickname "prawns." They resemble overgrown insects, with oozy exoskeletons, antennae, beady eyes, and claws. They also speak their own language, although the movie doesn't explain how we came to understand it or how they came to understand English.
The look of the aliens may be uninspired, but their looks aren't important. What matters is they generate our sympathy and integrate with the narrative. Typically in alien movies, it's the creatures that wreak havoc, but this time it's the humans, and I found this aspect refreshing and brave. Blomkamp thoroughly convinces us this world is real and he shows a lot of contempt for human occupation and consumption. It's not tongue-in-cheek or self-aware; it's as startling and unsettling as any war picture or documentary about crimes against humanity.
This begs the question why the filmmakers eventually chose to go the standard action-movie route. Once the central conflict is established, the formula reveals itself, and even though the picture remains exciting and kinetic throughout, its ideas do not. It becomes another chase movie about uncovering the truth and fighting the bad guys. Once again, the enemy is the big bad corporation, along with a lone, testosterone-driven villain. To be fair, though, the way the corporation is depicted didn't seem too embellished, which is both sad and scary. I only wish the movie had spent more time on its social points instead of providing us the same chase scenes, shootouts and gore we've seen time and again.
Still, I'd rather have several ideas brought up and not seen all the way through than none brought up at all. The movie definitely delivers a rush and generates enough pathos to make us care about its outcome. The last shot, in particular, is one I will not soon forget.
Would I have preferred the movie to be more brainy than brawny? Absolutely, but I enjoyed the raw, rugged look of the film, the fast pace and the seamless special effects (which are all the more impressive when you consider most of the movie takes place in broad daylight). The film is obviously meant to emphasize what's wrong, or what could be wrong, with our current world, but instead of suggesting answers on how to deal with the underlying problems, it simply reminds us the problems are still there. I suppose that's enough to get us started on the solutions. Hopefully the real answers will come with District 10.