District 9 Review

What’s Good About It

For some reason there’s been a dearth of good science fiction lately. I lay the blame squarely on the un-intelligence of Hollywood executives because basically, they’re the only ones capable of funding a good sci-fi and they seem to have lost the ability to pick them any more.

It’s against this context we get ‘District 9’ thrown at us like so much meat to hungry animals in a safari enclosure. The animals I might add probably always feel there’s got to be better than the meat that’s being thrown at them.

I guess I have to say that at least it’s a full-blooded sci-fi flick, an that counts as good.

The South African Accents are great. It puts you deep into the rhythms of Jo’burg and there’s something very curious about that. Maybe I’m missing the South African emigres with whom I used to play baseball. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, and it has the added advantage of the bad guys seeming like much worse guys than if they were white guys from America, being mercenary.

I guess I’m a product of my times.

What’s Bad About It

The film doesn’t really give you an indication what the central problem is until a good 20minutes in to the film. This isn’t because there’s not much going, but because there’s just too much going on. We’re busy trying to decipher the vast mass of signals springing off the screen that we miss that it’s about some of the aliens wanting to go home. In other words, it’s ‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’ but with better effects and uglier aliens.

The other problem is that the it doesn’t make any sense. If the aliens have been on Earth for 20-odd years because they were stranded without fuel, they shouldn’t be able to extract fuel from stuff in the junkyard. An the same substance shouldn’t be turning the main character Vikus into an alien just because it splashed all over his face. There’s just no rationale for this except for the expediency.

The other thing I didn’t like was the pseudo-documentary style it took with the extensive hand-held camera that made me car sick. I think I spent the middle 40minutes or so feeling woozy and wanting to throw up. That’s not a selling point or this movie.

What’s Interesting About It

There a re echoes of apartheid that play out in this film. of course the question one could ask is, is it just repeating the structure of racism or is it inverting it in some new way? I’m not really sure if the film makers ever successfully address the nature of xenophobia, but they do show how apartheid would have been exercised under the guise of bureaucratic policy.  That part of the film is at least fascinating.

The ugly, bullying bureaucracy is carried out with a very forced, fake smile and a condescending attitude that embarrasses us as we watch.

The other idea that is interesting in the film is the idea of Bogan Aliens. These aliens that come to earth are workers and have no idea about anything. You can just imagine it. If you randomly sampled the human population, its probably not going to be a good representation of the human genome. They’re certainly not a goo political representative.

Which all works in favor of the complexity of the film’s theme. All this breaks down as the story progresses towards a simple action gun fight climax, and you realise you’re watching a re-telling of ET. I guess you could do worse on a Thursday night.

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