in defence of District 9
Okay, so I’m going to break my own rules for this one instance and INCLUDE SPOILERS in this little rant of mine.. D9 has been out in the UK for the best part of a week, and I’ll make no bones about it – I LOVED every minute of it.
So, it was a great surprise when I opened my emails on Monday morning to read the opinions of 3 different friends of mine:
“unoriginal & full of plot holes”
“disappointed it was jokey like Men in Black.”
I had to double check we were still talking about the same film, after all they’d also watched Bruno over the weekend, so perhaps I was getting my wires crossed? Anyway, it seemed that I wasn’t, and after listening to the ongoing panning I decided to jump to the film’s defence, which is what follows. As previously stated, I am unabashedly euphoric about the D9 cinematic experience, and can only enthusiastically wait for whatever director Neill Blomkamp does next.
Should you be unfamiliar with Blomkamp’s track record allow me to guide you to:
Anyway, onto my little rant.. as I say, this is FULL OF SPOILERS so please only read on if you’ve already seen the film..
“They said very early on that these were “worker bees” – drone sorts of aliens who couldnt think for themselves and the Leader Class must have either died out or gone away. . . The workers didnt have the insight to use the weaponry and saw it only as stuff to barter for cat food. . . Christopher being identified as more intelligent than the rest was what set him apart.
There were an awful lot of unanswered questions – why were they there at all? where WERE the leader aliens? would they return? .
Personally I enjoyed that the questions went unanswered – it wasnt Star Wars, it was a moment of human / alien interaction that is clearly a fragment of a far vaster jigsaw.
. . I suspect the more subtle elements might have washed over too – the signs saying “No Aliens” etc subtly pointed out to a time when they were free to integrate to a certain extent, but the Humans / Corporations had herded them into D9.
As for the weaponry – the director is a self confessed sci fi & robot geek – the Gravity cannon was stright out of Half Life, the robot suit was elements of ED209, Gundam Wing, Iron Man and prob a handful of other movies.. So what if he borrowed elements from pop culture? Who doesnt? At least he distilled it into a pretty fckin badass action sequence. . . As for weaponry out of computer games like firing the pig carcass . . YOU may have seen that in a computer game, but how many people have seen it in the cinema?
I dont think it was MIB jokey at all – all the characters were completely selfish pricks who were only out for themselves – even the “hero” only stepped up towards the end once he realised hed have to get his act together if he wanted to be cured. It was dirty smelly ugly disgusting humanity at its lowest.. Admittedly the Nigerians were a bit of a caricature, but no more so than Skrewface & co in a Steven Seagal movie.. bearing in mind the whole movie riffed off 80’s action flicks, I dont think you can begrudge it having some 80s Action Baddies.
It didn’t spoonfeed the audience but if you looked there were plenty of signifiers to show you the corruption and prejudice – like the little old lady saying they’ll kill you for your phone, but meanwhile theres a drone prawn happily snuffling through the rubbish in the background – why didnt he just slaughter her and the camera crew?
I thought it was great fun – it made you think (a bit . . well, more than anything else this summer anyway); the effects were continuously seamless and beautiful to behold, the weaponry and man-splattery was cheer-inducing, and whilst the pantomime baddies got their just desserts, the conflicted focal characters were still left seeking redemption at the end, leaving the story hanging for the next chapter, or just poignantly ending there.
If you didnt like it, that’s your opinion and youre welcome to it, but for a $30 mill movie made by a 1st time director, i thought it blew Michael Bay’s $250mill bloated mess of Transformers 2 out of the water, and heralds the arrival of a strong new directing talent in modern cinema. If it wasnt for you, then get back to your Wolverine Origins dvd
Spoiler-Free normal service will now be resumed.
Whilst I remember, the keener-eyed of you may have noticed that I was originally relatively complimentary about Transformers 2. Allow my indulgence & disclaimer here, that although I was conflicted and enjoyed moments of TF:RoTF, by the second inevitable viewing those few moments of joy were nothing compared to the endurance test of the other 2hrs 25mins. Whilst the 2007 Transformers movie was faithful enough to the 1980’s G1 that I loved and cherished, the sequel strayed so far from the source material that it felt like Optimus Prime had been kept in there simply as a way to convince fans this was indeed part of the same franchise.. A sad realisation for me, and one that I hope is resolved with a return to the Marvel / Hasbro roots of the franchise in the 3rd installment.
Anyway, a review of District 9 felt moot to me, but I just wanted to say my piece before the inevitable backlash and naysayers, and now that’s done.