Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#32-District 9 (2009)

District 9

The surprise hit movie that attacked theatres in the summer of 2009 is coming this way. District 9 was a surprise hit comercially when it was one of the few action films realesed that year, that wasn't already part of an established franchise. The film was also a critcal darling, using its third world message to win over even the toughest of critics. Originally a short film from director Neill Blomkamp, District 9 was action on a budget, being given only $30 Million for production, take that in comparison to Transformers 2 given $200 Million that same year.

District 9 did have some force behind it when it was realesed. It was produced, and greatly enthused by famed Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson. The film was also in the shaky-cam style that has grown to be quite popular and finacially success these days. Not to mention the film had great marketing tools, with 'Alien Free Zone' and 'MNU Only' signs nearly everywhere. The film may have been small but it definatly knew what it was doing, and even earned itself a Best Picture nomination at last years Academy Awards.

The story takes place on an alternate version of planet earth, where in 1982, a large alien space craft landed and floated of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens are kept in camps in Johannesburg, and are not allowed to speak with humans. In preperation to move the aliens or 'Prawns' as their called, a man by the name of Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is assigned to the job of removing, and relocating them. In a raid of one of the alien houses, he comes across a strange vile of liquid, which he accidently breaks upon and gets covered in it. What happens to him I won't say, as it is very fun to see, but as you can probably guess, it isn't something good. There in lies the story of District 9, a sci-fi action movie that is guranteed to please audiences, all the while throwing political overtones, for those willing to catch them.
"Is that cat food?"

While I did enjoy the film quite a bit, I am one to say that I don't think District 9 is that great of a film. My main problem with it was the style. I can enjoy shaky-cam mockumentary films, I think that they are fun, and if done right very enjoyable. In that sense, I think District 9 is a success. I can enjoy regular film styling, where you have multiple cameras set up to capture the action, rather than one trying to make it feel real. In that sense, I think District 9 is a success. When combining the two however, and talking about the finish product in lies the problem. The two styles have nearly become genres. I am willing to go out on a limb and call Shaky-Cam a genre over a style. And when combining these genres I don't think the finished products feels right. The film moves at the right pace, and his good camera work, but when jumping between footage of interviews telling the story of this man, and watching the story of this man actually unfold take place one right next to the other, we get a very weird clash of camera work, and therefore emotion within us that just can't seem to mesh with one another, and therefore fails.

As far as the politcal message goes, I can see what they are trying to get across. However, I also felt like this may have been an afterthought. You can see overtones of almost anything in any movie if you look hard enough for them (see my review of Avatar) and while it may have been planned, it may also not have been planned, but an accident completly. Whether or not it was there on purpose or not, I'm glad to see the message getting some attention. It could bring some very nice bright young directors to the action genre, trying to tell their story and share with us the problems our world still faces on an everyday basis. And judging on other recent action films, they definatly need a face-lift.

Sharlto Copley gives a very strong performance as Wickus. One of my favorite characters of action movies to come out recently. He is funny, intense, dramatic, and smart. He creates a character that we want to see through to the end, that we root for, and connect with. Another amazing bit that comes with District 9 is when we care for the aliens. The aliens aren't real people, the main one potrayed through technology by Jason Cope, but they are given emotion and characterists through a very strong sceenplay that also make us fall in love with them.

Based on what I've written above, it may sound like I hate the film more than I do. I actually found the film better on an entertainment level than on a critcal level, by which it is also very nice. It had great action moments, a good hero, a devilishly evil villian, a cool plot and a lot of other things going for it. Neill Blomkamp should be very proud of his work, and I see him having a very nice career in the future. Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope perform very well, the film has a great screenplay and is fun to watch. The films styling choices do hurt it, even if every so slightly.

I Give District 9 A:


  1. This movie is proof that original concepts that are marketed properly will do big business. I remember being on vacation in Ohio and I had only heard a little about this movie and there was an ad for it on my McDonald's cup about no aline zone or whatever and I was like well this is interesting, what the heck is this movie about. It wasn't even a great movie, just entertaining but damn, it knew how to get the word out to people. There's a lot to be learnt from this.

  2. The marketing campaign for this was excellent. Whoever designed it deserves a raise! I also think that it proves that despite some popular belife that there is still strong advertising bussiness to be done outside of the internet. I was surprised the film got a Best Picture nod. Like most people said you could pretty much figure out which films the Academy really cared about by looking at the Directing category. This nomination along with (I think) the Blind Side was proof that ten nominees was just a way to bring in a bigger viewing audience. I was upset to see nominees like this over films like A Single Man, a movie I felt was completly underwhelmed by the voters.