Go See District 9.

District 9 may well be the sleeper hit in a Summer of disappointment. I was intrigued when I first saw a teaser trailer for it prior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of those aforementioned disappointments. I think the problem with a lot of the movies this Summer was that they were adaptations of comics or cartoons that I was already a fan of, and I had preconceptions and expectations. Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince are probably the only exceptions, films that met or exceeded my expectations based on the source material. I'm forgiving of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen because I'm such a huge fan of the franchise and want to like it. Cut out a few scenes and characters that insulted my intelligence or brought the action to a screeching halt, and the remaining 3/4 of that movie is still pretty awesome.

As for D9, I knew nothing about it prior to the teaser trailer, which seemed to just be some political commentary on Apartheid and South Africa, at least until I caught a glimpse of an alien and saw Peter Jackson's name attached. Even the full trailers, which divulge a little more, didn't prepare me. It was an experience, one which I want to encourage you all to share, without giving too much away. The movie does start as a social commentary, and plays out like a very realistic documentary about the arrival of aliens in Johannesburg, and how they're quickly confined and segregated from the rest of the community. It's a great commentary on human nature, especially as the viewer is just as repulsed by the “Prawns” as the characters in the film. Gradually, you see the way they're being treated as inhumane, and feel shame for your repulsion. Soon, you're rooting for them instead of the humans. Imagine Alien Nation or E.T., shot as a gritty and realistic collection of news and documentary footage.

Newcomer Sharlto Copley sets some kind of record with the range his character goes through. He starts out as a naive Michael Scott character, but you gradually begin to despise him for his actions, even if he is blindly following orders. You want something terrible to happen to him. You're glad when it does. You don't expect a redemptive arc or any heroism. The movie surprises you.

I can honestly say this had the best effects of every science fiction action movie I've seen this year, mostly because it was all so seamless. Kudos to WETA and all others involved. Not once do you question the floating ship, or the aliens interacting with the humans, or the alien weaponry and technology. I'm sure there was some conventional models, costumes, and effects, but the level of digital effects is indistinguishable from what is real. It all looks real. It all looks like it's there.

I was worried several times. I cheered and applauded several times. And I was definitely stunned and shocked more than once. The film really gets to the roots of great science fiction literature, aliens as a metaphor for the way we treat those we perceive as different. The effects and action of your more mainstream stuff is there, but there's a foundation underneath. It's not popcorn, and the film's one reference to popcorn is appalling enough to qualify as disgust for such films. This film has something to say, and the youngest character in the film said it best when he said, “we're the same.”

Why are you still reading this? Go see District 9. Now.


Blogger Lorna said...

That's just what I was intending for myself this weekend, but I'm glad to have read your enthusiastic review.

8/15/2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger b13 said...

Wait... better fx than StarTrek?

8/16/2009 12:23 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Apples and Oranges. Star Trek was a video game. It was pretty and spectacular, but you still knew you were watching computer animation(and you were fine with it). D9 is more subtle, but so convincing that you don't question or think about the things you're seeing as being digital creations.

8/16/2009 8:40 AM  
Blogger Rey said...

So I called you Sunday since I was avoiding your blog because I wasn't sure if I should watch GI Joe, this or Inglorious. I called b13 but he was unavailable (watching this apparently) and then I called Rob and he said: "Uh, Don't watch G.I.Joe. Seriously. Watch anything...not that."

I wound up watching this and you're dead on with everything. It was such a smart way to do a social commentary that I found myself reliving it in my head. The popcorn eggs was horrifying (just the glee on their faces as they did it...so messed up).

I didn't read this post before (or your GI Joe post) because I was afraid of spoilers. I still might "rent" Joe.

8/24/2009 1:28 PM  
Anonymous MCF said...

Ah, okay, I saw later on that there was a missed call but no message.

Yeah, the popcorn egg thing was so harsh that I was happy for any misfortune that befell Wickus, and then the film did the impossible and made him sympathetic. Remarkable character arc and redemption story. Also, Ravindra and I think that may well be the best live action mecha of any movie and I was hard-pressed to think of anything better. WETA has surpassed ILM.

G.I.Joe was entertaining but disappointing with a horrible script. You *should* rent it or at the very least see a matinee, but don't pay full price. They do a decent job capturing the spirit of the early mass device/weather dominator five-parters, but that's NOT a good thing because what worked in a cartoon when we were 10 is cringeworthy in live-action 20 years later. They had much better source material with the more mature Marvel comics that I wish they drew more from that than a few names and character backstories, the ones they didn't butcher.

8/25/2009 3:33 PM  

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