Archive for August, 2009

Entering District 9

Every once in a while, a film comes along which belongs in the annals of SciFi.  The last time this happened was in 2006 with Alfonso Cuarón‘s Children of Men. The Day the Earth Stood Still, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, Star Wars, E.T., Blade Runner are among the titles which represent the best traditions of Science Fiction. Are they all my favorite? No.  But to not be familiar with these entries, is to not be familiar with SciFi.  District 9, written and directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, is one of those films.  Made for under $30 million and starring a brilliant unknown actor Sharlto Copley, District 9 represent what’s best in SciFi.  It is allegorical, it has memorable characters, it has aliens, spaceships, cool guns, baaaad villains, and lots of action.

I want this to be spoiler-free, so I won’t go into the details of the film.  Suffice it to say, go see this movie. Just go see it.  The films draws from familiar elements of previous sci-fi installments such as V, Alien Nation, and Men in Black, but it does so in a way that you have never seen before.  Setting it in Johannesburg was a stroke of genius.  Yes, it’s a little heavy handed, being the notorious site of apartheid, but the authenticity it lends is priceless.  As a New Yorker and an American, there’s a part of me that goes along for the ride in movies which take place in New York and in the U.S. in general, but there’s always a part of me that knows it’s just not happening, because I live here.  But to set it in far away South Africa, gives it a CNN realism that I really enjoyed.  Yeah, I still know it’s not happening, but I don’t know a lot of what happens in South Africa right now, and it just added to the suspension of disbelief.

The aliens are terrific.  I, frankly,  forgot that they were all CGI and I became as attached to them as I was the humans.  Speaking of humans, Sharlto Copley is genius.  A cross between Inspector Clouseau and David Brent, he manages to make you root for a schmuck of a character.  The villains (yes there are villains) are the kind that you can’t wait to get what they deserve.  They are familiar enough to a 21st century audience that we know they have motives for their evil ways, but we don’t care.

The worst thing that could be done to District 9 is to make Distract 10.  This is a stand-alone film in the best sci-fi tradition that comes in, tells a story, and discretely leaves.   Thank you again, Peter Jackson and Company.

Article by Matt Rashid


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