So over the holiday last week, we watched the movie District 9. Originally my wife had declined to screen this film, but after hearing from several friends about how good it was, she agreed to go see it. I had also told her it was supposed to be good, but apparently, after suggesting she might like Hellboy because it was made by Guillermo del Toro (she is a huge fan of his Spanish-language movies like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth), suggesting she might like Kung Fu Hustle because because it was “probably like a Jackie Chan movie”, and trying to convince her that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a classic of 80s filmmaking, I lack credibility. Go figure.
Anyway, as everyone knows by now, District 9 is the story of what happens when a large group of aliens currently segregated in a Johannesburg slum are about to be involuntarily relocated to a new and improved slum way out in the desert where the local humans won’t have to look at them anymore. The film has several political subtexts, none of which are presented with particular overtness; it can easily be enjoyed as a well-above-average SF actioner without requiring any knowledge of civil rights issues in general or apartheid in particular, or of the controversial behavior of certain private military contractors, or of weapons-trafficking issues in Africa. But these do give the film a more substantive feel than, say, something like Independence Day. (Which is not to say I didn’t love Independence Day. Nothing says “summer” like Will Smith berating an alien fighter pilot for making him miss a barbecue.)
I never delve too deeply into plots in these capsule reviews, so I won’t go any farther with the description than this. Let me just say that all the SF fanboys out there (like me) are going to be very, very happy with this movie, especially once the hero starts negotiating with the Nigerian mafia in the hope of getting his hand on some of their weapons. (Yes, I said “hand”, and I meant “hand”. You’ll see why.) Everything leading up to this point is essentially the part of the roller-coaster where the big chain is pulling the carts up to the top of the highest point in the amusement park; everything after this point is the thrill ride back to the ground. And what a ride it is!
As for my wife, I’m not sure exactly what she made of this movie. She agreed that it had some solid points to make about the state of the world, both in the recent past and currently, even as she declared its faux-documentary style to be somewhat “artsy” (a term she also applied to Watchmen which, to most peoples’ amazement, was my favorite film of the year until I saw this one). She stayed awake for the entire thing, although there were some fairly lengthy stretches where she was either watching it through her fingers or inspecting the floor for loose popcorn or whatever. These stretches tended to coincide with activity on screen that will remind the astute moviegoer of what happened to poor Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, only without Geena Davis telling anyone, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” This is more or less exactly the same thing that happened when we went to see the aforementioned Hellboy and Kung Fu Hustle, except this time she didn’t look like she wanted to smack me.
But I probably still don’t have any credibility.
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