Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fookin' Hell: District 9's an Explosive Prawn Cocktail!

If you examine the very best science fiction stories you’ll see they are in fact allegories for world events, problems and atrocities that have been brought to light in a manner that’s appealing because they’re wrapped up in the visual spectacle of the sci-fi genre. Lets face it; unless ythey're a pretentious Oscar-chasing director that also has some measure of talent, ythey're not going to be able to effectively get their message across to the audience without disguising it. However if they're a director who has Peter Lord Of The Rings Jackson and the Weta workshop behind you, then you may as well craft a controversial tale of racial intolerance and human rights abuse using highly impressive special effects, Aliens, gunfire and explosives.

District 9 is one of the few high-profile movies I’ve seen in a while that is not a sequel, a remake or an adaptation from some other medium, and that brings a virgin freshness as well as both the excitement and the interpretation from not knowing what to really expect. From brief hearsay and the usual internet mumblings all I was expecting from this was at best - a morality tale of racial intolerance where humans would most likely be depicted as the baddies. Now this is indeed to some extent what the first half of the movie alludes to; but then all hell breaks loose and it becomes an ‘80’s balls-out action-movie! I shit you not people, the set up may be a little tedious, but when the action starts and the lead begins flying - punctuated with only the most necessary of explosions, you’ve got little time to breath between digesting the action and trying to subconsciously remember where you’ve seen these scenarios before. Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon, Total Recall, Aliens and Black Hawk Down are things that came to mind here, but for anyone who loves Robocop, this is a real treat. Substitute apartheid for fascism and you'll quiclky see the similarities of corporate corruption, satire and the small cog in the machine that looses his humanity and becomes an uncompromising fighting machine.

This is a flawed gem however. While the effects are astounding expecially those of the Aliens [the prawns] and the action superb, there are alas a number of serious problems. One is that despite some excellent acting talent; all of the characters, including the main protagonist are complete assholes. I’ can't recall seeing such an unlikeable group anywhere. The main character, Wikus Van De Merwe says “fook” a lot [much like people from Dublin actually] due to his South African accent, but as this is his only likeable trait, it’s difficult to empathise with him once he becomes infected, as by then we’ve already seen him burn unborn aliens in their eggs which "sounds like popcorn" and he doesn’t redeem himself much for the remainder of the movie. The other major issue refers to the Aliens use of their highly-advanced super-powerful weapons and technology - but you'll just have to see the movie to know why this is a problem.

The documentary-style direction of former digital effects animator Neill Blomkamp compliments Trent Opaloch's photragraphy and they treat the subject matter perfectly. There is some exceptional acting from the completly unknown cast, led by Sharlto Copley which just goes to show that if you have a competant casting director and have the balls to take a chance on someone, you can shave off several million dollars from the price-tag and pour it into SFX and pyrotechnics! Another chance was taken on a reletivly unknown Canadian composer Clinton Shorter whose only body of work was television and DTV movies and he provided one of the most remarkable and unique scores of the year. I sure hope Peter Jackson has many more friends like Blomkamp whom he'll help make great movies like this.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2


Civilian Overseer said...

I’ can't recall seeing such an unlikeable group anywhere.

Colonel, I resent that!, I spend an awful lot of time working on being the most unlikeable person you know.

Constance said...

Your title makes the movie sound like a digestive nightmare.