Saturday, February 20, 2010
TBG (Finally) Sees: District 9
10-Word Premise: Apartheid with aliens. I assume that description hasn't been used.
Starring: Sharlto Copley as the one-third amicable, one-third annoying and – for most of the movie – one-third [spoiler deleted, but it also starts with "A"] guy. David James as the stereotypically sinister/sadistic/vicious (you can only choose one, y'all) mercenary. And, Louis Minnaar as a slightly more evil version of Jack Tripper's father-in-law in the short-lived spin-off, Three's A Crowd.*
*-- I found the picture in the above link by typing "Three's A Crowd" into Google Images. An unsolicited word of warning: if you're at work, don't type "Three's A Crowd" into Google Images. Just trust me on this, y'all. Don't. You're going to do it, anyway, aren't you?
The Best Thang(s): Copley's performance is a wild-eyed kaleidoscope of emotions. He plays a low-level operative named Wikus van de Merwe who's assigned the Herculean task of leading the effort to relocate 1.8 million aliens far, far away from the hard-working people of Johannesburg, South Africa. Reverse "white flight", if you will.
In the first few scenes, Copley mugs for the film crew following his team through the alien's shanty town. His character's false bravado belies a repressed insecurity that comes off the screen clear as day. Watching his physical and emotional breakdown – from panicky denial to begging and bargaining to forced acceptance had me openly rooting for him by film's end.
The most persistent criticism of the film seems to be the film's final act, in which the high-level concepts are tossed out the window in favor of a guns, ammo and chase-tastic climax. It worked for me, though, as something of a whiz-bang reward – the proverbial pot boiling over – as the greater tension between humans and aliens is left to slowly build throughout.
I thought the rather ambiguous ending was effective and the assortment of documentary-style closing shots of officials who articulated their own uncertainty through an array of explanatory theories was actually satisfying.
The Worst Thang(s): While I enjoyed District 9 tremendously, it took a while for me to look past the premise. The aliens were basically bipedal shellfish who walked among humans – in segregation, but still. It had been about 30 years since the aliens "arrived" and I'm not sure the kind of comfort level exhibited by the humans who interact with them could be achieved in 300 years.
Also, one of the film's primary antagonists is killed by the aliens – torn apart, actually. I couldn't have been the only asking why the aliens – nearly 2 million strong, we're told – hadn't tried this 5-on-1 human Awesome Blossom approach before. It would've taken them 20 minutes to take over South Africa.
The Verdict: Probably a little overrated due to Hollywood's obsession with oversimplified racial analogies, but District 9 is still a fast, fun little film. I don't know if it's worthy of a "Best Picture" Oscar® nomination, but it wouldn't take much of an argument to convince me that it is.