Last weekend, I paid my $10 to see District 9. It was the first movie I had actually looked forward to going to in a while. Since Neill Blomkamp was directing, I had high hopes. Plus, you know, my loudmouthed Twitter friends wouldn't shut up about how great it was. (It's all love.)
The story of District 9 follows a bumbling government agent as he carries out his task of removing aliens or "Prawns" from their segregated slums and placing them in what amounts to concentration camps. Little does he realize that he will soon be on the receiving end of what he has been dishing out.
It was a very simple premise to figure out given the story location. It almost seemed too obvious. It felt somewhat like an adult using toys to get a serious topic over to children. Also, it was very clear from about the middle of the movie that it was being set up for sequels. I shall spare you of spoilers at this time.
The main character was fairly complex. He kept throwing me for a loop as I was made to feel compassion for him at some points but 5 minutes later, he would do something that left me with a feeling of disdain. It was a complete roller coaster, which is not something I've noticed about characters to that extent for a long time. The "prawns" also had complex traits leaving you wondering who really was human and who was the alien. The introduction of a "child" into the mix also leaves you not knowing who to root for.
The action was non-stop. I don't think there was a single point that I felt like sitting back in my chair. My eyes were glued to the screen for the entire duration. It SUCKS when you try to get up after being tensed up for two hours. Even my friend's knuckle cracking did little to distract me whereas normally it would result in a punch to the side.
The one thing that struck me early on was just how good the CGI was in this movie. I am usually such a picky bitch when it comes to visuals that I will complain if the color of a pinky nail is too saturated. However, the rendering of the "Prawns" was pretty breath taking. I felt like I was watching the original Star Wars trilogy pre George Lucas ego fiasco. The lighting, textures, movement, everything - it was all just... right.
I do think that if you haven't seen it yet, you should. It's what modern movies should be but maybe a little less of the, "look at the fluffy pink bunnies telling the story of the plague!"
I am an avid movie watcher. So much so that at the time of this writing, I have rated over 1600 movies on Netflix (and yes, I actually have watched that many and probably far more, as I continue to find movies that I have seen and not yet rated), so to be surprised or stumped while watching a movie is extremely difficult. And I’m sorry to say, District 9 was no different – though this in no way detracted from how successful this movie was in most areas. That being said, there were a few sticking points for me.
The transitions between the ‘Documentary’ and the main body of the film and then back again at the end felt abrupt and somewhat unnatural to the flow of the overall movie. I think both filming styles suited the story perfectly; it was almost like a critical comma was missing which then slightly changed the intended inflection of the story’s narration.
I think this added to my initial fight to fully relax and let myself experience the story as it unfolded. I had been warned so many times that “this movie wasn’t what I was expecting” that I kept waiting for this incredibly drastic change in the story, the focus, ANYTHING, that I kept pulling myself out of the mindset unintentionally because I kept telling myself “Um, yeah, this is exactly what you were expecting, why was everyone else so shocked?”
And I think I’ve finally nailed it.
People like their stories to be black and white, they like the good guys to be good and bad guys to be, well, less than good. Someone who is not perfect, who makes mistakes because he is selfish and is looking out for himself because he thinks it’s the only way to survive is utterly confusing. But it may in fact be the most realistic portrayal of an individual under duress I’ve seen in many years. You feel the main character’s turmoil as he wars with himself over his actions and decisions at the same time as you the viewer are conflicted over whether you approve of his actions or not.
This realism is a theme that carries throughout the film. Most obviously was the seamless integration of CGI. Unlike DirtyDiva, I’m not a graphically orientated person, but with the sheer amount of film I’ve watched, I can spot errors and discontinuity like nobody’s business and it has the unfortunate side effect of dumping me out of the experience and reminding me that this is a movie I’m watching. And with District 9, it just didn’t happen this way.
I’m also on the fence over thoughts of a sequel. Yes, they set it up well for a return to this universe in 3 years; after all there is a promise to be kept. But taking a look at Peter Jackson’s history, he doesn’t return to a world after he’s told a story (Lord of the Rings doesn’t count, all three movies are a part of one story!). I think we have become so conditioned to expect a sequel, while still demanding new experiences. Can’t have it both ways people!
Final opinion? Go see this movie. Then come tell us your own impressions!