Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fantasies: District 9

Well, poop. I was all set to discuss my reaction to District 9, Peter Jackson’s latest producing effort, but my pal Weronika beat me to it. No worries, though – a film this good deserves lots of positive reviews. And isn’t that the point of blogs? To spread the love around?

On Monday, Dan and I decided to visit our local movie theater – which lies twenty miles away from our house (!) – for a couple hours of mindful entertainment. We could have opted for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but as much as we both adore Dennis Quaid, we were in the mood for a grittier action tale – something with a bit more soul. And we definitely got our money’s worth with District 9, the grim saga of an unsympathetic corporate field operative who, while trying to evict alien refugees (derisively known as “prawns”) from South Africa’s District 9, contracts a mysterious virus that alters his DNA, allows him to utilize alien weaponry, and subsequently makes him the most hunted and most ostracized man on Earth.

Now, I realize that the documentary style and strange content of this poignant sci-fi flick might not be for everyone – even my brother-in-law, who saw the film at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, had lukewarm feelings about it. But, without further ado, here are the top ten reasons (in no particular order) that Dan and I appreciated this movie:

1. We pretty much love everything Peter Jackson has written, directed, and/or produced – from Dead Alive (1992) to King Kong (2005) – and we could definitely see his creative influence in this movie. [Incidentally, the only Jackson film that I will never see again is his first, an alien flick called Bad Taste (1987), and anyone who’s witnessed the vomit scene might understand why.]

2. We both liked the journalistic style of filmmaking, which allowed us to immerse ourselves in this made-up world, added to the believability factor, and seemed a lot more genuine than similar styles in movies like Cloverfield (2008) – where we just kept screaming for that stupid kid to drop the camera already and get the heck out of New York.

3. The film constitutes an engaging social commentary about racism (or species-ism, to be more specific), corporate immorality, and the dearth of human compassion.

4. The unknown actors – especially Sharlto Copley, who plays the tragic main character, Wikus Van De Merwe – are not only excellent, but they also make it easier to believe that this story could actually happen. No Oscar winners, heartthrobs, or starlets to distract from the “truth” of the tale.

5. The special effects, as with all of Peter Jackson’s films, are stellar – the alien spacecraft, the alien weaponry, and the aliens themselves all mesh well with the live actors. And when you consider the relatively small budget ($30 million), it’s even more impressive.

6. The dialogue is sparse and necessary – no fluff in this sci-fi saga.

7. The editing is equally tight – adding to the tension of many a scene.

8. The main alien and his son are truly engaging characters – despite the fact that they are essentially special effects with voices [much like Sonny in Alex Proyas’ underrated I, Robot (2004)].

9. The director – a young South African named Neill Blomkamp, whose short film Alive in Joburg (2005) is the basis for this feature-length flick – doesn’t hold back on the necessary violence – which makes the story all the more real and the fictitious humans in charge all the more vicious.

10. Without giving anything away, there is a definite sense of justice in this film. In other words, some of the least likable, most amoral characters get exactly what they deserve.

So, all in all, Dan and I enjoyed our recent excursion to the theater, and we’re delighted that we were able to experience District 9 in all of its larger-than-life, surround-sound glory. Whether or not you’re a fan of science fiction, I highly recommend seeing this film as soon as possible. If only to appreciate the tight writing, the skilled acting, and the underlying lessons about hate and intolerance.


Stephanie Faris said...

I just heard it was the sleeper hit of the year...sounds like there's good reason. My ex-husband was a huge Peter Jackson fan, even before the Lord of the Rings stuff. (He was Lord of the Rings, right?) This sounds like something my ex would LOVE! I kinda burned out on this sort of thing...we were seeing about 4-6 of these types of movies a MONTH and we were married ten years, so you can imagine...

Laura Martone said...

Well, Steph, this film definitely deserves the praise. It's THAT good. And, yes, Peter Jackson is indeed the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - which is also totally awesome.

I can understand, though, why you might be burned out on that "type" of movie. My hubby is obsessed with low-budget horror flicks, so believe me when I say, I know all about reaching one's threshold. :-)

Vodka Logic said...

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Laura Martone said...

No problem, Vodka. Off-topic is fine by me - thanks for the info re: The Secret is in the Sauce. I'm following you and them now! By the way, I love the tag line on your blog, "what people think of me is none of my business" - well put!

Eva Gallant said...

Interesting review. Now I'm curious. My son and daughter-in-law, who are great movie buffs didn't care for this movie at all, but my son's best friend loved it. HMMM.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Eva. Glad I piqued your interest. As I said in the review, the movie's not for everyone. But the hubby and I - who do happen to like horror and sci-fi flicks with a message about humanity - really enjoyed it. Take that for what it's worth! :-)

Weronika said...

Geez. I covered it, you reviewed it. :D

Great, great post, Laura -- you verbalized everything I wasn't able to.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, W! You made me blush again!

Ink said...

I'm looking forward to this one, though I may have to wait until it hits video. So sad...

Laura Martone said...

Oh, Bryan, that IS sad. Dan and I really enjoyed seeing the movie in the theater... it especially enhanced the sound design. But, even on a small screen, I'm sure it'll still be a worthy experience. I'll be curious to learn what you think of it.

It's hard for us to resist the pull of the movie theater... this week, we're going to watch a marathon of the three FINAL DESTINATION flicks at home, and then dash to the theater for the fourth one in 3-D. We're sick puppies, I know.