District 9

Caution–should you visit our humble blog looking for a review of District 9, and you don’t want plot spoilers, STOP READING RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE I AM AN OCCASIONAL MOVIE VIEWER, NOT A PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER, AND I WOULD SPOIL THE SURPRISE IF THERE WERE ONE. Which there isn’t. Bummer.

I was hoping for something interesting, and for the first half-hour it was pretty good. Sharlto Copley plays Wilkus van der Merwe, a bureaucrat who is a funny nerd doing creepy stuff. He’s a tool, and a fool. Copley is a good actor, and actually the only actor in the film who gets to stretch out at all.

There’s the insectoid aliens, (Jason Cope as alien dad made his computer graphic character as sympathetic as anyone could) lots of people playing hapless bystanders and incidental witnesses, and a bunch of one-dimensional villains who exist to be eventually splatted. That leaves the viewer looking for a smart plot.

I think there’s a plot somewhere, but it got lost in the explosions. The camera work and the special effects were good. The mock News/Documentary in Johannesburg was a bright spot. But it was pretty much an action movie where you watch the bad guys chase the good guys. It’s all white noise to me. I been seeing people shoot each other on screen since ‘The Untouchables’ (b&w c.1950tv).

I was a little uncomfortable with ‘the Nigerians’ being so unrelievedly evil. Like it’s okay to stereotype as long as you sort your characters by nationality, not color. Or course, the bad guys were all pretty generic, whatever color they were. Even though flashes of irony shone through here and there, and it was a very well-produced film, your sci-fi nerd reviewer was disappointed. I was waiting for some really devastating plot twist around who these bug-like aliens were and where they came from. Maybe I’m supposed to wait for the sequel.

But I’ll go ahead and gripe about it now. A rocket to Mars would take years to get there. It wouldn’t be running on a tank of high-test and internal combustion engines. So when the alien spaceship fired up its engines I didn’t get excited. I was kind of let down. I had been hoping for something relativistic. Even Star Trek had that line thing they did with the stars when they went into warp drive. Okay, maybe the alien craft didn’t want to vaporize Earth when they took off into the faster-than-light speed they would need to attain in order to leave our solar system and arrive anywhere else in less than centuries, but after the way the humans treated them I had no idea why. In fact, there was a creepy implication that ‘the other’ will endure horrible wrongs over and over and never get vengeful. Maybe it was their alien psychology. Don’t count on it with humans.

Then again, it’s consistent with human psychology to develop a distaste for violence and revenge when you suffer the terrible consequences. South Africa had a great leader in Nelson Mandela, who suffered the worst of unjust imprisonment and served as an effective head of state.

I would have liked this movie better if fewer humans had been set up as totally evil targets waiting for our hero to blow them up, and the aliens had been more interestingly alien. I would recommend looking elsewhere if you want a real sci-fi fix.

For interesting alien/human movies, check out-
Contact
Stargate
Brother from Another Planet
Alien (all of them)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Man Who Fell to Earth
The UFO Incident
2001- A Space Odyssey
The Time Machine
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
War of the Worlds
This Island Earth
Forbidden Planet
The Day the Earth Stood Still

And from the written canon–
H.G. Wells (giant crabs at the end of time)
Isaac Asimov
Ursula LeGuin
C.J. Cherryh
James Tiptree Jr./Alice Sheldon
Stanislaw Lem
Olivia Butler
Chip Delaney
S.P. Somtow
There are billions and billions of other fine works. Readers– do you have the names of anyone I’ve missed?

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5 thoughts on “District 9

  1. Jack Vance-he also wrote very original fantasy.The Dying Earth and its sequels are examples.The NY Times Sunday Magazine(not the Book Review oddly enough)ran a very long and interesting article on Vance a few weeks ago.
    Robert Heinlein-he was nice enought to write me a personal letter on a postcard when I was in the 6th grade because I wrote him about liking one of his books.Our teacher had asked us to try writing authors of books we enjoyed.
    We really got well-educated in the public schools in NYC in the 50’s.

  2. I just saw “District 9″-it wasn’t bad-funny that then aliens could breathe oxygen,learn to speak English,and patronize human prostitutes(I wonder how that would work)-the Nigerians didn’t seem any more stereotyped than the mercenaries-a really good alien encounter film is “The Thing” remake by John Carpenter.You never get to see the alien at all,only its manifestations in other host organisms(like humans)-a very well-done film.

  3. Yeah, if I were making the movie I would not try to make giant bugs with so many human traits. I couldn’t get past the fact that they had 4 limbs and not 6.
    The TV show Alien Nation just gave it’s aliens spots, so it wasn’t so unbelievable that they could interact with humans.

  4. [...] But it’s not censorship. I’m not a censor. My little cranky opinion has no force against the tsunami of popularity ‘Avatar’ has gained. I didn’t contribute to the box office take. That’s not a boycott. I’m just critiquing the movie ads and reviews (which I get for free). And some readers may recall that I had the same reservations about indie hit, ‘District 9′. [...]

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