As hinted yesterday, I went and saw District 9 in a cinema near me to find out what all the buzz is about. Before we get into details, let me just say that this movie is massively over-hyped and nowhere near as good and innovative as especially some American reviewers made it sound. That being said, it’s not bad, either, it just isn’t anything you will remember for long and add to your DVD collection. Why is that?
Well, first, one of the big problems of the film is that it builds on a series of surprise effects that will no longer work when you watch it a second time. Whether its the initial contamination of the main protagonist or the various explicit killing scenes – they all lose their momentum when you know it’s gonna happen.
Second, the overall style of the film is very much set up as a news cast/ reality TV show. It’s full of mock TV branding, pseudo surveillance camera footage and other such things that try to build "atmosphere". In a way, the movie takes itself to seriously , but then again, do people ever watch reality shows a second time?
The same could be said about the alleged criticism on Apartheid. Sorry, I don’t see it. if there is any political dimension to it, you could say that people should not have to live under such conditions, but that’s not really a problem common to South Africa. Other African states share the same poverty problems, as do South American and Asian nations. And even in our civilized Western world there are ghetto’s where we lock away the poor and powerless.
One more issue is of course the storyline unfolding itself with a few too many twists and turns, without providing a real background. The aliens just look and act ridiculous most of the time. They are portrayed as being quite unintelligent, which makes you ask, how they were able to pilot their space ship to Earth in the first place. It doesn’t add up logically. Also, the first half hour or so is really a stretch before things come up to speed. It felt like director Neill Blomkamp wanted to do a "serious" movie, but then turned it into an action movie when Peter Jackson got wind of it and hopped on board. During the first part I also really wished the main hero would do us the favor of dying sooner than later…
All that aside, once the action really starts, the film becomes enjoyable for what it is – a sci-fi flick with things blowing up and people being chased. It even has a giant robot in it that is a lot more believable then what you ever saw on Mechwarrior or Transformers. It’s just too bad it doesn’t really burn into memory and will soon be forgotten. Contrary to what people claim, it’s not a film that will influence the genre in the long term.
BTW, they had the Avatar teaser up before the movie, and it looked just as underwhelming as watching it on your PC.