Thursday, 22 October 2009

Review - District 9

In a nutshell:- Great South African sci-fi flick.

The Basics:- Based on his previous short film, Alive In Joburg, and produced by hobbit-filming beardy himself, Peter Jackson, District 9 is writer/director Neill Blomkamp's debut feature film. It tells the story of an alternate South Africa which, for the last twenty years, has been home to a dispossessed aliens - found in a stalled spaceship floating above Johannesburg. We follow Wikus Van De Merwe, a low-level bureaucrat, as he attempts to evict the aliens (nicknamed "Prawns") from the refugee camp District 9 - an eviction that doesn't go as planned...

The Good:- This is a film that could have easily dwelt in a heavy-handed fashion on the parallels between the aliens' plight and the real-life political situation in South Africa but, after establishing the links, it neatly sidesteps that and focuses instead on Wikus, an initially unlikeable little character who you eventually come to identify with, even if he does retain some of that unlikeability throughout. It's a nice film in that it seems to be going in a certain direction before switching and changing into a slightly different film than originally anticipated. The set-up is nicely realised and there are some nice moments of bleak humour as well as some genuinely bleak moments. It also shifts into an action-oriented gear towards the end and has some impressive action moments. There's something about that kind of harks back to the actiony sci-fi flicks that I grew up watching in the late eighties - Terminator, Predator, Robocop.

The Bad:- There are a few plot holes here and there (which I won't particularly go into for those of you that haven't seen it yet) and the occasional slightly infuriating film cliche (how come the man on the run still has valid security codes to his previous place of employment? First thing you;d change, surely!) but for the most part, it stands up well. The only thing that I'm not sure is totally successful is the mixing between the mock-documentary style and the traditional filmmaking style. To me, it felt slightly out of place at times. But these are minor niggles.

The Verdict:- It's refreshing to see a sci-fi film that isn't either a continuation of an existing franchise or the beginnings of a new one. It's pacey, it's entertaining, it has some great action, it wears it's South African heritage on it's sleeve and it's juts a good sci-fi film. I definitely recommend it if you haven't been to see it already.


4 comments:

Kurt said...

You nailed it. I thought it was terrific. And a little gross. Win/Win.

That Baldy Fella said...

Yep, you can't beat a bit of gross. Possibly the influence of Peter Jackson wanting to bet back to his disgusting roots...

cerebus660 said...

Empire report today that District 9 director, Neil Blomkamp, "has just had the green light for a second sf film, set to shoot in the middle of next year." Amazingly, it's not a sequel but an original idea. Whatever next?
Should be interesting.

That Baldy Fella said...

A non-sequel? Whoever heard of such a thing? It's crazy, it'll never work, etc., etc....