Massawyrm calls DISTRICT 9 a science fiction hand grenade ready to blow your mind
Published at: July 31, 2009, 10:59 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Normally, when I review a film of this magnitude, I begin with the phrase “Ho. Ly. Shit,” or some facsimile thereof. Then I go on to talk about how you are not somehow in some way ready or prepared for this movie and then, once you are properly braced for the review, I commence with the hyperbole. Asses. Back of seats. That sort of thing. And while DISTRICT 9 is playing in the same ballpark as those sorts of films, it’s not one to be celebrated with hoots and hollers and high fives. It’s smarter than that. WAY fucking smarter than that.
DISTRICT 9 is a landmark film that will heretofore be spoken of alongside such films as ALIENS, THE THING and 2001. What you have seen thus far has not entirely prepared you for it, as it has been a bit deceptive – both in its favor and against. You see, this is not another Mockumentary. This isn’t Cloverfield. It opens that way, sure, with the first 15 minutes or so being told in that format. But as the story progresses, we begin having moments that clearly aren’t “filmed” – moments that are really happening within the framework of a story. Slowly, the film transitions from documentary style into a full blown science fiction film, abandoning the interviews and explanatory exposition for gunfights, chases and things the documentary never would have been allowed to show you.
And all of that is the stuff you’re ready for.
What you are decidedly not ready for is just how fucking hardcore this movie is. First of all, it is gory. Not bloody. Gory. Alien weaponry doesn’t play around. They have lightning guns that make people fucking explode. Blood, guts and viscous fluids burst and rain down time and again, occasionally showering the lens with unidentifiable goo. Is that plasma or liquefied liver? You’ll have no idea. But the gore isn’t what’s going to get you. You can be sufficiently prepared for that.
What’s going to really get people - what is positively going to melt brains - is the sheer volume of unvarnished social commentary this film brings to bear. It is not a particularly kind film – neither to South Africa nor us humans in general. There are times in this film that you not only feel for the aliens, but that you actively root for them. It is a film that changes perspective on the situation time and again, constantly exposing the terrible ugliness of the human species. Including that of our hero.
The first 1/3rd or so of the film is spent pretty much hating him. He’s a weasely little prick who you just can’t wait to see get his comeuppance, and once he does, the tone of the film and his character shifts in such a manner that it changes the very nature of what you are watching. But before that, he does some things that are both despicable and somehow understandable. He’s very human, desperately flawed, and ultimately fascinating.
One of the things producer Peter Jackson mentioned in his recent interview with Capone
was that “…it only cost $30 million; I don't know if $30 million is big or small--but compared to other films, it gives you a degree of freedom. And I kept saying to Neill, "It's never going to get as good as this, so enjoy it." And also the other thing I was trying to encourage him to do was be bold and crazy and just go for it. But he didn't need much encouragement, because he's an absolute sci-fi geek;” Jackson isn’t kidding. The lack of studio intervention here is plain as day. No standard studio film would go as far as this goes nor do the things this film does to its characters. You have never seen a film like it before. You’ve nothing to compare it to. Nothing but other films that have no compare – like ALIENS, THE THING and 2001.
This film is SMART. Incredibly smart. There’s so much going on at all times, so much to process, and so many well constructed little set pieces in the background that everyone walks out having focused on a few particular aspects – and the after film discussion as a result is riveting. DISTRICT 9 is a film that begs to be discussed. Sure people will toss out “wow”s and “fucking awesome”s riddled with the occasional “how great were those special effects”, but that’s all before they begin grilling one another on what they thought about the aliens, the ending, the way the government reacted, the socio-political commentary, the small touches, the death scenes…hell, the brutality. This film is unflinching. It is harsh. And it’s going to send people in the lobby a little shell shocked and dying to talk about it.
This is the very type of sci-fi we’re always begging for; the type that imagines a completely different world than we’ve ever experienced. Despite comparisons, it is not V, and it is definitely not ALIEN NATION. The effects are incredible, even before you realize how little was spent on the film, and the impact is undeniable. This movie is a clenched fist ready to beat your psyche to a pulp, leaving you a bit punch drunk as you stagger out into the lobby to try and process it all. There’s so much (satisfyingly) unanswered that you’ll spend days sifting through what ifs and writing your answers to questions the film doesn’t feel needs to be answered. At least not yet.
And you’ll want to see a sequel. I’m not certain one is necessarily warranted – but you’ll want to see one regardless. This film isn’t simply recommended – it is required viewing that will in short order become part of the geek canon. Ready yourselves to swallow this summer’s science fiction hand grenade – and then watch your mind get blown.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.