Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

District 9


What a huge letdown. This has been touted as the SF movie with a brain, a subtext, a message. It’s all about intolerance, and it was made in South Africa, that former poster country for institutionalized discrimination. And it is, for about 2/3 of the movie. Then it gets as dumb as Transformers or Terminator Salvation
It starts out well enough. Premise: 20 years ago a vast spaceship arrived and hovered over Johannesburg. The interior of the ship proves to be a stinking slum, its inhabitants starving to death. The aliens are relocated to another stinking slum, not unlike a South African township, and resentments fester with the human population. And rightly so, it would seem. It looks like a ship of intergalactic deadbeats to me. It is decided to move the 1.8 million “prawns” to another stinking slum, much farther away from town. The relocation turns violent.
It is filmed in a documentary style with shaky cameras which, oddly enough, make it all seem more realistic than your usual CGI. When the camera is not pointing right at your money shot, but the action is taking place off to one side, and a bit indistinctly, it lends weight to the fiction that it’s simply being filmed as it happened, not painstakingly shot with actors playing to empty space and aliens later CGed into reality.
Much more happens, which I’m not going to bother with, as the plot logic soon begins to break down. The pace is relentless and, eventually, mind-numbing. The justification for the cinema verite style is lost, and its use is continued merely for its supposed kinetic attraction to ADD fanboys. What follows is a series of high-tech fist fights, lip-smacking sadism, and stupidity filmed at such a pace that half the time … no, make that ¾ of the time, I had very little idea of who was doing what to whom. Soon, I didn’t care. I was bored witless during the last 15 minutes.
I think it is a very sad commentary on the state of action films these days that so many critics lauded this crap. Have they forgotten what an honest action film looks like? Is motion all you need now? Apparently so. They should be ashamed of themselves, critics and moviemakers alike. And that means you, producer Peter Jackson.