Tagline: You are not welcome here.
Synopsis: An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.
Meat & Potatoes: District 9 (official website here) O.K. Let me start with the snappy website created for the movie. I know in some cases these kinds of promotional sites are taken down after the movie has screened and subsequently delivered on DVD but if you get a chance to explore the site you’ll not be disappointed.
As I sit down to write this review I keep thinking about how it would have looked in theaters. One of those movies I truly regret NOT seeing in the theater, District 9 is inventive and original. Let me put it another way. If this ever returns to the theater for some special screening I’m there. So many reasons to like this film – from the unusual placement of the story in a South African slum, to the documentary approach to introducing us to the story and characters, and lets not forget the incredible job of making the aliens part of the world of the story. And I think what I liked most about the film was that the special effects actually took a back seat to the characters and story — meaning in a day and age when so many CG movies come along that would fall apart if you removed the CG components this film is first and foremost about the human characters and their story. Remember watching Ang Lee’s Hulk movie? Remember how the character of the Hulk, which was essentially all CG – I don’t even believe they used what is known in the industry as ‘Motion Capture’ where the actual actor is connected to a computer that actually records their natural movements and those movements become the basis for what we end up seeing on the screen. Here’s a good article regarding the work Peter Jackson and his team (The Weta Worskshop based in New Zealand) created for The Lord Of TheRings.
If you’re into the site Rotten Tomatoes you’ll notice upon first visit to their collection of reviews is the bold 90% on their Tomatometer. That’s impressive alone. Further, you’ll notice that all of the immediate reviews contain a ‘fresh’ rating. Building on that, the Sci-Fi and fantasy crowd are particularly brutal in their reviews and often hold films in this genre to an exacting degree of perfection and if that isn’t enough to watch this film – well, I’m here to convince you that you’ll not waste your time on District 9. And no I wasn’t trying to make that rhyme but HEY THAT RHYMES! Seriously there is a lot to like here, a lot of Meat & Potatoes as I like to say. There are also some nice parallels to current social, economic and political themes (for those of us who like to have our cake and our to eat it too) that were interwoven into the story in a believable and not in-your-face way. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times writes “District 9 does a lot of things right, including giving us aliens to remind us not everyone who comes in a spaceship need be angelic, octopod or stainless steel.” – his full review here. Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle says “Every now and then, a film comes along that both defies and compels description.” – her full review here.
The Closer: I tend to line up with most when it comes to Sci-Fi/Fantasy films – they are either right on the mark (or very near it) or they miss the target completely and hit innocent bystanders. The CG work alone is outstanding. The balance between story and CG glitz is near flawless. Watch this one and look forward to watching it again.