Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie Review: District 9

The Middle Room, more often than not, is fairly generous to big budget Hollywood film-making. While certainly not glowing, our analysis of GI Joe was at least mixed, as was our review of Transformers 2.

We bring this up for context. You see, while watching District 9, we found it impossible not to wonder if Hollywood was entirely obsolete.

The situation is merely one of economics. GI Joe cost, according to IMDB, around 170 million. District 9, on the other hand, was made for approximately 30 million. So, for the amount spent on one GI Joe picture, Peter Jackson could produce five movies of far superior quality. And, in the end, he would still have twenty million left over, perhaps for marketing or to rebuild Hobbiton as a tourist attraction.

This isn't to say that District 9 was a perfect film; merely to recognize that it's easily one of the best films we've seen this year. Largely, this is a reflection of the acting, writing, and direction, all of which were excellent. The film delves into its characters, and it is unafraid to show their darker sides. Early in the picture, the main character perpetuates an act of brutality that's simply staggering. While this occurs, he addresses the camera with a clinical fascination: he's doing a job - one he believes is for the greater good - and he's unable to view the aliens as feeling creatures.

Yet, through all this, the main character does not feel evil. He simply lacks the perspective to see what he's a part of. This is a movie about humanity, and it is far from complementary.

What truly impressed us, though, weren't these elements: we went in expecting an intelligent, engaging film. Seeing it delivered was far from a surprise. What we hadn't fully expected was the quality of the effects.

The action in District 9 is certainly not the point of the movie, but, make no mistake, it is incredible. The last third of the film is almost nonstop sci fi action, and it accomplishes this as well or better than Hollywood ever has. There are some absolutely amazing fight sequences unencumbered by PG ratings.

As we already said, this isn't a perfect film. The corporation involved is a hair too evil to be believed. And the plot, while handled well, feels cliche at times. Still, this is a great picture which explores the darkest aspects of humanity. Most impressive, it does so with little sentimentality or easy answers.

And the work on the aliens is phenomenal. The film makers have crafted creatures far more disturbing than the bugs of Starship Troopers, then imbued them with a depth of emotion and sadness that makes them feel, for lack of a better word, human.

The relative system I use for rating movies is somewhat inadequate here, because there are very few similar pictures... and certainly none better. Lacking a closer comparison, we will use Alien as a base. Against that, we award this four stars.

This is a fantastic movie every geek needs to see.

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