Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"DISTRICT 9" (2009) Review



I recently saw the new science-fiction thriller, "DISTRICT 9". And this is what I have to say:


"DISTRICT 9" (2009) Review

I had been looking forward to this movie for nearly two months. Ever since I heard that Peter Jackson (of the "LORD OF THE RINGS" fame) had produced a film directed and co-written by Neil Blomkamp about aliens living on Earth, I wondered if I would finally see a movie about aliens being oppressed or victimized by humans. Then I remember that I have seen similar concepts in other movies like "ALIENATION" and "E.T.".

However, "DISTRICT 9" was also supposed to be allegory about the apartheid system that Blomkamp had lived under, during his youth. In the film, aliens find themselves stranded on Earth and are forced by the South Africans to live in housing districts that practically resemble slums. When a bureaucrat from a private company that has been contracted to deal with the aliens is exposed to their biotechnology, he begins to transform into an alien . . . and finds himself being hunted by the private company so that he can use the weaponry they had confiscated from the aliens.

I must admit that Blomkamp had a great concept. And I also thought it was clever of him to use documentary-style filmaking to describe the aliens' arrival on Earth. Also, he was fortunate to get actor/writer Sharlto Copley, who gave an excellent and complex portrayal as the unfortunate bureaucrat, Wikus van der Merwe. I also enjoyed the film's special effects and some of the cinematography. But in the end, I believe that Blomkamp had tripped himself with some questionable plotlines and his portrayal of the Nigerian gangsters.

There are some aspects of the plot that bothered me. One, how did the South Africans managed to board the mother ship from helicopters? And two, how was the mother ship able to hover over Johannesburg for nearly three decades without any liquid fuel or command module (which had dropped from the ship years earlier) to move it or keep it up in the skies? I also found the action sequences featured in the movie's last half hour to be rather over-the-top at times. Blomkamp seemed to have read Michael Bay's handbook on filming action sequences. And then there were the Nigerians.

Blomkamp's allegory about apartheid was certainly given full support from his portrayal of the white and black South Africans' intolerance toward the stranded aliens. But he had underminded his message with an offensive portrayal of the Nigerians. The gangsters are led by a wheelchair-bound Nigerian, who is told by his shaman (called "witch doctor" in the film) to consume the flesh of aliens in order to regain his health. In fact, a white South African female in the movie's mockumentary informs moviegoers that the Nigerians' "superstition" that the aliens' flesh would be able to cure many of humanity's ailiments. And the only females willing to have sex with another species - namely the aliens - are Nigerian women. It was quite clear in the film that no white females willing to commit such an act. As I had stated earlier, the Nigerian gangster's shaman is referred to as a "witch doctor" - a term that many non-Christian or non-Muslim Africans would find offensive. In fact, I found the movie's portrayal of the Nigerians to be very offensive. And as a relative of mine had pointed out, the Nigerians portrayed in "DISTRICT 9" may have regressed the motion pictures' portrayal of blacks a good five hundred years.

I wish I could say that I liked "DISTRICT 9". As I had earlier pointed out, Blomkamp's decision to use the relationship between the stranded aliens and their South African hosts could have served as a perfect allegory to apartheid. But the plotlines leading to the humans' internment of the aliens, the drawn-out action sequences in the movie's last half hour and its portrayal of the Nigerians turned me off. I found "DISTRICT 9" to be a disappointing film

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