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A Movie That Requires Very Little Thinking

August 24, 2009

     The sci-fi movie of the summer, District 9 is a movie based on a short film called Alive in Joburg.  The premise is that, twenty years ago, a massive alien ship appeared above Johannesburg, South Africa.  Today, the aliens that lived inside it are corralled off in an area called District 9, which is completely fenced off.  The aliens, which look like insectoid bipeds with antennae and tentacled mouths, have essentially no rights, and they live in squalor.  A private defense contractor, Multinational United, is in charge of the district, which also contains a Nigerian gang, which manages a huge black market operation.  It is in this situation that Wikus van de Merwe, an MNU bureaucrat, is placed in charge of the operation to move the aliens from District 9 to a new area nearby, in order to ease popular fears towards them.  However, in the course of evicting the aliens, he gets a bizarre liquid from an alien canister on his face.  This begins his transformation into one of those aliens.  He is taken by MNU for genetic testing and organ harvesting, since the aliens’ extremely powerful weapons are keyed into their DNA, but he manages to escape.  He ends up meeting with the alien who made the canister, named Christopher Johnson by the MNU, and Christopher’s young son, and Christopher promises to cure Wikus in return for the canister.  The canister actually contains fuel for the command module for the giant ship, which has laid dormant under their home for the past twenty years.  Over the course of retrieving the canister, dealing with MNU thugs and the Nigerian gangsters, and generally trying to stay alive, Wikus begins to feel sympathy for the aliens.  In the end, he holds the MNU off while Christopher and his son escape to the ship and leave for their home planet.  He manages to survive the conflict, though he is completely transformed into an alien himself.

     This is a movie that should be so politically rich while full of awesome sci-fi stuff, but the complete and total idiotic simplicity of the plot is so shocking that you wonder how much Neill Blomkamp, the director and writer of the movie, actually thought about it.  Wikus is a complete and total buffoon whose consistently bad judgment makes him almost deserving of his fate.  The blatant anti-alien racism is so completely not subtle that it’s just disgusting, and MNU is just a crude manifestation of the military-industrial complex.  Instead of being taken through the story in a reasonable and intelligent manner, the viewer is beaten over the head with these concepts, as though anything less obvious would be incomprehensible.  The plot has many holes, the least of which is the bizarreness of the idea that fuel can make you into an alien.  The inconsistency of that major plot device is astounding.  Also, why did these aliens even come to Earth?  Why were they malnourished?  Why didn’t they just use their superpowerful weapons to beat the crap out of the humans?  The questions go on.  The vast majority of the actors are complete and total unknowns, and the acting is quite mediocre.  It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not good.  And most of the characters are idiots or assholes.  The only really sympathetic figures are Christopher and his son.  The music is so forgettable that I can’t actually remember there even being music in the movie, and the cinematography is so spastic that it can make you dizzy.  At the very least, I can admit that the aliens look cool.  So, the combination of a bad plot, terrible execution, poor philosophical underpinnings, nonexistent music, snoozy acting, and horrible camera work is that this is a totally unsatisfying movie.  In fact, I’m shocked that anyone would claim that this is a thinking man’s movie.  Said person’s definition of a thinking man’s movie must be rather inclusive.  I’m shocked that Peter Jackson would associate himself with such trash of a movie.  Once again, critics, the general public, and I completely disagree.

Story: 1.5      Cinematography: 2.7      Soundtrack: 0.5      Acting: 4.3      Overall: 1.7

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