This weekend Katrina and I had a relatively rare date night. [I am informed that the concept of "date night" for married people offends some people and causes them to roll their eyes. I suspect these are mostly people that I would prefer to offend anyway, and who would probably be rolling their eyes at me whatever I do. So whatever.]
We went to see "District 9". Though Katrina enjoyed it, it was violent enough that I am certain I shall be required to go see 2-3 movies in which relationship issues are resolved through dialogue, and in which fisticuffs, explosions, or gratuitous nudity are treated as inappropriate and/or tragic in the unlikely event they occur at all.
It was worth it. Beware; plot spoilers below the jump.
Overall, I quite liked it — though it was definitely a movie with two parts, and I liked the first part better. The first half of the movie — and especially the opening sequence — is shot in a gritty, ugly reality-style that I thought captured the squalor of the aliens' wretched camp, and the way they were treated, very well. The unknown-to-Americans South African actor who plays the lead was spot-on — there was no effort to portray him as anything other than a cog, or anything other than just as self-righteously contemptuous of the aliens as anyone else. There's no question that this was a heavy-handed allegory about racism and about the way the wretched and poor are treated, but it was done deftly enough and convincingly enough that it did not cloy. Moreover, if you were paying attention, you really couldn't call it straight-out liberal allegory. The UN-like agency the protagonist works for is portrayed as relentlessly corrupt, incompetent, dishonest, obsessed with meaningless formalisms, and viewing the creatures it is charged with helping as annoying burdens worthy of (at best) condescension — just like the real UN!
That first half was tremendously effective.
I think the second half couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a sci-fi shoot-em-up or a sci-fi thinking piece, and suffered as a result. There was violence in the first half, but it was gritty ugly make-the-point violence. In the second half, it occasionally drifted uncomfortably close to Bruckheimer/Bay violence. That was jarring. Also, the plot became a little too conventional action-movie.
That said, it was still head and shoulders over most action fare. Also, I liked the ending. [Here there be serious plot spoilers.] Yes, the protagonist alien and his son get away. But it would have been so easy to make an ending where humanity learns its lesson and the remaining Prawns are moved into suites in the Hyatt or something as the nations of the earth tremble to think of what the Prawns and their superior technology will do when they return. Instead, humanity continues to act like humanity, and moves the Prawns into even worse camps. I love that the filmmakers left it unsaid — but to me very clearly implied — that the Prawns are going to come back and do some really horrible things to us (or, at least, to South Africa) and that this is an inevitable result of us being the way we are.
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