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15 August 2009 @ 12:07 am
A few words on District 9  

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District 9
is, by a wide margin, the best movie I have seen this year.

Do yourself a favor: don't read anything about it, don't listen to what anyone says about it, just stop doing whatever you're doing right now and go to see it.  I'm serious.  It's absolutely flabbergasting.

How good is it? This is how good it is: while I was watching the movie, every ten minutes or so I had to remember to force myself to blink -- I didn't want to miss a second.

Anyone who would like to discuss the movie below the fold is invited to do so, so if you haven't seen it, be warned: comments may contain spoilers.

AEnigma: Merciful Human Mindgreyaenigma on August 15th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
I've been kicking myself for not seeing it already. Maybe I can sneak it into my schedule for tomorrow.

Now entering spoiler avoidance mode.
gaylord esterbrookyesdrizella on August 15th, 2009 07:25 am (UTC)
Would it be fair game to discuss the movie in this post, or should I await for a write-up? Because I would love to discuss this movie with people who've seen it (and who like discussing movies). D-9 is a perfect example of why I love sci-fi.
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 15th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)
Discuss away! I put a spoiler warning into the post.
(no subject) - yesdrizella on August 15th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
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emimitabu on August 15th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
this is great news. i've been seeing a lot of movies in theaters recently, so i saw the trailer a couple times. normally, i see a preview and think "god damn, that looks like shit," but this movie piqued my interest immediately. can't wait to see it.
emimitabu on August 15th, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
incidentally, moon is the best movie i've seen this year, i believe.
(no subject) - craigjclark on August 15th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sheherazahde on August 15th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
cryptopithecuscryptopithecus on August 15th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
I agree, best movie of the year (I haven't seen 'Up' though).

Two rather minor things bothered me: 1st, Going in, the documentary style led me to believe that it would be shot that way throughout, sort of like Cloverfield as filmed by an Action News 5 team. The trailers with their 'There's lots of secrets in District 9' refrain did little to dispel this impression. At some point it turned into a more conventional sci-fi story shot with an omniscient POV, albeit an excellent one.

2nd, There seem to have been some inclusions of typical action movie cliches: the cute and plucky kid, the hero who says, "I'll hold 'em off... you just [fill in the blank with impossible but crucial task]!"

Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 16th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
The shift from documentary-style to omniscience bothered me for about two seconds. Then I said "Well, I didn't really want to see the whole thing documentary-style anyway," because I think that style's overdone now. I like how it was a documentary for the first part, then said "Okay, got it? Okay, now it's going to be a movie" and then just moved forward with that style with such velocity and impact. It showed both a lot of confidence in the narrative and a lot of faith in the audience's level of sophistication.
(no subject) - craigjclark on August 16th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
craigjclarkcraigjclark on August 15th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
I saw it last night. Thought it was phenomenal. I really hope it manages to reach a wide audience. Out of all the big-budget, special effects-driven extravaganzas that have come out this summer, this is the first one I actually wanted to see and I wasn't in the least bit disappointed.
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 16th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
Except of course, District 9 isn't big-budgeted.
(no subject) - craigjclark on August 16th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ndgmtlcd on August 16th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
paperthinknight on August 15th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the film. I really did. But aside from the astounding visuals and great action sequences...I couldn't quite figure out why. I mean, sure it's an allegory regarding Apartheid and all that with fucking aliens...but honestly, I couldn't give a shit less about Apartheid. I'm not ignorant--I just don't care.

So...why did I find myself so attached to Christopher Johnson and his son, and thus, the entire alien race of the film as a whole? I didn't think I would find the answer in Roger Ebert's review, but I did:

What Neill Blomkamp somehow does is make Christopher Johnson and his son, Little CJ, sympathetic despite appearances. This is achieved by giving them, but no other aliens, human body language, and little CJ even gets big wet eyes, like E.T.

That was it. He singled out those two aliens by giving them identifiable human characteristics...and also making them (the son, namely) a bit cartoony (the E.T. eyes thing) at the same time. I kind of feel it was a cheap move on Blomkamp's part. Unlike what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in LOTR to make us sympathize with him: Gollum is the anti-E.T.
Lady Sheherazahde Lachesissheherazahde on August 15th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Cheap but effective! It worked on you.
(no subject) - paperthinknight on August 15th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Barnaby Jones: O Mikey!eronanke on August 15th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Honest to god, I didn't think the allegory would be so entrenched; before seeing it, I thought it would be a jump-off point for the story, not the entirety of the story.

That being said, while I do find the "ignorant racists makes good" storyline fine, I found myself asking WAY too many questions about the world of the movie. I found myself (in between bouts of weeping like a baby) asking, "Where the fuck are the Americans? Why is South Africa running this show?".

South Africa is still suffering the blight of Apartheid repercussions. Some argue it never really ended. I say to myself, how can one nation, especially THAT nation, be trusted with ALL interactions with a new Alien life form?

Frankly, I think I prefered the world of "Alien Nation" better; the Prawns in D9 were obviously intelligent (although they weren't viewed that way by humans), equal to the Newcomers. So the question I ask here is, how, then, do we see the two movies/plots unfolding so differently in their respective universes, and why does an American population more readily accept their Aliens as opposed to the South Africans. Can we, as an international audience, be expected to believe that the South African government would so readily repeat their own history and to segregate their populations so readily?

If that's the case, why even take them off the mothership? Why not simply house them there, amongst their own and provide food? (I was *desperate* to know why they were there in the first place - I hate loose ends!)

I know there's dense material here, but you know me, always bogged down in the details.
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 16th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
The script hints at why they're there, and why so many of the Prawns are such slovenly horrors. The idea is that they're an insect society, and their Queen has died, and that's why the mothership came to a halt. The drones who worked under the Queen are all mindless and stupid, which is why they couldn't take care of themselves once the mothership stopped. The idea of Christopher is that it's taken the aliens 28 years to come up with an individual smart enough to figure out how to fix the ship. But the movie doesn't spell out any of this, it just lets the narrative happen and lets us wonder about it.
(no subject) - eronanke on August 16th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - toddalcott on August 16th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Benjaminsamedietc on August 15th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
still need to think more about it all, but shooting from the hip
1) Did anyone else experience a mix of intense stress and boredom in the movie? I mean, I was on the edge of my seat in some regards (seeing a character who might work in *The Office* dealing with an alien slum was pretty tense--I kept waiting for him to (inevitably) screw up); but I also spent a while waiting for the story to begin. (Possibly, this was an effect of the multiple POVs--starting from cinema verite/faux doc, switching to omniscient camera with flashes of tv coverage.)

2) From an SF-fan point of view, was anyone disappointed by the back-story questions--how did humans learn the "prawn" language? How did the "prawns" learn English/whatever Nigerian language the ganglord used? Why did the spaceship stop at Earth in the first place? (I mean, did they run out of fuel and need a place to stay for 20 years to distill the black liquid?) Why are there Nigerian gangs in the slums?

I don't expect all these sorts of questions to be dealt with in a film (whereas, if this were a novel, I might expect more about the back-story), but I did think of them.

3) Taking the film's back-story as a "give-me"--I don't know how this world came about, but I'll suspend my disbelief to see where the creators take me--, I'm still not entirely sure about where the film wanted us to go: the humans are unlikable (what should we make of Wikas's sacrifice to save Christopher Johnson when he had earlier abandoned him to be killed by the MNU security force--the "cowboys"?), the aliens aren't particularly likable (until Christopher Johnson's son and friend are introduced, and even that isn't that compelling).

Wait, let me try again: the film seems to take an interesting, non-blockbuster approach at the beginning, with an unlikeable protag, unlikeable secondaries, and unlikeable antagonists--but then it becomes a collection of cliches: a cute alien child! an alien buddy-cop suicide mission! a change of heart! a heroic death--but really he's still alive!

(That full-alien Wikas still retains some old ways makes me think that the theme really is about people being similar, which doesn't really seem like a theme worth the time.)

I know this may sound pretty negative, so I'll end by saying that I'm very willing to be talked around to the other side and am still thinking about this.
paperthinknight on August 15th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
Re: still need to think more about it all, but shooting from the hip
Did anyone else experience a mix of intense stress and boredom in the movie?

Alainndgmtlcd on August 16th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
The big question for me is: How does this compare with Alien Nation (1988)?
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 16th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
I find this to be both completely different and vastly superior.
e: top o neraemimitabu on August 16th, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
i just saw it. i liked it, but i didn't quite love it. some comments:

re: the faux selfless act by wikus at the end, mentioned a few times above,

i don't think it's intended to be a "selfish, selfless act." i believe they were trying to imply that the protagonist has changed since he abandoned the alien earlier. he doesn't expect to survive after they leave, but now he is more interested in helping them (due to the injustice they've experienced, and the bond they've formed over the past day or two) than helping himself.


not sure what else to say. i liked the exploration of colonialism/apartheid. i thought ending it with a personal triumph that PLAINLY entailed that aliens were on their way to earth to destroy the human race was beautiful.

that the fuel to start up their ship turns humans into prawns... that's a bit much(:. kind of an obvious plot device, ay? it didn't bother me while watching though.

my friends didn't like the acting, though i thought it was fine. dialogue was a bit dry though. i felt like the lack of style and general economy of the dialogue made it such that none of the characters really got individuated in any way. the protagonist had the most dialogue, but his character was "dumb selfish guy" (which is fine with me in the larger context of what's going on in the movie... i just thought this dialogue aspect took some color out of the story).

i'm not sure what i think of the pacing of the movie. it seemed a little slow, but i'm not sure. there's a few logic problems, but that's to be expected with an out there premise. i think the action movie cliches (and there were a fair bunch, as well as heavyhandedness--eg we didn't need to hear 1 african use a click consonant to get that the alien language was alluding to that, nor did we need wikus to catch a rocket and make blaringly clear that christopher would not have escaped w/o wikus' sacrifice) [the action movie cliches] obscured a lot of the interesting aspects of the script... i didn't really know or expect what would come next, and when i did have expectation it was (until near the end) usually defied. i'd like to hear todd's thoughts on the script itself.

(incidentally, the ending and its cliches reminded me of the movie sunshine. [sunshine spoiler ahead] the Main Bad Guy who survives obviously perilous assaults so he can have a big scene with wikus in the end was pretty offensive to suspension of disbelief--at least how it was carried off. it's like sunshine, where the Bad Guy ended up an outrageous horror movie villain, when he (and the movie) would have been so superior had he just done 1 Big Thing that had gradual implications for the crew of the ship. weird action movie cliches can really hurt the viewing experience in my opinion)

overall, i enjoyed it. also, as an oldschool anime fan, anything that includes a guy getting inside a mecha and going to town = something i can get behind.
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 16th, 2009 09:04 am (UTC)
That's interesting that you found the pacing slow -- I found it incredibly swift.

As for the dialogue, it's my understanding that the actor playing Wikus improvised all of his lines, that there was literally nothing written in the script for him to say.

I agree that I'm at a loss to explain why the precious black fluid that will start the mothership should also be a biological agent that turns humans into prawns.

I'll probably write something about the script in the future, but I'll have to see it at least once more before doing so: I spent my first viewing of the movie with my mouth hanging open.
(no subject) - mimitabu on August 16th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - paperthinknight on August 16th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eyepatchmcgee on August 18th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on August 19th, 2009 12:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sheherazahde on August 16th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mimitabu on August 16th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sheherazahde on August 16th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on August 17th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
I couldn't fully enjoy the film, in part because it was so good -- so sad, so uncomfortable, and so viscerally gross. (Croenenbergian body horror gives me the willies something fierce.) I admired it, and I'll readily agree with all the well-deserved praise it's been getting, but I can't say I was entirely having fun.

I thought the effects were extraordinary -- after a few minutes, I forgot Christopher Johnson was CGI. (The big-eyed little kid, not so much, but he was effective, too. And big eyes are a common natural trait among baby animals -- cuteness is a way of making sure your parent's don't eat you.) I loved the fluid skill with which Christopher worked the spaceship's controls; it was a lovely little reveal about his character.

The bad guys are a bit ... one-dimensional, whether we have Greedy Corporate Overlord, Whacked-Out Nigerian Crime Lord, or Colonel "Nyaaaah! I'm a Racist! I'ma Git You!" But sadly, none of them are exactly beyond the realm of believability.

The very ending was subtle, lovely, and quietly moving. The notion of Wikus's soul in an alien body, still in love, still pining for his angel, breaks my heart a little.

Also, death by mass-driven flying pig carcass? AWESOME.

-- N.A.
mr_noymr_noy on August 17th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
I saw District 9 last night and it is definitely one of the better films of the summer. While I understand some people's criticisms I enjoyed the film although, upon reflection, there were a few nagging questions that I'm not sure were answered satisfactorily.

I haven't read through all of the posted comments yet but it seems like many people have the same questions I do. There were a few things that felt like cheats or the filmmakers tried to explain it away with a throw-away line but the result is you want to know even more about the aliens and some of things that feel like plot holes.

Still, considering it only cost a modest $30mil and was shot in Johannesburg with a local cast of unknowns Blomkamp made a crackling good movie. D-9 has the benefit of having an interesting premise which, for once, isn't based on a book, comic, video game, tv show, etc. It's an original story and even though it's content to be a well paced action film it actually gives you something to think about as you watch it. That's more than can be said for some $200mil+, 2.5 hour long, dreary roller coaster ride movies this summer.
(Anonymous) on August 18th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC)
I was thinking about the alien fuel and how it changes human into prawn. Do remember the stuff on the floor of the ship when they first enter the ship. At first I thought it was alien excrement. But could it be the fuel and it has some how leaked into the ship. Remember that Chrisopher now exactly what has caused the mutation with human when he see him . Why would alien have medical equipment ready to change him back to normal unless technology is known to cause the mutation? Just my thoughts. Maybe prawn do not really look like prawn.
AEnigma: Dr. Horrible Carefulgreyaenigma on August 18th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
If that were the case, the teams that entered the ship first would like have already undergone exposure.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on August 18th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
AEnigma: Admiral Akbar Cerealgreyaenigma on August 18th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
In addition to (or as expansion to) the royal jelly/fuel theory I wondered for a while whether the aliens were really transformed into that form by themselves. This caused me to fear that the climax of the film would involve the aliens finally being transformed into their normal forms -- which would, worst case, be extremely human-looking.

This time, I was happy to be wrong.
(Anonymous) on August 18th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
I don't think the Apartheid metaphor holds true throughout the movie; if that was intended to be the main point of the movie, the Prawn would have to be the oppressors as they are the minority immigrants. Whites were never the natives or the majority group in South Africa, afterall.

I think the film makers deliberately chose to use imagery from Apartheid to comment on how Europeans and Americans are treating immigrants into their own countries. My very first impression at the start of the movie was, "so they're either Mexicans or Muslims. Where is this going?"
(Anonymous) on August 21st, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
District 10
after seeing this film, it definetly seems as if its leaving room for a sequel (Christopher promising to return in three years, Wilkus still on the run, aliens moved to district 10) it is all speculation but one can assume the sequel would be called "District 10", involve the return of Christopher, and be released around 2012.
Todd Alcotttoddalcott on August 21st, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Re: District 10
It's so sad that the world will have ended by that time.
Re: District 10 - cocacola58204 on August 22nd, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Ari Usni, Jocelyn: TOLERANCEscribe_ari on August 23rd, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
I know that I can not be as eloquent as some of the commentators here, but I can share my reactions to the film.

It was powerful. Multiple times I found myself cringing from the horrors, how immediate they were, and those were just the human on human horrors. Wanting to look away and deny it but being unable to. The total willingness of the humans to treat one of their own as nothing more than an experiment once he had been "tainted." I ended the film feeling dirty and hating every one of them, Vikaus included.
The "abortion scene" and his glee at it all had me fighting my urge to scream at the screen. The movement of Vikaus from the gleeful, abusive, and careless oppressor to sad and hunted creature who is still self serving in the most monstrous ways was, I think, well done. He is not a hero. He is a selfish bastard that only wants it all to go back to the way it was and all go away. As viewer you know it can never go back. Even if the alien comes back and restores him, he will never be able to go back. He will be captured and dissected. The movie tells you as much with his experience at the beginning of his transformation. He is now the sub-human.

The very plain stereotypes used for the director, scientist, mercenary commander and even Vikaus allow you the comfort of focusing on the story itself as presented, and not spending too much time trying to analyze the side characters or their motivations. They are what they are.

To me the MNU is very clearly the UN. Too many individual nations would rather leave the day to day dealing with problems to "someone else." Simply because that someone else is willing to do it, any number of atrocities are overlooked just so that they do not have to take responsibility for the problem. The UN has committed any number of atrocities that the rest of the world overlooks in their eagerness to not have to do the work themselves.

I very much appreciate the number of things that are left unanswered, and left for the viewer to speculate on and decide for themselves. Just like real life. We only see what is before us and are left to decide on and discover what answers work for us as individuals.

Edited at 2009-08-23 07:05 pm (UTC)
chrismadmanofprague on August 28th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
I started to get bored once the false-documentary aspects were set aside. I would've liked them to keep going with it, especially in cases like the weapon testing, the aborted vivisection, the birthday party, and the attack on the MNU offices where in-situ footage would've made perfect sense.
chrismadmanofprague on August 28th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
I mean, a non-shit Cloverfield would be cool. Buddy action flick w/ Hybrid Iron Man? Seen it.
doco++; action-- - taskboy3000 on September 19th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on September 6th, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
Sorry I'm coming late to the comments, and I haven't even read them all --

but I did want to say that I particularly loved how the film managed to echo both The Office and The Fly (1986).
pjharveypjamesharvey on September 14th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
I find it interesting that 'Prawn' refers to the aliens in a derogatory manner in the film, and yet everyone is using the term when discussing the film. Why not 'alien' or 'creature'?