District 9 August 31, 2009Posted by baldricman in News.
Tags: district 9, film review, MNU, movie, neill blomkamp, peter jackon, prawn, sci fi, sharlto copley, wikus van der merwe
There has been a lot of excitement around the release of the new Sci-Fi movie, District 9, over the past few weeks and months. A lot of the hype stems from, in my opinion, 2 things: the first, that the movie has been created on a remarkably low budget (around $30 million), and the second, that both the director and the lead actor are South Africans. Directed (and written in part) by Neill Blomkamp, with Sharlto Copley taking the lead role as Wikus van der Merwe, the movie is glaringly short on big-name Hollywood “talent”. Yay!
District 9 grossed around $37 million on opening weekend. It is interesting to note that Transformers 2 grossed closer to $100 million, but its production budget was double that. (Oh how it pains me to even compare the two films…) Part of District 9’s success has been attributed to the very clever viral marketing campaigns, started back in 2008. Giant signs (such as the “For Humans Only” sign pictured here) were erected in public areas, long before the movie was released.
So anyway, I managed to go and watch District 9 this weekend with wifey and friends, and I must admit, I went in very critical and demanding like many South Africans do, when watching any “local” TV or film. I was also trying to ignore all the mixed reviews I had read snippets of (I hate reading reviews before a movie: I think reviews prescribe opinions too much) However, now that I’ve seen it, here are some of the reviews I thought had merit:
a sharp-edged science fiction parable that mixes metaphor and violent action with such dizzying confidence that you leave the theater feeling charged and alive – James Kendrick
The film’s message, that compassion and humanity extend far beyond our own species, isn’t subtle, but it is effective. – Robert Roten
Copley’s wild-eyed performance as the luckless Wikus has a lot going for it. The fact that he’s so ridiculous — and so dogged — adds to the pathos, for it’s patently clear Blomkamp has no taste for easy endings. – Sandra Hall
So, what did I think?
I liked it. I liked it a lot.
It was funny, intense, and shocking. Funny, because of the simple-Afrikaner that Wikus was. Intense, because there wasn’t much room for reflection during the storyline, never time to think over what has just happened. (Just how Wikus felt, I’m sure). And a little shocking at times mostly because of the realism added from the documentary-style, and the very South-African-ness of it all (it didn’t feel like a movie a lot of the time)
The acting was great (with very few exceptions, perhaps such as Wikus’ wife), and the effects were top-notch too, in my uneducated opinion. (They didn’t look like effects at all 🙂 ) I think one of the things I enjoyed most in the movie was the sound. The music was quite subtle most of the time, and very South African, but the sound of the helicopters and vehicles was just completely and entirely real, and loud, and immersive. It didn’t sound like a typical Hollywood action flick with “enhanced” sound and extra bass added to every thing. It just sounded like there was a frikkin helicopter landing in the cinema.
Was it a socio-political commentary? Did it descrive the human condition? Did it ask tough questions? Yes, to all three. But, before we get too carried away on whether this was a ground-breaking, maiden-head of the genre, I’m not convinced there is a whole lot of depth to it. Which is why I want to go and watch it again, soon.