Originally Written – 2/8/2010
As I said in my Public Enemies review, expectations are a funny thing. When I saw the original teaser for D-9 (the one with the alien interview and the pixelated mouth), I literally laughed out loud. I thought to myself, “Gee, another Independence Day…greeeeaat”. Then the second trailer came out without the pixelation and the alien saying, “We just want to go home”. It was at that moment when the film finally started to appeal to me. Maybe this wasn’t going to be another alien invasion knock off. Maybe this could be something interesting. Maybe things will just blow up and make happy. Then I actually went out and saw the thing and have only this conclusion:
District 9 is one of the best science fiction movies I’ve seen…ever.
Maybe I’m still in shock from seeing it not 24 hours ago, but I struggle to even call this film science fiction…it feels almost like science non-fiction but in reality it’s a “sci fi action/drama”. Filmed half as a documentary, half as an action movie, D-9 is one of those rare films that literally has it all…jaw dropping effects, graphic violence, wonderfully realized characters, a touching love story…if this sounds like last year’s Slumdog Millionaire, you’re not too far off. Just strip out the Bollywood aspects and insert alien refugees struggling to survive in a South African ghetto, and you can make some comparisons.
For me, one of the most unexpected yet amazing aspects of the film was the aliens themselves. In most movies of this genre, the alien is the creepy insect who comes to destroy mankind or is simply setup as the big reveal. They are rarely fleshed out and developed as true characters. This is not the case in District 9. Let’s just say when the CGI alien out acts the human male lead (who was excellent in his own right), you know you have something special. Not since ET has an alien character been as fully fleshed out they are in D-9.
But don’t think this is a family film with adorable creatures and bags full of Resse’s Pieces. This is an intense adult oriented film with some serious “gross out” parts. If you read the synopsis, you’ll see the human interest centers around alien weaponry and when these things go off, they don’t disappoint. Action is always made better when it involves characters you care about, and D-9 tows that line perfectly. The action is visceral and at the same time, oddly beautiful.
Combine that with an fascinating sub-plot involving govenrnmental greed and corruption, pitch perfect direction and cinematography that drops you right into the fray, you have a great film. D-9 combines the risk, ideas and spirit of independent film with the deep pockets of big budget Hollywood and it’s a marriage made in cinema heaven. District 9 is a rare achievement and should receive the type of Oscar attention Dark Knight received last year….it probably wont, but it really should.
Score – 90%