Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 -- Movie Review

Yup ... saw a movie tonight. Woo hoo. Jon and I popped out for a nice bowl of Pho (well, he eats Thai Curry Chicken) and then went to the local theater ... and contrary to recent history, they managed to not screw anything up.

District 9 is a great movie. Full stop. The effects are breath-taking ... you never get the sense of fakery. The plot is clever enough to be interesting, not that aliens have not been done before, but the concept of keeping them here is pretty new thinking to me.

So if you like science fiction at all, this is well worth a look. It if *far* better than Terminator: Salvation was, and is almost at the level of Star Trek, although that really is not possible :-)

*** Spoilers ***

A mother ship arrives over Johannesburg, South Africa and grinds to a halt. After hanging there for months, it is decided to breach the hull and see what is inside. We find 1 million aliens in terrible physical condition and bring them down to earth, in a camp almost directly below the ship. This camp looks like a shanty-town, and the parallels with SA's history should not be lost on the audience ...

They call it District 9, and much of what happens there is a secret. Again, the parallel with Area 57 won't be lost on anyone who was awake at all over the last 50 years.

The movie opens with an interview with the main protagonist for the movie, an government agent that gets promoted by his father in law to lead a major assault on the camp in order to evict the aliens to refugee camp 200 miles away. But of course, things go badly. Too many aliens die.

One of the aliens is particularly enterprising and has collected a small amount of a fluid that runs their ships over a period of 20 years. This is just enough to get him home to bring help. Vikus finds the cylinder holding it and stupidly opens it, exposing himself to its contents. To make a long story short, he turns into an alien starting within hours.

These aliens are not very pretty, looking like prawns, which is the derogatory name used by everyone to refer to them.

Those who have seen the movie will know that the infamous scene shown above never appears in the actual movie.

Vikus recovers from being sprayed and confiscates the cylinder, taking it back to D9. But he begins the transformation and is forced to test the alien weapons, and is proven fire their weapons, which use biological technology to lock onto alien DNA. This breakthrough causes the government, including his own father in law, to authorize the harvesting of all of his body parts. He goes ape shit and escapes, using his now alien arm and one of the alien weapons he has been testing.

He gets together with the clever alien and they manage to get the cylinder back by invading the facility again with the help of more alien weapons. There is an interesting sub text with Nigerian scams dominating the commerce in the alien camp. The eat the aliens as a way to try to capture their power. Vikus gets a bunch of these weapons from them.

After more shenanigans, Vikus eventually dons this way cool alien (Iron Man style) fighting suit and gives the special forces guys hell for a while, allowing the alien and his son to escape to the mother ship and take it home. This is a great fight scene, and even includes a wonderful moment where Vikus sacrifices himself for someone he previously hated ...

Above, we see him leaping a car during the big fight ... he does that a couple of times because it looks so cool. And below, we see him catching an RPG launched from the shoulder of the special forces leader.

This is an awesome scene, because it is the last obstacle to the aliens getting to the mother ship, and by now we want him to succeed. To make a long story short, Vikus does not die; the aliens kill the special forces leader, literally tearing him apart and Vikus completes the transformation to an alien.

There are many interesting arcs and subplots ... I found the transformation to an alien to be almost too realistic ... it made me a little ill at times. The squalor and oppression the aliens lived under was depressing ... very much. The greed of humans at the expense of the aliens was also depressing ... and very realistic I found. Very much like watching Burn After Reading ... you just want to shake your head at the avarice although the people in this movie were human, in Burn After Reading they were simply idiots.

There was a very cute subtext where the aliens became addicted to cat food, which the Nigerians sold them at exhorbitant prices. Very amusing ... and at one point Vikus opens and eats a can of cat food quite lustily ... at least until his teeth start falling out. Gross ...

All in all, a great movie. Extremely well written and crafted. The acting is superb. See it.

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