Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9

I went to see District 9 this weekend. Having been annoyed in the past with some "documentary" shot movies, I had low expectations for the cinematography and absurdly high expectations for the story. The whole handheld camera thing works for Borat and makes me want to vomit in a movie like Cloverfield. Luckily, District 9 didn't use that device throughout, instead using it to set the story in the beginning and with some "interviews" within the movie that serve to move the story along. On that front, I was pleasantly surprised.

As for the story, my expectations may have been too high, though I don't want to imply it was bad at all. It was very good, and by modern sci-fi standards it was spectacular, just not as great as I had hoped. The mojority of sci-fi movies resort to B-movie horror tricks and gore and leave the literary sci-fi qualities about sociecty and humanity out altogether. In fact, this was the best told original sci-fi story since Firefly/Serenity. The movie did a really great job humanizing the aliens, and paid more than lip service to the idea that humanity at least initially wanted to do the right things. It made clear parallels to immigrants and refugees without being in-your-face about it. That's a credit to the filmmakers. Towards the end it became a bit of a blow 'em up fest, but nothing too egregious that would undo what it had built up. Also, Blomkamp did a nice job keeping the movie moving, it never got dull (your mileage may vary on that point) and he did well in keeping the movie under 2 hours.

I know I read somewhere before the weekend that the movie was made for around $30 million, which just seems implausible to me. If it cost $200 million to make freaking Waterworld, how in the world did they make District 9 for a fraction of that? Maybe the cost of CGI has dropped considerably in the last decade. Kudos to Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp for making a good movie, rich in story, and not a CGI budget-buster that is largely unwatchable (I'm looking at you George Lucas).

Everytime I see a good original sci-fi movie, I always hope that it means there is a movement to adapt some of the literary classics to the big screen. Maybe they just don't work well in movie form like high fantasy does. So far, nobody seems willing to tackle something like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and the in-your-face statements it makes about human beings. I suppose I'd prefer those works be left alone if they can't be done well. We don't need anymore Starship Trooper debacles.

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