District 9

Synopsis: From producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and director Neill Blomkamp comes a startlingly original science fiction thriller that “soars on the imagination of its creators” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). With stunning special effects and gritty realism, the film plunges us into a world where the aliens have landed… only to be exiled to a slum on the fringes of Johannesburg. Now, one lone human discovers the mysterious secret of the extraterrestrial weapon technology. Hunted and hounded through the bizarre back alleys of an alien shantytown, he will discover what it means to be the ultimate outsider on your own planet.

District 9 7.5

I still remember the reactions after this film came out last year. Some people felt that this was a most significant film that delved deep into the human condition, that it was a science fiction film with brains, that it was well worth denoting and deserving of praise.

Now that I’ve finally seen it, I can’t say that I fully agree.

In fact, in light of all this acclaim, I was fairly disappointed. I had expected more. I had hoped for something that would make me think AND feel at once, something that would raise important questions, make astute reflections about humanity and shake up my smug self-righteousnous. I almost expected a religious experience.

Not quite.

While the film started off on the right note, with its (relatively cynical) take on South Africa’s response to the sudden appearance of alien refugees in their midst, it quickly devolved into an unrelenting action piece that wouldn’t stop for a breather. What made it different from any other old Hollywood actioneer escapes me, quite frankly.

I mean, strip the film of its flimsy commentary, replace it by some frontal nudity, and you have a recipe for half the action films on the planet. As far as I can tell, it’s strictly a sci-fi action flick with semi-intellectual pretensions; it has a few under-developed ideas that are mainly padding for chases, gunfights and explosions. As far as I’m concerned, there have been plenty of those, and I didn’t want or need another.

Still, as an action piece, it’s pretty solid (hence the rating, despite my disappointment).

I was left a bit quizzical with regards to the main character, though. Why would someone as moronic as this guy be picked to lead a whole relocation, one that involved millions? This kind of operation requires a tremendous amount of leadership ability, understanding of the scope of the endeavour, and a great sense of organisation. He showed no such abilities.

This doofus didn’t even know how to delegate: he was taking care of the relocations himself – which is ridiculous when he should have been busy coordinating the whole thing. Honestly, he was too stupid and self-serving to be in a leadership capacity (but I suppose that could be said of many of our so-called leaders, right?).

He was also so unlikable, being a coward and a complete schlep, that I wondered why we had to watch him for close to two hours. Usually, the lead character is the focal point of our sympathy and/or empathy. Here, all you want to do is smack him across the head for every groan he extracts from your person. Not exactly the hero-type, is he?

Which leads me to the characters around him.

When he got sprayed with some unknown matter, why is it that everyone in his entourage brushed it off like it was nothing? Wouldn’t there be a procedure for exposure to alien compounds, such as immediate quarantine? If not that, then at least his colleagues would have enough good sense to know that there was the probability of a risk to themselves (and, extension, to their families) if they ignored the problem.

Nope. Everyone just looked away until there was a clear infection spreading. Brilliant. Yessir, that was two decades of procedures and experience at work. Absolutely brilliant. Just how dumb are these people?

Perhaps I don’t know enough about South Africa’s history to fully comprehend the parallels between reality and fiction. Perhaps the lead character is supposed to be reflective of humanity, of how weak and ignorant we can be. Perhaps there are layers I simply did not see and should have.


But the fact remains that I didn’t get as much out of the experience as I expected to. And I don’t see much reason to revisit ‘District 9’ again. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t dislike spending two hours of my time there, and wouldn’t dislike doing it again. It’s just that, for the time being, I don’t feel the urge to, and don’t see much point in, a repeat viewing.

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