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District 9 Review

This may not be my most popular blog post ever…

I found District 9 really disappointing. A little bit of my disappointment can be blamed on the glowingly positive opinions I heard about it from friends who saw it in theatre and recommended that I watch it. I was told it was a mix of sci-fi, social commentary, and allegory. The parallels with South African apartheid were supposed to be really strong and, I was told, set District 9 apart from other sci-fi fare or action movies.

So I was ready for a really intriguing, thoughtful movie. And I got that. For about fifteen minutes.

The movie started off strong with an intriguing concept and some insightful character building and social/political commentary, but then it apparently lost confidence in its premise and decided it might make more money as an action flick. The mix of documentary-style footage, newscasts, and commentary really pulled me in. The world-building was going great. I thought I had something special here.

But then there was kind of a quick and indistinct transition from documentary-style, acknowledge-the-camera shooting to normal, there-is-no-camera cinematography. I wasn’t sure exactly where the transition took place, or what I was supposed to think about it. There are ways to do those kinds of transitions that don’t leave the viewer disoriented… I wasn’t particularly impressed with that.

More significant, though, was that from that transition forward, District 9 decided it was bored of being creative in its cinematography, its characters, and its setting, or maybe those things were just too hard for it, and it decided, instead, that it should take its world and its characters and spin them into a generic, violent, average sci-fi action movie.

Ultimately, District 9 felt, to me, like it was a fantasy world dreamed up by an independent soul who, like so many creative teenagers before him, decided it would be cool to set a story in his world, without really worrying about how well the story and the world fit together. Even having forgiven the immaturities in the construction of the world (the clichés, the stereotypes, the tropes, the… cat food, seriously?), the original concept had a lot of good things going for it–I thought Wikus van de Marwe was a really unique and useful character, at first–but District 9 didn’t capitalize on its opportunities, and because of that, I found it very disappointing.

“Inception” Impressions

I watched Inception last night, and I really liked it. It has a lot in common with The Matrix in it’s underlying concepts and some of its themes, but it’s more subtle and worries less about establishing its internal logic in direct ways. Basically it doesn’t want to be sci-fi in the way that The Matrix is.

The last shot is really good, and it does something I really love thematically, which is open up interpretation to the viewers and let them decide something important for themselves.

As I think about the movie more, a few things start to come up that don’t entirely make sense, or that seem a bit contrived. The movie isn’t perfect, but it’s still very good.

I can’t say too much more without spoiling things, and this is a movie that doesn’t deserve to be spoiled, so I’ll just leave it at that.

I highly recommend seeing it!