September 11, 2009
District 9 has been the subject of a lot of hype: all the Comic-Con stuff, all the Twitter hype, the blog hype. Lots of people saying it's the best SF film of the year, if not decade. Surely too much hype to be that good?
The setting and style is good from the start, a gritty South African setting, the huge spaceship hanging over Johannesburg, the slick documentary style and a decent set up. However, despite the visual flair I was a bit concerned at the massive infodump at the start, just a big chunk of regurgitated exposition. I would have preferred discovering the backstory rather than having it handed to me on a plate.
After that there was more to make me feel hopeful, an entertaining introduction to the main character Wikus Van De Merwe, a civil servant of sorts who delights in his job of evicting the aliens from District 9. He isn't a particularly nice guy, which makes a change for a protagonist, a bit of a wimp and quite unpleasant in his bigotry. There are plenty of jokes at the expense of the aliens, some of which were funny, but left me squirming slightly, which is good, I presume it was the point. I hope the dismissive nature of the humans to aliens wasn't lost on audiences, but suspect it might have been.
It's all set up to make a statement about the alien and human relationships and the treatment of a minority. If only. Instead it turns into The Fly, and then Starship Troopers with a bit of Transformers thrown in. The journey of Wikus and his transformation I found completely unbelievable. I could almost hear the cogs turning in the storyline as he raced through all the stages of the plot.
And the plot. It didn't make any sense to me. Maybe I missed something, but the entire setup seems to be negated at the end. It left me going "Huh? Why did he do that when he could of done that?" But I think by the end we're supposed to be wowed by the action and SFX to forget about the plot.
Such a shame, because it was a great idea, in a great setting, with plenty of visual flare, but all the good work was squandered. Immensely disappointed.