Friday, February 19, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: District 9

Number of Nominations: 4 (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Achievement in Film Editing, Best Visual Effects)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray

I must admit I began watching District 9 with a bit of a prejudice. I had intentionally not seen the film when it came out, as the plot seemed a bit tired and didn't really interest me. With its surprise inclusion in the Best Picture category, however, seeing this film was unavoidable.

District 9 is an ambitious documentary-style sci-fi drama set in Johannesburg, South Africa. For twenty years, alien beings (known colloquially as Prawns) have been living in a slum known as District 9. Due to the rising crime rate in surrounding areas, the government decides to evict the Prawns and move them to a more secluded location. As one expects, violence ensues, directed especially at the leader of the team designated to deliver the eviction notices.

As I said, I went in expecting to hate the film and was at least a little pleasantly surprised. The film was not a complete waste of time, as some of the action sequences were compelling and many of the visual effects were realistic and exciting. That said, the plot was thin and predictable. From the moment things start to get violent, an astute movie fan can predict exactly how the story will unfold. The acting also left quite a bit to be desired. The main human character, Wikus Van De Merwe (try saying that 5 times fast) goes from being dorky and corny in an Office-style interview, to a slightly over-enthusiastic company man, to a killing machine without managing to show much acting range or give the role the emotional depth it deserves.

The filming style, with its shaky cameras (think Blair Witch Project) and gritty realism (think 28 Days Later), are somewhat unusual for sci-fi, but they work decently for this film. The cinematography is nothing special but the art direction is certainly noteworthy and the film editing more than capable.

Look for District 9 to be a strong competitor in the Best Visual Effects category, and possibly Achievement in Film Editing, but it is unlikely to contend for the screenplay or Best Picture statuettes.

Grade: C+


  1. Sorry man, you are way off on this one - District 9 is one of the most unique and original sci-fi / action movies in a long, long time. I mean, just think about the main character here - I don't think you can call the movie predictable given how unusual the protagonist is. I mean, I can't remember any genre movie, ever, in which the main character is presented, from the start, as a complete asshole. In addition, the movie has some of the most exciting and visceral action scenes I've ever seen. But I think you're severely underrating the movie's depth and originality. There are elements of other movies in there, but the sophistication and ballsiness of the plot is pretty impressive in my book.

  2. Completely agree with the above post. District 9 was one of the most original movies of the year. Period. If you don't like science fiction as a genre, then that's your right. But as an unbiassed movie observer there's no doubt that District 9 had a refreshingly original screenplay and brilliant direction.

  3. I would even go as far as to say that giving District 9 a C+ has delgitimized the reviews on this blog!

  4. I agree that the film is different as Sci-fi goes, and I like my sci-fi in the style of Star Wars (parts IV, V, and VI) and Star Trek. Maybe you didn't see the film as predictable, but since I predicted about 2/3 of the action before it unfolded, I think that makes it predictable. I actually agree with the first comment in that the film was ballsy, but in this case i just don't think it paid off.

    Since you brought it up, what is so original about a story where a misunderstood minority is suppressed and persecuted (especially in Johannesburg)?

    I think my biggest problem with this film was that I didn't know what to do about it. It wasn't scary, it had a couple funny moments (some intentional, some unintentional) but it wasn't a comedy, it had aliens and some compelling action, but it wasn't exciting enough throughout to really satisfy me as a sci-fi or an action film.