MOVIE REVIEW: District 9

An odd thing: Carol and I had secured a babysitter. OK, scratch that; Lydia does not like the term “babysitter”; she IS five, after all. We’ll go with “child sitter.”

Anyway, Carol and I could not agree on a movie. She wanted to see The Time Traveler’s Wife, which reviewed poorly (36%) on Rotten Tomatoes and got a thumbs down from our babychild sitter. We considered that Carol would see TTW while I would go to watch Food, Inc., which she had already seen. But Alison, the child sitter, who’s going to be a junior in high school in the fall, and an avid movie goer, pushed HARD for District 9. “It’s really good. It’ll make you think.”

As it turned out, District 9 was playing at the Madison Theatre, our local movie emporium, well within walking distance, at 1:30, which meant that we had time not only to see a movie, but to go to the Curry House beforehand for Indian food – extended date!

As it turned out, we were the ONLY people in the theater for that showing. I must say the previews were making me nervous. They were all approved for a general audience, but all were pretty intense. Sorority Row, a prank gone wrong/revenge from the grave flick; Final Destination 3-D; Law Abiding Citizen with Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx which at least seemed to be about something, and Zombieland with Woody Harrelson, which looked to be goofy, albeit bloody, fun.

Finally, District 9. It was cleverly developed as quasi-documentary about these aliens whose ship hovered…wait, here’s reviewer Amy Biancolli’s description:
“The aliens are bipedal, exoskeletal and vaguely crustacean, with lobster claws that snap from their midriffs and tentacular, writhing mouths. South Africans call them ‘prawns.’ They speak in gurgling clicks — subtitled for our convenience, but understood perfectly well by the humans who’ve been oppressing them for the past two decades. We meet one such oppressor early on, a smiling drone named Wikus Van De Merwe (…Sharlto Copley…) who’s responsible for moving all 1.8 million aliens into a new encampment hundreds of kilometers outside Johannesburg.”

Ms. Biancolli is loathe to reveal too much, as am I. But a few points:
*It addresses South African ghettoization of the “prawns” – it’s hard to miss the comparisons with apartheid – without being a screed
*The wuss Wikus is a great example of the Peter Principle in action
*The important introduction of the Nigerians makes it a lot more than a “good guys vs. bad guys” dynamic
*It touches on how easily the media can be manipulated

One other not so small point: The movie becomes, in an almost cartoonish way, terribly violent by the end, like Robocop on steroids, by which point one is already so invested in the story that one has to stay until the surprisingly satisfying end.

The clever structure of this movie, ultimately a science-fiction drama/shoot-em-up, may not be for all viewers. I can imagine some being moved by the set up but disappointed by the last half hour of blowing stuff up. I for one bought the transition.

So the child sitter was right; I’m STILL thinking about issues brought forth in District 9.

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