8.24.2009

District 9


So I've been thinking a lot about the movies. Since my folks took me to pictures like The Goonies, Ghostbusters and Superman, I've had a fascination with the moving picture. I like everything about experiencing good visual storytelling on a huge screen. I love the campy promotional cartoons and I've even grown fond of watching the trailers.
I've missed going, let me tell you.
Lyla is the greatest gift we ever could receive, but I won't deny the fact that, when Friday night rolls around, true north in my internal compass is the Regency 24 on Monument Road. For five months we've plied ourselves with copious amounts of Blockbuster rentals. It's been ok, and I've actually probably increased my film viewing, if anything.
But nothing beats being there, and that's where Autumn comes in. That's right, we found a babysitter!
So the next issue was, which film would break the five-month seal? What if we had a lapse in judgment and found ourselves in the equivalent of Beverly Hills Chihuahua?
Thankfully, that awkward situation was avoided when we decided to see District 9. Smart, energetic and wholly compelling, this film was a great reintroduction to our native habitat.
South African Neill Blomkamp co-writes and directs this speculative tale of discrimination and segregation. The premise: for thirty years an alien ship has been stalled above Jo'burg, South Africa (setting=symbolism here, of course). The aliens, dubbed "prawns" because of their frightening appearance, are loathed in South African culture. Segregated to District 9, they are bullied by the government, preyed upon by parasitic Nigerian thugs and generally despised by ordinary citizens.
It's a classic esoteric/exoteric social dynamic.
It's really two films in one: a mockumentary and a straight-ahead Hollywood action thriller. The exposition unfolds with "experts" on the prawn problem. That style of film making works best in the chronicling of the tale's reluctant anti-hero, Sharlto Copley's Wikus Van De Merwe.
Make no mistake, Copley is this film. As a mild-mannered, likable government patsy, he gets the untenable job of collecting alien signatures when the government proposes the relocation of 1.8 million prawns. He does it ernestly, until he becomes infected.
As he begins the transformation into a prawn himself, his attitude slowly shifts (in one horrible scene, he shouts happily as government agents "abort" prawn children with a flame thrower). But, after being forced to literally walk a mile in the prawns' shoes, he sees things differently. His redemption is complete in the third act, but Blomkamp wisely spells out the inevitable sequel. District 10 will be much anticipated.
The story excels on almost every level. The action is superb, the plotting is crisp and the writing is smart. It moves well, and the action sequences are nicely done. There are a few white-knuckle moments here.
But the piece is a success (B+) because of Copley. I've been running a few of Wikus's choicer lines through my head over the last few days; he's just so darn likable that this film ultimately succeeds because of Copley's portrayal.
This movie was excellent, and I have to say that the trailers caught my attention as well. Surrogates, 9 and Shutter Island all made my list, along with 2012, of course.
Oh, and speaking of signs of the apocalypse--we had a short talk today about the college's still-in-the-works protocol for the H1N1 Virus. Wow.

1 comment:

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Daniel,
I had to wait til today to comment on this piece (which I really enjoyed by the way) even though on the day you posted it I copied it and sent it on to Lauren because she had just been telling me about District Nine too.

She discusses it in her tQt today.
She has a *slightly* different take on the movie than you did.

[giggling]

Hope your week is good!
Karen :0)

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