Sunday, August 23, 2009

District 9

I saw several kids under 13 at a showing of District 9. It’s not for kids. It’s rated R for a reason (and no, it hasn’t any pirates). The film has zero nudity and very little other sexually suggestive content. Given the American tolerance for violence and language, it takes a lot of both to get an R-rating without sex. Don’t take your kids to see this film. Just don’t.

I’m certainly not revealing anything new to say that District 9 has strong racial overtones. For Pete’s sake, they set it in Johannesburg. But race is an imperfect analogy for the movie, and one that the movie doesn’t force down the viewer’s throat. If you’re worried about a ham-fisted race lecture, don’t be. Look to Alien Nation for your racial commentary. Instead, worry about more mundane distractions, like character and plot.

Plausibility in science fiction is a tricky subject. Sure, the aliens have interstellar travel, impossibly powerful ray-guns, and tractor beams, but we’ve come to expect that sort of thing. On the other hand, District 9 shows us these technologies as having been developed by a race of barbarous insectoids with no notable social structure. Amidst this barbarism, exploitation by (black) African gangs*, and policing by defense contractors Multinational United (MNU), two “prawns” are able to conceal a secret, sizable both in its importance and physicality, for nigh three decades.

* - (By the way, how did we get Nigerian gangs in South Africa? Did the writers forget to look at a map, or did I miss something in the movie? edit - apparently Nigerian gangs are a real problem in S.A.)

The whole eviction notice process is likewise implausible (-perhaps even comical), but at least it gives a welcome swipe at bureaucracy and the ways people use legalism to justify deplorable actions.

It’s to the movie’s credit that one gets quite a ways in to it before it becomes apparent who the “good guy(s)” is/are, or if any were to appear. Even after that, an impulsive betrayal is,... let’s just say not very well thought-through, but keeps the audience clear that our protagonist has not become morally perfect.

All in all though, I wouldn’t say it was a particularly bad movie, but it wasn’t great either. Most of the elements are derivative of other science fiction, but they’re put together in a relatively fresh way. Sort of, “This park bench made from your recycled plastic bags.”

Final grade: B-plus.

1 comment:

Alice H said...

Fer gosh sake, I felt guilty taking my 3.5 year old to see Ponyo.

Two movies that I was shocked to see kids in were Hannibal and Gran Torino. In each of those, I saw kids who couldn't have been any older than eight.

I'm guessing the dad who took his kid to see Gran Torino wasn't that active of a parent or he would have thought to forgo his own fun for the sake of his child's innocence, so I'm guessing there wasn't a big heart-to-heart afterward about the words used in the movie and why they're hurtful. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of the principal's office when mom gets called in and is completely clueless as to why her son has started calling everyone zipperhead.