I finally got a chance to watch District 9 at the early show yesterday morning. Would have posted something about it then but I had to go straight to work and spent that whole shift attempting to talk everyone into watching it.
1- The documentary style is fantastic.
It effectively creates a very lived in and real world that easily draws the viewer in to this brutal and unforgiving, forgotten corner of the world.
2- The film is a slow burn, almost unheard of in action films, let alone Blockbusters.
While the opening half of the film does have moments of tension, the first action sequence doesn’t occur until almost an hour into the movie. But when they come, look out.
3- The special effects are utterly spectacular.
District 9 is the first film that I have seen in ages that I knew something was CGI, but still thought it looked entirely realistic. From the prawns to the weapon effects to Wikus himself, everything is working on an unprecedented level of perfection.
4- The weapons.
Wow. Seriously, wow. Everything from a lightning gun to a sonic blaster to a freaking pig canon. And every single one seemed cooler then the last. Bravo to the effects artists who both conceived and executed these. You deserve an Oscar my friends.
5- Wikus is one of cinema’s great anti-heroes.
Its not often that you see a blockbuster action film have a complete douchebag as its hero. Oh sure you can say John McClain, but he pales in comparison to Wikus Van De Marwe, who is an outright racist and corporate stooge. Yet by the end of the film, I’d dare someone to not sympathize with the guy, nor marvel at his stunning emotional transformation. Shartlo Copley (Who the hell is this guy and where has he been all my life?) deserves all the praise in the world for this outstanding performance that is the anchor of this entire film.
6- The camera work is truly stunning.
While the documentary first-person style is what is drawing the most attention the camera work in the entire film is really quite stunning and executed with great precision. Despite the huge landscape and the slums where everything can seem very similar, District 9 has a great spatial feel throughout the film. You intuitively know where everything is and the distances involved, without having it constantly told to you through clumsy exposition. The camera work is rarely showy, though the utterly fantastic camera shots at the soldiers carrying guns are certainly so, but it is incredibly effective.
7- The final 45 minutes is one of the greatest action sequences ever conceived and executed on film.
Like I said earlier, District 9 is a slow burn of an action film, taking its sweet time getting to the set pieces, but when things really hit the fan it is almost non-stop for the final two reels. Even more impressive, the extended action sequence never feels tired or overwrought, but rather the breakneck pacing in the final act elevates the film to an entirely new level, and truly earns the moniker of a summer thrill ride.
8- District 9 is a gateway film.
As much as people harp on blockbusters for playing to the lowest common denominator, they put asses in seats. District 9 has capitalized on that by including very real and powerful messages in this film, transforming the standard dumbed down action flick into an art film. Even better? The thing is so damn kick ass that people don’t know they are being preached to, but rather discover that art can be just as entertaining as mass produced schlock. Maybe not everyone will start delving into more artistic fare after watching District 9, but most certainly some will, and that is great news for film as a whole.
9- Neill Blomkamp is who I want to be when I grow up.
Despite all the misinformation about Blomkamp being the reason why Halo was shut down (he wasn’t, the film was shuttered because Microsoft was demanding too much money from the studios) he has come out and created a film that is entertaining, educational, morally challenging and fucking fun. I love Halo, but that film simply doesn’t have the framework to achieve those distinctions and especially not to the degree that District 9 has. In a somewhat shocking reversal, Blomkamp has proven he’s too good of a director for Halo, and kudos to him for pulling that off. Now if you excuse me, I need to go write I <3 Blomkamp all over my notebook and cover it with toddler prawn stickers.
10- If Michael Bay isn’t crapping his pants, he should be.