August 16, 2009

Alien Nation in Johannesburg

This is a movie I've been waiting all summer to see - in all honesty, since Star Trek in May, there really hasn't been anything that's caught my attention. Plus, to be honest, last week was kind of a busy, hectic week....for reasons I won't go into on legal counsel.

(Just kidding about the legal counsel part. Really.)

Anyway, Saturday I caught District 9, the Neil Blonkamp-directed debut which starts off as a mockumentary about aliens in Johannesburg...but which ends up coming off as much deeper than that. Let me put it this way - if the producers of the original Outer Limits were doing a pilot film now, this would be it.

It's hard to describe the plot of District 9 without inadvertantly spoiling it...suffice it to say, the film shifts tone within the first half hour, and it's so sudden that when the "documentary" kicks back in after the first hour, it's almost jarring. It's engaging, and although can be a bit spotty at times (and edges towards cliche at the end), tends to be a satisfying view.

Much of the credit has to be given to visual effects, who are able to create a unique alien race (called "prawns", although we never learn their "real" name) through a mixture of CGI and real time effects. In fact, although Blonkamp is originally from South Africa, setting it in Johannesburg - even a post-apartheid city - makes it seem like it's already taking place in another world...albeit one that is far from, say, the we-welcome-all-aliens viewpoint embraced by Star Trek.

District 9 isn't a perfect film...but is a good movie with some sensibilities. Be warned - there are scenes of intense (although video game-esque) violence, some references that are a little jarring, and explicit scenes of aliens eating cat food. All in all, it's not your usual summer movie...but worth checking out.

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