"District 9" devolves into imitative action – Trey's counterpoint

by Eric Melin on August 14, 2009

in Print Reviews

Indie filmmaker and contributor Trey Hock emailed me this morning with this passionate negative counterpoint to my review and Aaron’s review of “District 9,” proving that this is a movie that will generate lots of discussion. Here’s Trey:

What could have been a gripping, insightful, political drama unravels to become a chase film, splatter-fest in all the worst ways in Neill Blomkamp’s new sci-fi movie.

district 9 alien 2009“District 9” starts off as a documentary-style drama with obvious references to recent political refugees who would flee their homes in large shipping containers. An alien mothership descends and hovers over Johannesburg, South Africa for three months. When the authorities finally decide to enter by force what they find are malnourished bug-like aliens living in their own filth. The country gives them asylum and establishes District 9, a shantytown, on the edge of Johannesburg. The tensions surrounding the alien slum rise and fester over twenty years, until finally a relocation program is instituted.

Sounds great so far. Yeah, the first twenty minutes was solid. But if you’re looking for something that is going to build dramatically, and gesture to the political struggles in South Africa, Darfur, or other ethnically tense regions around the globe, oh you’re so wrong. That is not to say there weren’t references though. Nope, there were plenty of those.

district 9 2009 fenceFor those that like the first part, you can stop watching when Wikus, the main character, gets sprayed in the face with alien goo. For those that were bored, and were hoping for another hefty dose of Michael Bay this summer, well you’re in for a treat.

At this point, the film becomes a ham-handed mish-mash of most science-fiction action movies you can think of. You start with “Alien Nation,” then add “The Fly,” stir in some of “The Rock” to get our closed-off military swagger on, and dump in a healthy amount of “Aliens” so we can get our bio-mech groove on at the end.

The main problem is this film is a pale shadow of the films it references. Like a band which is inspired by a much cooler band, I would rather spend time with the source of inspiration.

Ultimately, the film devolves to a zombie-like splatter fest, and much of the original content is lost or forgotten. For the lovers in the room, don’t worry, there is still a sad-happy ending, which I think gave a small stroke. So because I only have partial functionality of my left arm at this point, I can only give this film a rock fist way down.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trey August 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

I just wanted to leave a comment so I can follow the discussion.

Reply

2 Trey August 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

I just wanted to leave a comment so I can follow the discussion.

Reply

3 Phil August 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Our reviews are eerily similar: http://filmphava.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/district-9-is-derivative-messy-and-downright-silly/

Glad we’re on the same page, though!

Reply

4 Phil August 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Our reviews are eerily similar: http://filmphava.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/district-9-is-derivative-messy-and-downright-silly/

Glad we’re on the same page, though!

Reply

5 Jacobe August 28, 2009 at 10:46 pm

By any standards it was quite a good film. One must remember this is a summer flick, A show to see to get a break from the heat and enjoy a half and hour of fun alien tech, mechs and a viral transformation or two. Not every film can live up to a certain standard kept in mind by most critics. Your talking about a completely fake sense of reality. Do you wake up angry because your dream that night may not have lived up to the same standards as the one previously before….no. For what it was, an alien film showing the struggles of a crashlanded race of catfood junkie insectoids, I felt it was a reasonably well done film with a budget of what?…30 million, not a whole lot of revenue in the world of film. Could it of spent more time of giving a bit more depth to the characters? Yes. Could it have shown more down, enriched scenes with a lesser need for special effects? Again Yes. In the ninety something minutes I spent watching it I bloody enjoyed every bit….plus who doesn’t like the idea of splattering assholes with a phase cannon while piloting a walking robot death weapon?

Reply

6 Jacobe August 28, 2009 at 10:46 pm

By any standards it was quite a good film. One must remember this is a summer flick, A show to see to get a break from the heat and enjoy a half and hour of fun alien tech, mechs and a viral transformation or two. Not every film can live up to a certain standard kept in mind by most critics. Your talking about a completely fake sense of reality. Do you wake up angry because your dream that night may not have lived up to the same standards as the one previously before….no. For what it was, an alien film showing the struggles of a crashlanded race of catfood junkie insectoids, I felt it was a reasonably well done film with a budget of what?…30 million, not a whole lot of revenue in the world of film. Could it of spent more time of giving a bit more depth to the characters? Yes. Could it have shown more down, enriched scenes with a lesser need for special effects? Again Yes. In the ninety something minutes I spent watching it I bloody enjoyed every bit….plus who doesn’t like the idea of splattering assholes with a phase cannon while piloting a walking robot death weapon?

Reply

7 Trey August 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Jacobe,

Hmmm. No, this film was not a good film by any standards. It was not a good film by my standards or many of the other people who have commented on it on this site.

This is exactly the kind of laissez faire attitude that will continue giving us garbage instead of good films. If you can point out where the film should do more, then that film should do more. If the structure is klunky, the characters poorly developed, and the whole thing seems like a half-hearted reference, then film from script to projector should have been rethought at each stage.

You may have enjoyed the film, and that’s awesome, but the film was bad to mediocre at best. If you examine Rotten Tomatoes you will actually see that many of the critics even in the positive column give the movie 2 out of 4, or 3 out of 5 stars and have some serious reservations. These are not glowing reviews. We as viewers should demand exceptional film making always. That doesn’t mean that every film must suit everyone’s tastes, but it should be the best that it can be. The fact that I can list, without thinking, at least five films that are like D9 but significantly better, makes me question the quality of D9.

And if I need a robot death weapon fix, I’ll watch Aliens, which was a significantly better film.

Reply

8 Trey August 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Jacobe,

Hmmm. No, this film was not a good film by any standards. It was not a good film by my standards or many of the other people who have commented on it on this site.

This is exactly the kind of laissez faire attitude that will continue giving us garbage instead of good films. If you can point out where the film should do more, then that film should do more. If the structure is klunky, the characters poorly developed, and the whole thing seems like a half-hearted reference, then film from script to projector should have been rethought at each stage.

You may have enjoyed the film, and that’s awesome, but the film was bad to mediocre at best. If you examine Rotten Tomatoes you will actually see that many of the critics even in the positive column give the movie 2 out of 4, or 3 out of 5 stars and have some serious reservations. These are not glowing reviews. We as viewers should demand exceptional film making always. That doesn’t mean that every film must suit everyone’s tastes, but it should be the best that it can be. The fact that I can list, without thinking, at least five films that are like D9 but significantly better, makes me question the quality of D9.

And if I need a robot death weapon fix, I’ll watch Aliens, which was a significantly better film.

Reply

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