Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Don't Care How Many People Love it, District 9 is a Horrible Movie!

I got the opportunity to check out an advance screening of 'District 9' in Atlanta last night. It's been a little over 12 hours since the credits rolled, and I think that, after carefully mentally reviewing and considering the film, that it's absolutely the worst movie I've ever seen. Yes, I'm serious.

"But how could that be?" you may ask. I'll tell you (spoilers included).

"Worse than Wing Commander?" Yes, by far, but in a much more serious way.

"Not worse than …. It couldn't be … worse than 'Legally Blonde 2.''' Oh, yes, yes, yes. I'd line up to see 'Legally Blonde 3: Brunette Bush' before paying money to see 'District 9' again.

However, it has only been half a day, and I admit that I should probably see the film again before I begin lumping it into the 'worse than 'Legally Blonde 2'' category. But I just can't help it. It was that fucking bad. But not bad in a 'Legally Blonde 2' way, where everything is poorly executed, like everyone involved in the film, from the writer(s), director, cinematographer, actors, everyone, could give a shit less about the film and thought of it as anything more than an easy paycheck.

No, 'District 9' is full of love and heart. It's packed with beauty, skill and was clearly put together by some of the best in the business, which makes it worse, because it's all stupid, nonsensical, heavy-handed bullshit. It's a thinking man's movie for morons, where all the strings are pulled in just such a way that there is only one conclusion. The film offers no interpretations, no options. It doesn’t trust you to find your own answers so it shoves the ones it wants to have down your throat.

But enough bullshit. Let's get into why it's such an atrociously awful film. First, you have to understand that I hate spoilers, and other than what was given away in the trailer, I knew nothing about this movie. Peter Jackson, Neil Blomkamp and aliens. Fucking awesome. That's what I knew. I love Jackson and I think that Blomkamp will undoubtedly be one of the most renowned directors in the world within a few years time.

So, needless to say, I went in expecting to love it, but immediately something didn’t sit well with me. The entire premise of the film is flawed from the get-go, when the aliens are brought down to live in Johannesburg. Because, lets be honest here, people. That never would of fucking happened! Those dirty, hungry alien-bitches would have been torched before they ever could have contaminated our air with their potentiality-lethal germs. Anyone remember what happened to the Native Americans? You can bet your ass that Blomkamp's humans would.

Normally such a sticking point wouldn’t matter. I've never once thought (until now), about that issue when watching 'Alien Nation' or 'E.T.' But Blomkamp is such an expert at making the whole thing real, and with reality comes real problems. If an alien ship were suddenly hovering over Johannesburg, then that it what it could look like. The brilliance of the effects is their reality.

But, even disregarding that fact, the movie still doesn’t work. We have to assume that the principle alien, Christopher Johnson (great alien name btw) was a pilot on chief mechanic of the ship. He knows what's wrong with the craft and how to fix it. He takes what is essentially the ships' engine, buries it in the ground and builds a shack on top of it. He, and assumedly the bulk of the rest of the stranded E.T.s, then spend the next 20 years collecting liquid out of alien junk to make spaceship gasoline (that, for some reason, happens to slowly morph humans into aliens upon contact).

So, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of stupid, fucked-up idiot pilot and/or mechanic runs out of gas in the middle of an interstellar voyage? And, presuming that there is such a fool, why did he decide to hover over Johannesburg and then drop the escape vessel/spaceship engine on earth. Why not just say, "Umm … hey guys, I think I really fucked up and didn’t pack enough gas for the whole trip, so would y'all mind digging around in any extra cans or metal cylinders you have lying around so we can come up with some more? Great. I'm just going to park this thing here in the middle of the cosmos while we do that."

Remember, they never wanted to leave the ship, we pesky humans are the ones who forcibly entered it and pulled them out. They were starving and slipping in their own shit instead of coming down to hang with us.

People, and by people, that means you, the audience, are the villains. Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with that. Except Blomkamp's reality is tangible, and the whole movie is centered around shoving guilt and blame on the audience. Again, lets be honest. We're not talking about aliens here.

Virtually every time a human is onscreen he or she is doing something despicable. Whether it is burning alien babies, extorting aliens for cat food or even hunting the human hero/protagonist, everything we do is bad. We're nameless, two-dimensional harbingers of pain and destruction, caring for nothing but profit and looking out only for ourselves. Our acts of cruelty, murder and torture are nonsensical and entirely fueled by self-interest. We have no loyalties, even to ourselves. When Wilkus, the hero/protagonist, turns alien, his life is sold for cash and weaponry. The most sympathetic human in the film, Wilkus' wife, sells him out by allowing her father to track her call. Whether her actions are intentional or not (this is really the only issue the film leaves open to interpretation) is irrelevant -- she still rats him out and causes a huge loss of both human and alien life.

But the aliens aren't much better. They are the reverse of the humans -- entirely sympathetic. It hurts to watch them suffer at our hands. And it should, they are the lost, weakest among us. Most obviously there's apartheid, but I was also reminded of the current situation in Darfur. The Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The indigent Mexican immigrants in America, ostracized by an uncaring society (an interesting social commentary, considering that many citizens of Jackson's homeland, New Zealand, have been bitching-a-fit over the influx of new immigrants their own county, thanks, in no small part to Jackson's LOTR series).

However, because their plight is so obvious and overstated, it's hard to care for them. Like the humans, there is no development of character. They are flat, boring. Of course it's hard watching them suffer. They are aliens, but you can clearly recognize their humanity.

It was like watching 'Passion of the Christ.' Very similar, actually, because, like in 'Passion,' everything is flat. There is no character development, but there didn’t really need to be. It was Jesus. Everybody knows Jesus, and, regardless of your faith, you got the point. You didn’t need the back story. With this film, however, we need more. Sure, you can echo past and current events, but the characters still need room to breathe. In 'District 9' they never do, they only rest of the laurels of human tragedy. Jackson and Blomkamp might as well made a morality play and named Wilkus 'everyman.'

The about-face at the end of the film, when Wilkus has a change of heart after doing his damn best to fuck-over several million aliens to save his arm, is not at all believable. To begin with, Wilkus is the most unlikable protagonist I can ever remember watching. I know it's intentional, but it doesn't make for an enjoyable experience at the movies. His character was so shitty, so ego-centric, that I just couldn’t buy his change of heart.

And the unflinching morality of alien Christopher was equally unbelievable. There was even a point where Christopher refused to leave Wilkus, the guy who tried to fuck-over every alien on the planet and destroy 20 years of Chris' hard work, all while Chris' son was in danger and they had an actual opportunity to escape. Just stupid.

Again, the movie was so preachy, so heavy-handed with its judgments, that it's impossible to get past. On top of that, the flick doesn’t provide an enjoyable experience. It's like watching 'Schindler's List' without the point.

I'm not a passive movie-goer who shys away from violence. I'm an avid horror fan. In fact, I refuse to watch PG-13 horror films because I believe that they weaken the genre as a whole. But 'District 9' is not a horror film. It's really not even a Sci-Fi film. It's a heavy-handed, accusatory political production that draws all the conclusions for you. Judging from 'District 9,' I'm damn glad that Jackson and Blomkamp didn’t get the chance to do 'Halo.' The last thing we need is a pseudo-political Master-Chief capping helpless Covenant troops.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Nice blog, and I am so with you on this one. It was so hard to sit through.