I hate to do this, I really do. I know how much everyone loves this movie, but it’s been eating at me a week now, so I’m just going to play Devil’s Advocate and give the quick top five worst problems I had with District 9.
THIS IS SPOILER CENTRAL PEOPLE
Note that these points did not prevent me from liking the film, they just kept me from declaring it the greatest sci-fi film of the decade (that would be Children of Men by the way).
5. Christopher Johnson
When you’ve got a human and an alien teaming up and kicking ass, and the human’s got an interesting name like Wikus Van De Merwe, the alien’s name needs to be better than Christopher Johnson. Where the fuck did that name come from anyways? Who gave it to him? I have to doubt that it’s a popular name in South Africa, but then what do I know. Just saying, it came out of nowhere, had no explanation and rubbed me the wrong way. He’s a prawn, give him a cooler name is all.
Seems in the 20 years or so of this alien occupancy in South Africa, the aliens have learned English, a language impossible for them to speak with their physiological bearing, and we have learned Prawnese, or whatever.
Really? We went through all the trouble to speak their language, but we have gone through ZERO effort to understand anything else about them or what happened to them? Why doesn’t somebody ask them where the fuck they came from? Why don’t they tell us they want to go home? If the communication barrier were in place, a lot of the struggle seen would be understandable, but that doesn’t exist, so why does all this not knowing shit about them exist?
Also, the aliens seem to have little or no understanding of property ownership or the value of an individual life, but they do understand evictions? They do understand commerce and trade? Doesn’t quite make any sense.
3. Inconsistent story telling POVs
The whole starting out as a documentary, Blair Witch style, was cool. I love that kind of stuff. It adds realism, it adds that tension of not knowing what is coming next, of a very deliberate and single handed POV rather than the omnipresent movie camera lens. I liked it in Blair Witch, I liked it in Spinal Tap, I even liked it in Cloverfield. But this movie abandons that format for the run and gun action half of the movie. And that’s a shame.
Sometimes it even cuts back and forth from shot to shot. So some shots look all digital camera, with an MNU logo in the corner and timer rolling, and the next shots are straight movie camera style. It’s jarring, it’s confusing, and it took me out of the movie quite often, usually in very key sequences, killing the atmosphere the film tried so hard to build.
2. The fluid
Where do I begin? The fluid is the ultimate Mcguffin in the history of film. It’s never explained at all, but I’ve gathered this much from what I saw. It’s a substance that is a) jet fuel b) DNA scrambler c) for some reason thrown out like garbage by the aliens even though its their most precious resource and d) not needed for the mother ship at all.
What the fuck? Why would this shit turn Wikus into an alien? The prawns obviously were not collecting it with that in mind, but they immediately recognize his turning into an alien symptoms and deduce it must have been their fluid, so they know that it does that too?
How the hell is that even supposed to work? Why couldn’t the aliens hold onto this, their only hope for salvation, instead of just junk it once they left the mother ship?
Just, what? I don’t get it, and I don’t like it.
BTW, Wikus’ alien hand looked awful. A rubber flipper, laughable at best.
And number 1. The cliches
The most disappointing thing about this movie is its willing and often incoherent descent into the most basic cliches of moviedom. Let’s examine.
There are numerous “I’m not going to leave you behind partner” moments, where one character discovers the courage to help their doomed comrade. This usually happens after the predictable “character makes the wrong decision, like knocking out his ONLY chance of becoming human again” moments that are redeemed in the heroics.
There are also countless, “Now I’m going to kill you” moments where the bad guys are ordered to shoot or otherwise kill someone and then proceed to stand there with the gun pointed at their victim’s head just long enough for a dramatic rescue. So lame. Especially those tough-as-nails mercenaries, who supposedly looooove killing the aliens, but they just grin these awful shit eating grins and talk and talk and talk and talk. Just pull the fucking trigger already! The fuck?
The whole “You gotta believe me baby” and “we gotta go in and get that fluid” suicide mission stuff is pretty basic action film material too. All throughout this movie, I kept thinking of better films that already did this or that or whatever. I guess I just heard so much greatness about this flick that I expected it to change the face of Major Motion Pictures forever. And it doesn’t. It just uses every trick in the book, some going back decades, to tell an otherwise unimpressive story about unimpressive aliens with little or no real “Holy Shit!” moments to speak of.
Oh well, I’m the asshole now I guess. Sorry.