There are three types of "good" movies, in my mind. The first is the "entertaining" movie. This can be anything from a cheap B-movie to a brainless Hollywood blockbuster. As long as it's entertaining and fun, it's all good. Then there is the "respectable" movie. These movies aren't entertaining, per se, but they're respectable in what they pull off. In other words, these are mostly your Oscar-bait films. And then there's the most difficult to pull off, the "respectable and entertaining" film. These can be deep in theme and purpose, high class films... but they're still entertaining and fun to watch. They aren't your run-of-the-mill depressing Oscar-bait film. District 9 tries to pull off this third type. Does it do it? Yes and no.
The movie is an alternate history movie, wherein aliens landed over Johannesburg, Africa in the 80s. They're subjected to slums, poor treatment, and basic apartheid behavior. And now the government agency in charge of controlling them (as well as their weapons, which only the aliens can operate) is wanting to move them into what is essentially a concentration camp. Enter Wikus (Sharlto Copley), a young man who just doesn't know any better and is promoted to the in-charge position of this eviction and transfer mission. But something happens on this trip, and it starts to change him... inside and out. Wikus starts becoming one of these aliens and goes on the run, learning more what it's like to be on the other side, while continuing to try and recover his old life.
I said before that the movie tries to be both respectable and entertaining. And it succeeds at both... for the most part. I knew while watching the movie that I was seeing something special. This is a highly respectable film in many ways, from its apartheid themes and symbolisms all the way to its stunning visual effects. And its visuals are oh-so-stunning.
And the movie is entertaining, as well. All the action/suspense scenes, primarily anything where alien weaponry is used, is amazingly awesome. Those are truly the best parts of the film. But what takes it all away for me, what ultimately stops the film--in my opinion--from being totally outstanding, is its main character. Wikus is likable at times, but I found him to be a mostly unlikable character. The majority of what he did was wrong or selfish, and I couldn't latch on to him. Moreso than him being unlikable (because really, I didn't hate the guy), he just didn't make me care about him. I cared more about Christopher and his son (the two main aliens) than Wikus. Now those two characters were incredibly likable. But unfortunately, the film focuses more on Wikus.
Another issue was that the beginning "documentary" bits went on way too long. I felt those could have been trimmed down a bit. I know it was adding realism and setting up the movie, but it felt like 30 minutes of exposition... and the worst kind, too, where the characters are actually talking to you, right into the camera. I started wondering if it was ever going to end, or if the whole movie was gonna be like that. Thankfully it stopped, but it could have stopped sooner (it does come back to it from time to time, but I didn't mind, as there was plenty of "movie" bits in between, if that makes sense).
Anyway, I really do respect what the movie did and what it represents. And I also think the movie was rather entertaining, primarily the action bits with the alien weaponry. I also enjoyed the realism of the film, as well as how seamless the CGI and other visuals were with the rest of the movie. But it still had some issues. Besides what I already said, there is still something I can't put my finger on. But it was just something about the film itself that makes me not enjoy it as much as I want to. After all, I went into this movie with average expectations, so I really didn't go in with any reason to be let down. And on one level I wasn't, but on some strange level, I was. Still, the movie is respectable and entertaining... I just wish it could have solved a few of the aforementioned issues.
A Keanu 'Whoa'