Thursday, 17 September 2009

District 9 (Dodge E. Camembert Review)

Dir: Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Sharlto Copley

Dodge E. Camembert laments the dearth of decent Sci-Fi these days. Where are the 2001s? The Aliens? The Silent Runnings? Where are the ideas? Gone to hell in an overblown, special effects-strewn handcart, that’s where.

After being offered a glimmer of hope in Moon (which Dodge would have reviewed but for an unfortunate accident with a precariously balanced stilton scoop) Dodge went into District 9 hoping for a delicious chevre blanc, but came out having tasted a predictable but still tasty red leicester.

A large part of its charm is the setting. The year is 1982, and a huge alien mothership hovers above Johannesburg. Having cut their way in, a task force beams pictures back showing an emaciated race of bug-like aliens living in appalling conditions. It seems they’re stranded thanks to the loss of a command module, which fell to earth without a trace.

Twenty years later, the aliens have been herded into a slum just outside the South African city, where they’re viewed as second class citizens by humanity. Wikus van de Merwe, a bumbling bureaucrat, is tasked with leading a team to serve notice to the aliens that they’re to be transported to an alternative camp well away from Jo’berg.

It all kicks off, of course, with a number of deaths on both sides and Wikus getting himself infected by an alien substance that begins to transform him into a ‘Prawn’ (a derogatory term for the aliens).

The opening third of the film that sets all this up is shot like a documentary, but the rest of the film is firmly in (relatively) conventional action film territory. It’s a rather odd mix that never quite sits right, but the ensuing fireworks make up for it somewhat.

Dodge is certain that first-time director Blomkamp is a video game fan, as some of the action has definite shades of Half Life 2 and Halo about it. Despite this, the sympathetic lead character, references to Apartheid and distinctly un-American sense of humour marks it out from the usual brainless Hollywood guff.

Uneven, then, but refreshingly different. If you don’t get on with splattery gore, though, you might want to give it a wide berth.


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