Anytime I see Peter Jackson attached to a movie in any way I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a drawn out movie (King Kong) or a poor movie adaptation (The Lovely Bones).  Yes, he did very good with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but since then it seems he’s been running off that success without matching it.  It seems as a producer he didn’t introduce these problems to District 9.  Director Neill Blomkamp (who along with Terri Tatchell wrote the movie) clearly knew how to control the pacing of a movie without drawing it out. 

Prior to seeing the movie I recalled the commercials, which weren’t very clear on what type of movie it would be, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I don’t think I was the only one feeling this way, as the movie itself didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be.  Most of the time it focused on being a social commentary of sorts, showing how humans would react to aliens living right next door to them.  In theory this isn’t a bad concept, but the execution seemed like it tiptoed around issue.  Most of the time the government was not involved, which is a shame since world governments would probably have a lot to say about a giant space ship full of aliens showing up.  I was hoping for some discussion such as in Torchwood: Children of Earth when various political leaders had a heated discussion with the the Prime Minister.  Instead the movie has a lot of clips of local people around the alien camp and a few professionals from researchers to the main character’s co-workers.

Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is our protagonist, works for Multinational United (MNU) which is basically set up to control the alien population since the government is apparently useless.  Nearly everyone else exists as a collective antagonist.  We get both the generic company mastermind who is all for killing and experimenting on aliens and the cliche-to-the-max leader of the soldiers hired by MNU (really, I don’t think this guy knows how to think, all he does is run around shooting stuff).  Somehow the movie manages to get past this (though, I’m confused why not a single person at MNU (scientists included) or the government did not want to try to talk to any of the aliens.

Merwe ends up being a very interesting character, as he has a lot of screen time and appears to be the only character written with any thought.  I can’t remember a fictional protagonist I’ve recently watched that has gone through so many horrible situations in such a short period of time.  This is when the movie shines, as it goes into a somewhat generic but entertaining story of friendship between the two most unlikely people.

At its heart, the movie seems to really want to be a social commentary.  But the ending falls a bit short, as the last twenty minutes are non-stop action, which admittedly I zoned out during since it was obviously just put there to please those who wanted it to be an action movie.  For the other two hours I was hooked, and was glad to see an alien movie when the aliens weren’t there just to blow up Earth.  Though, it would have been nice if they did more than simply have the humans wanting to blow up the aliens (though, it seems every alien weapon literally blow up people, just leaving a cloud of red, which got old rather quick).

All in all, it is a good movie that tried to be too many things, and fails at trying to add elements (such as action) to please everyone, but is substantially more successful at doing what it was written to be, a drama.  Maybe one day there will be a science fiction movie that realizes it doesn’t have to involve a giant action sequence or intergalactic war.

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