District 9

District 9 ★★

If science fiction storytelling is all about distancing an audience far enough from reality that they may study the social issues of that reality safely, then District 9 examines apartheid through the novum of a stranded, mistreated alien community.

As much as the primary conceit of the film is ingenious, the editing, aesthetics, and plotting of the film are chaotic. Influenced by video game shooters, the mecha genre of manga and anime, and the body horror and gross-out filmmaking of David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, and George Romero, Blomkamp pads out the runtime of the film (which was better suited in the "Alive in Joburg" short) with spectacle. The countless scenes of Wikus ripping out body parts, being tortured, or blowing nameless opponents up with alien weaponry quickly become repetitive. Copley's performance, as well, is a twitchy, frantic mess, attempting to cover up underwritten emotional beats and exposition with tics and jitters. His protagonist is also a vile, abhorrent person, whom Blomkamp attempts to endear solely by showing he has a pretty wife and an oblivious demeanor. Christopher Johnson, the film's secondary lead, is also portrayed as the only intelligent, resistant, self-aware Prawn. For a film that intends to examine the bigoted treatment of other ethnicities, too much of the humor is derived from voyeuristically judging the foibles and ignorances of the Prawns, turning them into an alien minstrel show.

Inventive design elements do not outweigh the offensively amateurish scripting and juvenile racial politics.

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