Re: The horror.

1

Coincidentally, I saw District 9 a few days ago. I was... underwhelmed. Somehow I had the mistaken impression, from some review somewhere, that it was a thoughtful film about how we might react to meeting a truly alien Other, dripping with social and political commentary. Turns out it's a bloody B-movie that makes some brief nods in the direction of apartheid parallels in the first few minutes and then just dives straight into action for the next two hours. Maybe I would have liked it more if I'd known what to expect.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 10:53 PM
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I haven't seen it, but essear and I must have read the same review.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 10:57 PM
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Hmm. Avatar is 160 minutes? I doubt I have the patience for that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 10:57 PM
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I demand a list of alien movies, please.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:04 PM
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Alternatively, in the spirit of the band-name threads, a list of alien-movie titles that are promising.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:06 PM
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Alien, Aliens, Alien 3.

There, that's a start.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:09 PM
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Alien Resurrection, Alien vs Predator, ...


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:11 PM
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There was a sequel to Alien vs Predator? Wow.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:12 PM
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Independence Day. Mars Attacks! Star Wars. Star Trek. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. War of the Worlds.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:14 PM
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The Day the Earth Stood Still


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:15 PM
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2001


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:17 PM
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Turns out naming alien movies isn't all that exciting.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:20 PM
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a thoughtful film about how we might react to meeting a truly alien Other, dripping with social and political commentary.

Those are too excruciatingly self-important and boring to sit through and the action films are too stupid to watch at all.

I'm gonna try those things done with paper sheets glued together at one edge and inked-on symbols.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:24 PM
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They haven't made a movie out of Everything You Know Is Wrong, but they totally should. First, though, they should be a transcript on the Internet.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:24 PM
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"Good idea, Chuck, but syrup won't stop 'em"


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:25 PM
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From the OP:

Not that any of this is not an original idea

Interesting.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:36 PM
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http://www.angelfire.com/md/k3ky/page23.html


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:37 PM
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16: Crap. I was just fixing that.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:37 PM
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There is a movie, of sorts.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:41 PM
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Turns out it's a bloody B-movie that makes some brief nods in the direction of apartheid parallels in the first few minutes and then just dives straight into action for the next two hours.

While it sounds like the review you read oversold the movie, I think you're going a bit far in the other direction. Personally, I really appreciated the extent to which it subverted genre expectations, and both the set-up and Wikus's behavior seemed far more human than any other film dealing with similar material I can think of.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:42 PM
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#20 gets it right. I did think it got gradually worse from the beginning right through to the end, but the total unappealingness of the alien "socity", which is nonetheless taken seriously, was more mature than the Ferngullian depiction in Avatar.

I'm gonna try those things done with paper sheets glued together at one edge and inked-on symbols.

You should be very proud.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:54 PM
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Wikus's behavior seemed far more human

The movie had two characters with some sort of comprehensible motivations and behavior: Wikus and the one alien whose name I forget. (And the alien's kid, I suppose. Gotta have a cute kid in your sci-fi movie, to make it all Spielbergian or something.) None of the other humans or aliens were convincingly fleshed out. Is this so different from the stock genre expectation of a protagonist with a buddy or two fighting the evil empire/invader/whatever?

The Wikus character was well done; I'll give you that. And it is subverting expectations a bit to have someone who's so unlikable as the protagonist. So maybe I am overreacting, but the movie seemed basically mediocre to me and after having encountered high praise, this was a letdown.

A lot of other plot details seemed kind of incoherent, too, but that's true of pretty much any science fiction if you poke it a bit.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-10 11:59 PM
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Re District 9 - really, from my point of view, not a very smart movie at all even on its own terms. If aliens were hanging out, completely disorganized and in our control, and had a completely game-changing set of military technologies, does anybody think the governments of the world would sit back and let a few thugs and a corporations try and figure out how to use it? Bugged me the whole time. Also - how many people do I need to see vaporized? Finally, ... if you meet an alien species with technologies advanced enough to cross interstellar space and then float a massive spaceship over your city for many years without needing any maintenance or fuel resupply - you probably don't want to treat them like dirt. They may have figured out things like, oh, search and rescue, and their buddies might not take kindly to what you did.

Re Avatar - also had plot holes, but didn't annoy me or any of the folks I went to see it with. Just spectacular, and worth seeing in 3-D. And for my money, the Dances with Wolves parts are totally grafted on and pretty obviously not what the movie cares about. It's about what it'd be like to inhabit a body completely different than any human body, on an immersive, visceral level.


Posted by: Sophomore | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 1:29 AM
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I haven't written about my Avatar reactions hear, but I will say that it was both incredibly laughably stupid and totally entrancing. I hope to see superior sequels and/or great Avatar porn, which is hard to search for since avatar seems to be a common name for slash stuff.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 1:32 AM
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here.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 1:32 AM
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The first half of District was a lot like a science fiction The Office (and really owes a lot to it directly), and then the second half was simply things blowing up, aliens, people yelling and acting macho. And not in the way you'd expect after watching The Office, though that could have been nice - a film where everyone tries to maintain face and look good to their superiors while stuff blows up because some middle-level cog fucked up.


Posted by: U. Awl | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 3:07 AM
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We like to look up there for an enemy, don't we?

Well, or for an "Other"

I can't seem to think of any alien or 1st Contact movies that are worth a damn. I'm gonna go make coffee, tho I'm tired of coffee. Shogun Lawrence of Arabia Rush Hour 2

I'll be back.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 5:20 AM
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The thought process that lead to Cavell went thru Tiptree, Leiber and Cherryh. All my SF is 30 years old, but there are very few original ideas. Cavell isn't all that bad really, in more than one novel.

The Alien Civilization should be:

1) Immense and ancient;incomprehensible;incommensurable
2) Forever more technologically advanced and dangerous to us, capable of swatting us like a fly
3) But indifferent to the point that we are beneath notice unless slightly annoying, like an anthill in a distant corner of a yard.
4) Contact will be at a very minor margin on a bare edge of both civilizations. Most humans would find little to distract them from the NBA Finals.

A small few on both sides will find a way to profit, adventure or otherwise get their jollies. There will be occasional waves of haute-bourgeois fashion, like kimonos or imagist poetry, whiskey and jazz. These will be the sources of our stories.

Silk wasn't very good, but it was pretty, and I enjoyed it.

Obviously I'm tired of SF, and was thirty years ago. There are, ya dig, like plenty of "Others" we haven't dealt with yet, like women, minorities, Republicans, furries. And there is a ton of history we don't understand.

Back to the languedoc inquisition.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 5:59 AM
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Avatar was fascinating in a narcissistic sort of way; the reviews are right about that. Because I'm a self-centered honky a feminist lazy, I like that sort of thing and am not sympathetic enough to the racism/sexism/colonialism conversations that have attended the release of Avatar and District 9.

Also, I like seeing archery in movies; it just looks cool. Although the contrast between the flying sequences and the phosphorescent forest scenes suggested that Cameron isn't as interested in flying as in scuba diving (some of those dives, I think, would have whipped the riders off their mounts in a trice). I thought Stephen Lang was better in Public Enemies; his very widely-set, buggy eyes make him too obvious an antagonist.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:06 AM
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Cameron isn't as interested in flying as in scuba diving

I once had a (brief) conversation with Baz Luhrman about Cameron's interest in SCUBA diving.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:13 AM
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I will say that it was both incredibly laughably stupid and totally entrancing.

Agreed. (Though as time goes on, I find that the glow of the entrancement wears off, unsurprisingly, while the laughability of the extravagant stupidity lingers.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:14 AM
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IOZ posted a picture in his review of Avatard that made me laugh out loud.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:28 AM
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Sadly, John Kessel's "Invaders" does not seem to be on the interwebs.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:30 AM
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The first half of District was a lot like a science fiction The Office (and really owes a lot to it directly), and then the second half was simply things blowing up, aliens, people yelling and acting macho. And not in the way you'd expect after watching The Office, though that could have been nice

This. And, while I did quite enjoy the film, this contrast was really jarring at times. For the first half of the film, you have predominantly white mercenaries acting (with what passes in movies for realism) more or less as AWB thugs did back in the day (and as contemporary South Africans have against Zimbabwean refugees) and it's hard not to feel disgusted. Then suddenly you're supposed to cheer when people's heads get blown up. Not an easy transition.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:37 AM
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AWB has thugs? We should all be nicer to her.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 7:54 AM
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32: So awesome.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 8:33 AM
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28: I think Clarke's Childhood's End would make an interesting sci-fi movie. It sort of fits the first three of your points.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 3:10 PM
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I was meh about the IOZ thing (except for the comparison with the dolphin poster), but this comment is genius:

Do you think that's what it was like for God when he sent his only son to Earth in human form?

If the Eagles win the Super Bowl, that is the exact comparison I am going to make in casual conversation about it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 3:15 PM
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As a Vikings fan, I would prefer that the Eagles' strategy for winning the Super Bowl includes losing to the Cowboys today.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 3:40 PM
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As a Bears fan, I thought it was funny that they beat the Vikings last week, even though it didn't do the Bears' playoff chances an ounce of good. But I was also miffed: what the fuck, Bears? You win when it doesn't matter?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 4:15 PM
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As a Vikings fan, I thought it was not funny that they lost to the Bears last week, especially since it did a Vikings' playoff seed possibilities several ounces of bad. Indeed, I was miffed: what the fuck, Vikings? You lose when it matters?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 4:21 PM
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You lose when it matters?

This seems to be the strategy of the West Virginia Mountaineers. First, do just well enough in the regular season to be invited to a mid-tier bowl game. Second, bring lots of law-abiding, free-spending fans to the host locale. Third, be sure to lose to the hometown team, thus improving the chances of being invited back in subsequent years.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 3-10 4:49 PM
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District 13 (Banlieue 13) on the other hand, tries to be a movie about urban despair and neglect dripping with social and political commentary, but is a B-movie about an encounter between drug lords and parkour. Entertaining foot chases, as you would expect.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 12:13 AM
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34: I was just talking to someone a few days ago about the persistence of AWB support in South Africa. Apparently there is a fairly robust core of supporters who still haven't realized that they lost and are trying to figure out how to get their Volkstaat.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 5:59 AM
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Louis Theroux did a show on them well after the end of apartheid, but that was still several years back. I've got no idea how persistent the movement still is.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 6:11 AM
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The person I was chatting with knows a number of people who proudly display the AWB triskelion* in their homes. She's an Afrikaaner with some family ties to the old school racist right. Anecdata, but she at least was convinced that the movement is far from dead.

*Totes not Nazi at all, nosirree.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 6:34 AM
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It's hard for me to get too exercised about the persistence of the AWB. Whatever reservoirs of unreconstructed racist sentiment they can draw on in contemporary South Africa, they're basically doomed. They bungled their historical moment, and bungled it badly. Even in locales where AWB sympathizers might conceivably constitute a majority of the white population, as in the far north, there is no conceivable state-sized area in which whites are a numerical majority.

More importantly, AWB loyalists are cut off from the levers of power. Their basis of economic and social support (rural landowners) is becoming less important all the time. They no longer have meaningful influence in the important institutions of the state (ministries, police, security forces, state-owned enterprise). Those whites who have their hands on the levers of power, like the old Broederbond types, are no longer potential allies. These whites cherish their property more than they long for minority rule.

The only option open to the far right is nihilistic violence, and they know as well as anyone that whites living in isolated farmsteads surrounded by a sea of black people are going to get the worst of any outbreak of tit-for-tat terrorism.

Like the KKK in the US, the AWB is condemned to the ashheap of history, even as it maintains a sympathetic constituency larger than its actual membership, and even as it retains the ability to perpetrate occasional acts of racist violence away from the public eye.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 7:14 AM
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47: I pretty much agree with your analysis. They've lost so completely that there is nothing left but what-ifs. I suspect that the next step for many of them is immigration to countries where they won't have their noses rubbed in their failures quite so vigorously. A small contingent will probably try the nihilistic violence route but they'll be rapidly shut down.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 7:28 AM
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What, is this some kind of conspiracy to get me to see NEW movies right NOW or ELSE? Just five minutes ago a guy in my office came in and asked me if I saw Avatar or Holmes, and now you're all talking about them too? Leave me alone! I spent hours this weekend catching up on Dollhouse, that's just as entertaining as the movies in theaters now, don't judge me!

OK, that's very exaggerated, especially since this post was apparently two days ago. Oh well. Still though, there is a glimmer of pressure to see this stuff when everyone else is doing it. My "get around to it when it comes to the second-run theater six blocks from my house" strategy needs to go.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 7:39 AM
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My "get around to it when it comes to the second-run theater six blocks from my house" strategy needs to go

The OP reveals that I caught only the last half of District 9 (released in August 2009), which happened to be on the TV at a friend's house when I dropped by, and that I haven't seen Avatar at all. I think your strategy's fine.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:04 AM
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49: The annoying thing about Avatar is that the consensus seems to be "visually amazing, but otherwise dull", leading to pressure to go see the thing now while one can get the proper 3d experience in a movie theater. I'm usually a "wait until I can get it from Netflix" person. Probably the solution is to not see Avatar at all.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:13 AM
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45: The fact that Louis Theroux did a show on the AWB is evidence of their insignificance. His whole schtick is doing straight-faced documentaries of the most bizarre and marginal subcultures in the countries he visits.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:15 AM
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The sequel to Alien vs Predator was way better than the first one.

This is by virtue of being merely bad, as opposed to an aggressive attack on the idea of moviemaking as craft.


Posted by: NBarnes | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:19 AM
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I still flash to this every time I see AWB used.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:25 AM
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She's really let herself go.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:26 AM
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:-(


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:26 AM
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Hey, it could be worse, AWB. Nazis and funk bands are one thing, but my handle makes people think of Chris fucking Matthews.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:27 AM
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Don't worry AWB, I still think your loyalists retain some pull on the levers of power. And their basis of economic and social support (rural landowners) is leveling off after the recent downgrade. Crawl out of that ash-heap!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:28 AM
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The fact that Louis Theroux did a show on the AWB is evidence of their insignificance. His whole schtick is doing straight-faced documentaries of the most bizarre and marginal subcultures in the countries he visits.

Oh yes, that was definitely the angle - that these people were totally out of step with history and that their ostensibly scary ideology and self-image was now just pathetic.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-10 8:29 AM
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I watched District 9 with the folks, who are old-school Saffies from the Apartheid days. The following was what impressed them:

1. The "going native" narrative was (at least partly) subverted. Wikus Van Der Merwe starts out as a believable character -- oblivious to the anguish his job inflicts, excited about his promotion, in love with his wife -- and he only "goes native" out of desperation, because all other options are closed to him. And he fucking hates it. He's not discovering wonderful things about the Circle of Life, he's discovering how humiliating it is to be dirt-poor, utterly excluded from mainstream society and hooked on cat food. His motive is therefore believable: he's desperate, to the point of risking his life, to think his alien "friend" can "cure" him of his mutation. (He does get a redeeming moment when he saves his "friend" in the end, but remember it's ultimately in service of this goal.)

2. The parallels to apartheid might seem throwaway to some, but they're apparently (to judge by my folks) welcomed by people who actually lived the apartheid experience and rarely see it represented onscreen. I have a cousin-in-law (named "Falcon" of all fucking things) who served in Special Branch and could be compared in his attitudes toward blacks to the "colonel's" attitude toward Prawns in the film. So that thread persists well into the turn toward action cinema that predominates in the movie.

3. The plot has a degree of originality to it, in that the "good guy" doesn't really "win" (he winds up, in a rather satisfying turn of poetic justice given his earlier twerp-cog-bureaucrat self, living as a "prawn" on a garbage pile in the very concentration camp he was trying to relocate his victimes to), and the upshot of the whole business is left ambiguous (probably leaning toward the offworld "prawns," themselves an ambiguous entity, actually invading Earth).

As action cinema goes, it's a superb film -- one mercifully isn't left trying to apologize for its utter lack of plot, as fans of, say, the Abrams Star Trek reboot were forced to do -- and comparisons to Avatar's "Dances With Smurfs" aesthetic are wildly off the mark. I personally would give my left testicle* to see more film like District 9 get made.

[As for the plausibility issue in re: alien weaponry, it seemed to me that MNU -- sporting military hardware far beyond what the South African govenrment alone could muster -- was the collective response of the global elite, using Boer mercs as local proxies. It didn't bother me overmuch.]

(* Offer void in markets outside of Antarctica and the Jovian moons.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 11:05 PM
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I strongly agree with point one, and thought it was the best bit of the narrative. Most of my discomfort (which didn't by any means overwhelm my enjoyment of the film) was concentrated in the middle where the tone shift happens. I thought the beginning and ending were great, and generally speaking it's the ending of a film that makes or breaks it for me. I was delighted that he didn't get cured - you just know he would have done if D9 had been made in Hollywood.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 3:58 AM
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I personally would give my left testicle* to see more film like District 9 get made.
(* Offer void in markets outside of Antarctica and the Jovian moons.)

ALL THESE TESTICLES ARE YOURS - EXCEPT DS'. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED MONOLITH | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 5:34 AM
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