Saturday, February 13, 2010

On DVD: "District 9"

I’m incredibly late to the party on Neil Blomkamp’s District 9, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my initial reluctance to partake of it had a little something to do with the copious amounts of Peter Jackson all over the promotional materials. It is my lot in life to fight this battle alone, but I do not like Peter Jackson; I couldn’t it make it past the first part of his Lord of the Rings trilogy (that first film felt as long as any three other films), his King Kong remake was bloated, overlong, and the very definition of unnecessary, and the less said about the gooey mess that was The Lovely Bones, the better.

So I guess the good news—for Blomkamp, and for us—is that Jackson is a better producer than he is a director; District 9 is a sharp, well-made science fiction picture that is just as interested in ideas and storytelling as it is in blowing shit up. It is ingeniously told in a faux-documentary fashion, cleverly allowing that handheld, on-the-fly aesthetic to lend some weighty legitimacy to the scores of special effects. As a visualist, Blomkamp is no doubt skilled (Wikus’ trip through the lower depths of the hospital is filled with striking and haunting imagery), but he’s also a mature storyteller who doesn’t let the documentary style allow him to get lazy and obvious, the way some lesser filmmakers do. Freed from conventional exposition, Blomkamp trusts us to figure things out (along with his characters) as they happen, which is much more involving way to tell a story.

The narrative sucks us in so thoroughly, in fact, that we barely notice that by the second half of the picture, they’ve completely abandoned the documentary construct. And while I appreciate the fact that, on top of the filmmaking skill and the allegorical power, it’s also a pretty good barn-burner, I must add that we do feel the film slipping out of Blomkamp’s control at the climax—particularly when we start hearing lines like “I’m not gonna go without you” and “Go before I change my mind!” Those complaints aside, it’s a smart, tightly-crafted movie, and suggests that perhaps Mr. Jackson should consider quitting his day job.

"District 9" is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. For a more comprehensive look at the film and the disc, check out my buddy Jeremy's review at DVD Talk.

No comments:

Post a Comment