Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prawn Crackers, Anyone?

Even from the trailer, District 9 is clearly an allegory about racial discrimination and the injustice of segregation, ironically set in the home of apartheid, South Africa. It’s just set in a way cooler milieu of science fiction; here the disenfranchised is not just a race, it’s a species.

In previous movies the message is driven home when someone from the Establishment gets immersed in the world of the Outsiders (usually on the run because he’s falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit). His and the audiences’ eyes are opened to the humanity of the Outsiders, and the message “They’re not much different from us” is hammered home. But what if the Outsiders are literally aliens?

Happily this movie produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neil Bloomkamp is not just an allegory, but also a cracking summer movie. Even when the movie reveals the aliens to have human characteristics and values despite their cockroach-meets-shrimp exoskeletons and their clicking-and-computer-choppy-sounding voices, this message isn’t hammered into our heads. Instead, it’s tucked in with your edge-of-your-seat action sequences, bad-ass weaponry and a Terminator-like baddie. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the movie’s insight that humans can be the more cruel species; rather, the movie’s triumph is to weave that seamlessly within the summer movie framework.

And what a visceral movie! Those with faint of heart may look away at certain scenes involving organic projectiles and flying body parts both human and non-human. But the action and suspense are first-rate, and several times I was wriggling in my seat.

A few minor quibbles I had: the transition for “live footage” to documentary style hand-held camera work was pretty seamless, but it did pull me out of the experience of the movie for a few seconds. When the camera became a third-person omnipotent POV, certain narrative devices became too obvious (for example, how coincidental that Wikus, played brilliantly by the soon-to-cease-to-be-an-unknown Sharlto Copley, should “stumble” upon that all-important shack).

And I wonder what kind of movie it would have been if the Prawns (the derogatory term for the aliens) were really alien even in their objectives? That they motivations were even more inscrutable? That they didn’t have noble human values? But that’s something for another set of filmmakers to make.

Meanwhile, go watch District 9, but make sure you don’t go in on a full stomach. And don’t eat crustaceans afterwards.

4 comments:

Ben R. said...

As a fan of the Xbox games and novels "Halo," it was particularly interesting to see Bloomkamp's work. Peter Jackson signed on with Microsoft to do the movie version of the videogame 2-3 years ago(which features an aliens vs. human theme) and then backed out from directing the movie and designated Bloomkamp as director who at the time was a virtual unknown. Microsoft shelved it thinking the young director couldn't handle it. Obviously, I'm guessing many Halo fans and Microsoft are regretting that decision. The guy's obviously got talent.

<*period*>; said...

now i understand why my 'stalker' always mention about the mcvie show

read some of your posts before i decided to put a comment

and, though i may never know the people in the 'show', and ive never experienced the 'malate kind of life', i was entertained

brutally honest but never offensive

powerful yet entertaining

funny but informative

thank you for sharing this blog to PLU's like us

godspeed

joelmcvie said...

@<*period*>; Thanks! Now I'm curious who your "stalker" is, hehehe.

<*period*>; said...

im not really sure if you know him..he's a kababayan from batangas, a menor de edad who enjoys reading your blog..he's a good friend of mine..i call him stalker kasi wala sa tamang oras kung magtext.minsan kung kailan madaling araw saka nambubulabog...he's a PLU and sobra siyang naiintriga sa buhay malate..gusto niyang dalhin ko siya dun

little did he know that at my age, ive never been to malate

...not even experienced the 'nightlife' in that place

anyways, see continue writing and inspiring.

godspeed