Last day of summer (academic time, nothing to do with the Autumn Equinox) I went to see District 9. Wow! This is what science fiction is for: take some idea, any idea, and throw the twist of new science into the mix. Stir, boil, and see what happens. In this case, the central events take place in the midst of a refugee camp. The twist: the refugees are aliens with advanced technology but no clear leadership.
Naturally, it is the presence of the alien technology that drives the plot, and in our modern world, military tech is what the humans always strive for. There is some seriously great weaponry effects on hand here, the kind you can't see in something like G.I. Joe because District 9 is an R and G.I. Joe isn't.
But even more fun was reading the reviews afterwards. This is not a straight forward allegory simply because nothing like this exists on Earth. For me, that is what the best science fiction is about: when an utterly new situation arises because of the introduction of elements that are possible, but have never occurred. But for a generation of movie critics raised on Star Trek, science fiction is supposed to be a pure allegory for our current political and social situation, without the messiness that arises when things just do not translate.
Much as I loathe much of the Sci-Fi (not SyFy) channel's approach to science fiction, their ad campaign, "What if?", captures the essence of what the best in science fiction is all about, and District 9 is full of what if.
Now to the mechanics of the movie: District 9 is presented as a faux documentary, and that makes the special effects even more important. They've imported several important ideas. First, effects shouldn't look too good. You can barely see the mothership in some shots because of the haze over Johannesborg. That's a good thing, as it makes the effects seem much more real.
Also, sometimes the camera catches the action, sometimes it doesn't. This keeps the viewer off balance, and is a visual clue that perhaps that this is not all that the viewer is missing.
The story contains a wonderful expository style. The "documentarians" assume the viewer knows the basics of the story already, and so skips over details that someone in the world of the film would already know. This means that the information that is presented comes at a breakneck pace, and not always in the form you expect. For instance, the only clue to the viewer that the aliens landed in 1982? A quick video code shown on inserted footage to the documentary.
Rating: 5 out of 5