Friday, August 14, 2009

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

"District 9" has had one of the better promotional campaigns in recent memory. Through a combination of viral videos and a little ambiguity, "District 9" seemed poised to be the sleeper hit of the summer. What is delivered, however, falls flat of that potential.

While the film sports slick special effects, it loses steam about 1/3 of the way through its 112 minute running time. The first act focuses on an alien race landing on Earth and settling into South Africa and how humanity deals with the sudden influx and shock. This gives way to settlement camps and ghettos (District 9) constructed to house the aliens which eventually gives way to a new camp which features less space and more surveillance (District 10).

The special effects are some of the best I've seen, whether it's a science fiction film, actioner, or any drab experimental piece. All of that loses its luster, however, when the movie goes from a critical social commentary to a first-person shooter game. As each new scene began in the second and third acts, I was already prepared for the action to be similar to a new level on a video game. Each scene featured an objective, usually preposterous, but that will generally be lost on an audience awed by the special effects and life-like quality of the alien race.

I was really hoping this film would bridge the gap of alien films (Alien to Mac & Me), but instead it plays like Max Payne. It's worth seeing for the SFX, which I'm sure required 1000s of man hours to perfect, but the story just falls short. Rent it.

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