This is going to be a short review, and only somewhat spoilery, considering that I walked out 45 minutes before District 9 ended. It was obviously technically brilliant; I’ve never seen effects like that, and I was shocked at their effectiveness. The constant shots of the mothership looming over Johannesburg were just breathtaking.
And, I thought it was an emotionally absorbing film – too absorbing, for me. That’s why I bailed; I couldn’t stop crying after one pivotal scene for the alien the humans called Christopher. There was something so heartbreaking about the moment, and so disgusting about the humans who’d gotten him into this predicament, and it hit about fifteen repulsion buttons of mine, so I fled not long after. I know how the film ended; I know that most reviews say the part I missed was the weakest part of the movie.
The whole thing made me extraordinarily thoughtful. I’m still parsing through lots of blog entries regarding racism in the movie, and I’m certainly not at a point that I could speak intelligently about it. I do know that the first thing I think of when someone mentions South Africa is apartheid, and given my age, I doubt that will ever change. I know that the juxtaposition of the white talking head authorities (both in the company in the film and as commentators in the documentary framework) and the Nigerian gangsters made me hugely uncomfortable.
Mostly, I just empathized so quickly, so immediately with the aliens that I could not, in any way, sympathize with the main human character (though his physical predicament, and his treatment by his fellow humans, left me shaking and horrified). I could not empathize with his dilemma in the least, which is odd for me. I can usually find something to (ha) humanize, in almost every character of stage, screen, or page. But the main human character was so relentlessly horrid – though now I am remembering his devotion to his wife – and caused so much hurt and pain. It gets me going emotionally again, just to think about it.
Don’t go if you hate shakycam – one of our party had to leave early because of that, and we both sat in the lobby of the theater fiddling with our iphones until our other friends emerged. Don’t go if you (like me) have major squick buttons about people transforming into not-people.
It’s a brutal, effective, scary, technically well done film, but I had nightmares for two days afterward, and I sort of wish I hadn’t seen it.