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District 9 back to reviews
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half great, the other half, not so.
The first half of this movie, a mockumentary with big dollops of social satire on the side, is excellent. I also liked the body horror elements, which worked extremely well. My hope was that our protagonist would slowly realise the suffering of the "prawn" who hurt just as much as humans, but would be ultimately powerless to stop the banality of evil. Instead, the film becomes reliant on stock devices and overused action tropes. The most appalling was the absurd General Ripper Colonel, a character who was such a two dimensional asshole, it was numbingly obviously that he was going to end up with a spectacular karmic death. That's why I didn't really care when he did. The film did its action extremely well, and even with a comparatively tiny budget, this film somehow managed to make mecha fighting that far surpasses that of Transformers. But saying that, the action just seemed out of place in the context of the movie.

The problem was that the movie proposed a simple solution to save all the aliens in one go, which jarred with the anti-apartheid theme. There was no easy escape from real life apartheid, so I found this ending bittersweet. Ultimately, I wanted there to be a downer ending which more accurately reflected the hopelessness of it all, like in the apartheid in novel A dry White Season, and not some "happy" ending with heroes rising for freedom and slaughtering all the evil baddies like Braveheart.

i thought the ending was pretty sad... only two of the aliens manage to run away, with only the promise of coming back 3 years later to save the rest (we never see if they do), and the protagonist ends up completing the transformation to an alien... and the aliens are still locked up
comment #979 kuroyume 13th Sep 09
Seriously. The movie had a downer ending. Did you walk out right at the end of the climactic battle or something? There's a spark of hope, sure, but... it isn't as you say it is.
comment #990 Dracomicron 14th Sep 09
I agree. I mean, yes, the ending was somewhat happy, but making it Grim Dark and edgy would be annoying, especially for a movie this action-oriented. If it focused more on the suffering and terror (by more, I mean, make it the complete point of the film), yes.
comment #1009 Dick Richardson 17th Sep 09
Oh come on, we are talking about TV land here. A "spark of hope" is the same as a Million To One Chance, which is the same as a dead certainty. Don't believe me? The characters repeatedly defy all odds stacked against them throughout the film. That's why the movie loses its credibility in the second half. The ending may be dressed up as a downer, but the coming sequel will have to pull a serious dick move if they want a genuinely sad resolution to the plot.
comment #1012 maninahat 17th Sep 09
I try not to judge a movie by its as-of-yet-unmade theoretical potential sequel.
comment #1013 Dracomicron 17th Sep 09
Neither do I. My point was that the "glimmer of hope" might as well be the brilliant beacon of likelyhood, and that we haven't seen a genuinely sad ending to the plot unless a sequel is made in which the whole "glimmer of hope" (a potential cosmic get-out-of-jail-free-card for the aliens) is completely shot down.
comment #1014 maninahat 17th Sep 09
I'm just saying that, in classic space opera terms, they skipped A New Hope and went straight to Empire Strikes Back. I don't consider this to be a bad thing.
comment #1015 Dracomicron 17th Sep 09
Now, if you had seen it before tvtropes ruined your life, would you have liked it better?
comment #1398 alcatrazz 29th Nov 09
Is it a spark of hope or a downer ending if the aliens come back and bomb the hell out of earth?
comment #1408 174.21.37.104 1st Dec 09
Ohh gawd, the action, was so well choreographed, blah blah budget. I can NOT wait for the aliens to come back and bomb the hell out of earth. Downer ending? maybe, greatest alien invasion story ever? YES
comment #1410 59.154.24.147 2nd Dec 09
Why does it even have to have a sad ending to be good? Is true art really angsty?
comment #1623 76.184.250.63 7th Jan 10
Actually, the whole General Ripper thing made me all the more excited to see him die. And the ending...I think they left it ambiguous enough. Sure, Christopher's a good guy, but how could we be sure his homeworld's government wouldn't immediately declare war on Earth? That's the humans' fear at the end of the documentary. And I agree with the above comment; the movie doesn't have to have a horrible, everyone's dead and the prawns are doomed ending for it to be satisfying. Kinda sad that has to be said.
comment #1786 Skaterpen 1st Feb 10
Err, it does have to have a sad ending if it hopes to emulate the apartheid (which it totally was). My issue is that the movie implies racist oppressors can simply be beaten by running and gunning through them in one afternoon. That isn't how real life works. If you want to make a movie from the perspective of a real life oppressed group, you have to obey the harsh realities of life, and that includes accepting how horribly hopeless the fighting was. Black South Africans did not have a mecha to cliimb into. Though I suppose District 9 did have a white guy to come along and lead the fight for them, so there's that.
comment #12537 maninahat 27th Jan 12 (edited by: maninahat)
I'm sorry, I can't stop laughing.
comment #12540 VeryMelon 27th Jan 12
At some point, one has to see it as a sci-fi story as well as a take on real life issues.

Besides, if it exactly emulated what it's based on, it'd be too depressing to watch. Heck, it only barely escaped that as it is.
comment #15490 OrKuunArQenByundis 23rd Jul 12
We see these sorts of movies done quite a lot: Braveheart and Avatar are also action movies based around real world events. But they get away with having implausible, ludicrous, exciting action because they pick less familiar events from far in the past, and they make the subject generic enough to not grate with the historical reality. District 9 makes the dual mistake of being based on a fairly recent event, and being a little too on the nose in its setting. If you make a film that way, you tend to need more sober, sensitive introspection, and fewer big launching robots.
comment #15493 maninahat 23rd Jul 12
It's not supposed to be a straight up allegory. The Apartheid themes are used more as a historical backdrop. You can't have laser deaths and space mechas mixed in with realish Africa and expect everything to translate. District 9 is a Sci Fi story first.

Didn't the writer say that it wasn't supposed to be an allegory?
comment #19446 Ryuhza 20th May 13
The spark of hope thing is that "some time someone might be able to come back," not "the magic macguffin survived." The one person who could save the prawns is a liar who will do whatever it takes to get home (remember how he promised to cure Wikus only to leave him behind). This is a very iffy thing. It would be wrong to ignore the possibility that something might get better. As for the actionized finale, yeah it looks all action-y but we see by the end, the whistleblowers are in jail, and the aliens are still stuck in a slum. To be blunt, all the fighting against the bad guys was for a big colossal "maybe" that has not done much in the following years.
comment #19451 fenrisulfur 20th May 13
well, the thing here is that a downer will have ruin the whole apartheid theme because in the end, south africa manage to end it even with less blood thatr ficcion shows, also, what is with the whole "make the ending sad so it can make a message to people" some times it seem that the aseop have to be grimdark in order to fit
comment #24327 unknowing 9th May 14
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