"But the CGI is awesome." It was awesome in Tron, for its time, too. If you take out the CGI, you're left with a movie written by Roger Hargreaves about characters whose behavior and choices make no sense at all, ever.
II. Going For Oscar
But reviews of the movie have been overwhelmingly positive, not "awesome fight scenes" positive but "scathing social satire" and "indictment of man's inhumanity to man" positive, which makes me wonder if they saw a different movie? Or did I miss the real meat of the film because I left early when I realized this was not the sequel to V The Final Battle?
So I decided to try again, I told myself that there was going to be porn at the end of it, took off my pants, and watched. No, I didn't go back to the theatre; fortunately, the major studios have joined together and created a website called "The Pirate Bay" which allows you to watch a movie for free before you decide if you want to buy it from Amazon for 4 bucks.
On the second viewing I was able to see what all the fuss was about: this is the kind of movie the Oscars love.
Oscar Loves: Innocence Lost
The movie is about a race of aliens who do not speak English but do, unusually, speak Bantu, who park their spaceship above the city of Johannesburg and do nothing. The U.S., Russians, and Chinese choose not to get involved with this spaceship, respecting South Africa's sovereign borders and trusting them to be the Earth's ambassadors.
The central story concerns a little alien boy, whom the humans disparagingly refer to as "District 9," and his father, District 8, who escape to the set of Slumdog Millionaire and look for scraps to use to build a spaceship which will fly them back up to the mother ship. The kid has the technological know-how to build such a spaceship and later pilot it.
However, his father has to explain to him what "fuel" is, and where it goes. That conversation occurs while the kid is actually synthesizing the fuel in their basement lab.
Also, the kid doesn't know how many moons Earth has. You could say that since he's not from Earth he can't be expected to know how many moons Earth has, but I'm not from France and I know how many moons France has. If it was his father who didn't know, I could speculate maybe he's nearsighted or doesn't know how to count past zero, but the kid was born on earth, he's been here all his life.
At first I had thought this was a plot hole; but on second viewing I realized that the kid is meant to be retarded. Not full on retarded, not Down's Syndrome or Brad Pitt retarded, but Forrest Gump retarded. In other words, Academy Award winning retarded. Smart enough to build a spaceship but retarded enough that women will secretly want a man like him, right after they finish getting boned by a football team. This, of course, is a pointed critique of the Bush Administration.
Oscar Loves: Racism
Everyone knows that this movie is complex allegory about apartheid. What they may not know is that since target audience for the movie is the Academy of Motion Pictures, the movie delivers this message with the subtlety of getting bludgeoned with a pizza oven.
Or so I thought, at first; but then I saw the magic of the movie's subtext. The movie is a cinephile's Finnegan's Wake, a movie full of dream-like connections waiting for a postmodern deconstruction, or two guys with some weed.
The aliens, who in the movie like to eat cat food, represent blacks. If this thematic conceit startles you, you're going to want to take a Xanax before you hear the rest of it. These aliens are descended from the original Predator alien, a Rastafarian originally named Snoop Dogg, originally played by action star Jean Claude Van Damme, who, of course, is originally from South Africa. He quit the movie because the mask was too heavy, and the role went to a black guy named Bigfoot who then died of AIDS. (1)
The South Africans find that the aliens' weapons can only be used by those with alien DNA; but they also quickly discover that their own DNA makes them hate black people, in this case aliens. So they decide to herd them into a ghetto and fence it off. The writers of the movie cleverly mask this devastating critique of the Bush Administration by naming the ghetto "Gaza."
"District 9" is an allusion to the 9th district of New Orleans submerged by the movie Hurricane Katrina almost exactly 4 years ago; for this reason the aliens in the movie are referred to as "prawns." As everyone knows, prawns are delicious; this is why some of the black people in the movie try to eat them. This entire subtext is a blistering critique of the Bush Administration who, as early as 2001, had advocated for eating Katrina victims. As the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures once said, "George Bush hates black people. Especially delicious Iraqis."
The aliens are largely forgotten and ignored in the slum, despite their being, well, aliens, a fact you could be forgiven for assuming would prompt some curiosity. Not in South Africa. Blacks there are rarely considered curiosities. The only reason the South Africans begin worrying about them after 20 years is that the aliens start having sex with their women. Amazingly, that part isn't a joke.
Oscar Loves: The Secret Purpose of War
Here's a sure-fire plot to get an Oscar nomination: a story about the greedy South Africans, played by America, who try to evict all of the Districts out of their ghetto in order to build a Disneyland, as seen through the eyes of a child. This bit of eviction nastiness falls to Wikus van der Merwe, played by Blackwater USA (Best Supporting Actor nomination), who is so craven and petty that at one point he turns into a giant robot. This transformation is a scathing critique of the Bush Administration, who hate robots.
District 8 and 9 have no choice but to turn to the underworld, the "black" market, for the parts they need to build their spaceship. Because there are absolutely no such criminal gangs anywhere in South Africa, the Districts must travel all the way to Nigeria to find thugs willing to sell them the parts.
All the while, they are relentlessly pursued by Wikus and the Fox News team, who shoot and kill everything in sight just to feel the blood splatter on their faces. It nourishes them. They also want to get access to the aliens' weapons, which are infinitely more powerful than human weapons and which are laying around discarded everywhere in Johannesburg. The Districts themselves never use the weapons that they brought with them from space on their human pursuers, because they are a peaceful race, abhor war, and just want to return to their homeland. They do, however, throw rocks at them as they're being shot at by machine guns. Also, one dons a suicide vest and blows himself up in order to kill all the vampires. I'll admit that I may be confusing this with something I saw on CNN, but it could have happened in this movie, too. And as anyone with enough weed will tell you, umm... what? Either way, I think we all know what it says about the Bush Administration.
Oscar Loves: Finales That Make No Sense But Bow To the Political Fashion of The Academy That Particular Year
In this movie, not only do many humans die-- which prompted one not at all young but in all likelihood retarded moviegoer who had stumbled in from the next door Mrs. Field's Cookies to agree, "blast those motherfuckers!"-- not only are all humans depicted as corrupt Halliburton employees deserving of and receiving of death, but there is only one human in the whole movie who displays any goodness or nobility-- but he does so only after he becomes an alien. Think about this. I wish that there was a joke in there somewhere, but there isn't.
(1) You're not going to believe this, but that paragraph is almost completely true.