Monday, August 17, 2009

What's A Nubian?

District 9(2009)Directed By Neill Blomkamp

District 9, is an ambitious flop. A clever concept squandered, visually and conceptually. When the film could explore a fascinating meeting of human and alien worlds, it reverts to easy suspense and action cliches. Regardless of whether or not this was inspired by South African Apartheid by the end it feels like every action film we've seen this summer, in a new locale (though these films love an "exotic locale"). Neill Blomkamp is a South African, which I suppose accounts for the "freshness" of the concept, perspective, and location, but he is also a director of the mini-movies you see between levels on video games like Halo.He has some interesting short films up on YouTube, one of which was the basis for this film. As a short subject it worked fine, the jarring documentary realism next to faded cg effects was indeed novel, but rather than expand the story past the gimmick and pitch of "oppressed aliens", he opts for giving us one fight scene, to showcase his expertise with handling action scenes. This inorganic showing off, fills out the later half of District 9 as well, with bodies that go splat, and the finally alien looking aliens in the sci-fi film anthromorphised, like a talking penguin or any other animated pal. Needless to say the short film works much better.Instead of taping into the raw psychological power of transformation like David Cronenberg's "The Fly", District 9, wants to tell us that inside of every alien freak is a white dunder-headed blue collar worker hopelessly and helplessly in over his head, which is all well and good, but bodies are not robot armor that can be put on and discarded, we wear them till the end (plastic surgery not withstanding).I'm reminded of a scene in "Chasing Amy", were a gay black man in order to sell his comics, and establish credibility, leads an afro-centric tirade about Star Wars "Darth Vader; the blackest man in the universe, with a booming black voice, down with the force and all that good shit. And then in Jedi, what do you find out, inside he's a shriveled up old white man.It's like they're telling us inside we all wanna be white."Though dubious for Star Wars, this rational is very apparent in the end of District 9, where in the final scene, we view a "prawn" digging through garbage (who may be our hero post-transformer) and for the first time, can imagine superimposed under his insect eyes, the "human" looking back at us. Instead of confronting the otherness of the "prawns", and how hard it would be to understand creatures or peoples who DON'T think, act, look, just like whatever dominant culture you come from, were invited along on a buddy buddy crash course like Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour, accept with a man and a giant bug.The film would rather show us the "prawn" version of a barbie doll, than address what gender might mean for insect monsters from the stars. United by laser canons and comic relief, the flying saucer to brotherhood flies on.There was a movie in the 80's called Enemy Mine, were two enemies one human the other a reptile/alien/thing end up crashed on the same planet and to have put aside their differences and fight for survival, over the years coming to accept and depend on another, etc.The man ends up having to raise the alien child as his own, but according to it's mother/father(they are an a-sexual race) condition that it be sure to memorize it's culture's history through an oath, which must be repeated to gain admittance in their world.It's not a very good film, but it's a unique approach to a well worn alien vs. human scenario, and that alone has endeared it past it's marginal space in the dollar bin.District 9 will be remembered long after Enemy Mine is forgotten but it won't be for any of it's ideas, but for it sfx. Though amusing at times, D9 doesn't know how to expand on it's central concept, and just relies on tried and true standards, Mech-Suits and some hazy memories of racial injustice for Bloomkamp, and savage beastly Nigerian cannibals straight outta King Kong's Skull Island for Peter Jackson.It's disappointing because I like a few out there, had some high hopes this may offer something different, but it's basically more of the same. I did like that what appeared to the humans as the aliens, like roaches digging through garbage, was actually them salvaging parts from their own ships and recombining them with human refuse to build new devices and weapons.One man's trash, etc. I even liked the evocation of "AIDS" panic as our hero is suspected of sleeping with the alien, and contracting a dangerous pandemic. But instead of exploring the camp of District 9, it's peoples, culture, or relation to the human world around it through the mockumentary form, the film follows it's human lead down the path of splat and explode shoot em up, like bugs on a windshield.It's clever at times, and wins points for aspiring, however haphazard and insipidly to social allegory of dispossession, and something more relevant than pushing action figures (I informed quite a few people what "apartheid" was, while discussing this in the months of it's add campaign, who otherwise might not have asked). But this novel PSA had it's day in the sun with "Alive In Johannesburg", and stretched to an additional hour and a half, doesn't improve it any.

Chasing Amy (1997)"Whats A Nubian?":

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