Like: District 9

So I’ve missed the last few weekends of movies and am going back to furiously catch up.

Starting with District 9, which is astoundingly good.

I’m not sure I can add anything to discussion, people seem to love the serious sci-fi angle on this this (relatively) low budget and rather unlikely blockbuster.

But I just found it to be doing so many interesting things so let’s go to bullet form:

-This is the best CGI I’ve ever seen. Hands down. The close ups of the bugs are photoreal. You’d swear they were prosthetic or practical effects, but nope. CGI. James Cameron should be ashamed of himself, spending 450 million to make “photoreal” cgi and instead his Na’vi from Avatar look like damn cartoons. He was utterly bested by a south african filmmaker with 30 millions dollars and hell of a lot more smarts. So how did this guy do it? Care, mostly. Rely on less CGI shots, spend more time on them, opt for a non-glamorous shooting style, go for an alien design that caters much better to CGI (ie bugs), and it helps to have WETA on your side, who in my mind is easily the best effects studio working today.

-Lots of great tone jumping. You don’t really notice it like you would in other films, but by keeping the docu-like form and cinematography the filmmakers afford themselves the ability to jump tones, and even narrative to a degree, all while keeping a cohesive singular movie. It’s just so exceptionally well done and I don’t really think people realize how vibrant and stark the sense of humor is in some of the scenes (the prawns living habits, the main prawn father/son interactions). Like I said the whole docu vibe affords them a lot of leeway. Just a brilliant move.

-Speaking of the “Shaky” cinematography, THIS is how you do it (Booooo Cloverfield). They know just exactly how to hold the camera with a slightly wider shot and focus in when focusing is important (it only gets real shaky with intentional bumps). Just lights out work, and believe me they worked on this over and over again until they got it right. Loved it.

-Lots of great violence. I’m not some guy who just sees movies like this for it’s action, but boy oh boy can a appreciate a film when it does it well. Blowing people up doesn’t have to be some mindless actioneering, but instead can be a cinematic, visceral and even cathartic film experience.¬† Like a pro, Blomkamp holds off most of this til the end and unleashes such a great last few acts.

-This movie has a lot in common with Starship Troopers (also just a great movie. I’m not kidding, the cartoony stuff just plays perfectly in that film. Verhoeven’s no dummy). D-9’s not going for the same satire angle, but there’s a lot of the same kinds of things being said about war mentalities, the “other”, etc.

-The movie somehow has just the right amount of sweetness too.

-Particularly loved the opening detail on their malnourishment as explanation, does so much explaining in a simple detail.

-Having Sharlto Copely, who plays the main guy Wikus, just absolutely NAIL the role has to help you out. It seriously wasn’t until this exact moment that I realized he was acting against nothing and completely sold his relationship with the main bug. It blows my mind. I seriously didn’t even think about it til right now… whoa… I had been thinking about his character arc and how he sold his development. Which is what you really should be thinking about and not the CGI. Just brilliant.

-As a historical lover of first person shooters, I could appreciate all the great inventive weapons in this. Fun stuff.

-That’s good for now I think. I really liked this well executed, and thoughtful movie. Sure the concepts at play aren’t exactly rocket science, but they sure aren’t banal and they used a valid sense of maturity and tact in dealing with them. Which is a HELL of a lot more you can say than most summer movies.

-Peter Jackson found a winner.

PS – A basterds blurb coming soon

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