Allegory vs. Action

BizazarroLast night I went to see District 9, the new semi-sleeper science fiction action film that movie industry wonks are salivating over for its relatively cheap budget and efficient production. I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

In short, I really like the concept, and I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so. But then, the film turned into a nerve-wracking, over-the-top action flick that had me clawing the upholstry off the armrests and wishing I'd brought some valium. It ramped up to a fever pitch to the point where for the last 40 minutes or so it was nonstop explosions, gunfire, bodies bursting into splashes of red goo, robots and aliens ripping things apart, and lots of screaming and yelling. Basically, it became pretty much just like every other Hollywood summer action blockbuster. Oh but it only cost $30 million to make! hurrah!

I went to see it because the premise was interesting. It was clearly an allegory about racism, xenophobia, and immigration, along with a healthy dose of criticism about privatization of public spheres, arms dealing, and multinational capitalist corporatism. But it went from biting social criticism to largely gratuitous and pointless ultra-violence. The story could have easily been told without 90% of the death and gore that was graphically displayed, singeing the eyeballs of viewers and inducing PTSD for days to come.

Can't a story be science fiction without also being a "thriller" or "horror"? Can't we just explore ideas without pumping ourselves full of adrenalin with guts and things blowing up?

I guess the secret bright side is this: all the teenagers and other immature moviegoers who actually LIKE that sort of crapola might also be encouraged by the film to think about some of the social issues it brings up. Like is it okay to treat differently people that don't look like us? Or is everyone entitled to basic decency? If middle-american dork-boys can be persuaded to feel that even the gnarly greenish insectoid creatures in the movie deserve to not be abused and oppressed, maybe that will be an important step forward for human rights.

re: Allegory vs. Action

I had a similar reaction to you. I could have done with a lot more info about the alien culture, how they were assimilated (or not) into our world, what the rest of the world outside Johannesburg was reacting, etc. It seemed like the director was deliberately ignoring stuff like that so he could concentrate on the main action-packed story. If you haven't seen it you might want to check out the original short film that the director made before this film. On YouTube (for now) at:

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