This weekend, I did something I haven’t done for what feels like at least a year. And I did it two nights running. Ladies and gentlemen, this Friday and Saturday, I went to the cinema. In a world of video piracy and mass filesharing; actually deciding to go out and spend $20 on a film where you may get kicked in the back of your seat multiple times (and may end up hating anyway) hasn’t really been top of my list on a Friday night. But this weekend, Sweet and I went for a couple of good old fashioned dates. Friday, I got to pick. I scanned the Free Press and landed on the one that I knew nothing about other than the fact it got numerous five star reviews from pretty reputable places, and it was written by Nick Hornby.
An Education held a lot of promise – a great cast (including Carey Mulligan of recent Doctor Who fame, the bad guy off of Flightplan, and Emma Thompson, who I’ve always loved dearly. It was a nice enough story set in ‘60s England, about a girl with a strong academic background who meets a glamourous older chap, who takes her to Paris, proposes marriage and encourages her to give up school. Relatively low-key, slightly underwhelming (the “bad guy” doesn’t even turn into a psycho stalker, and after dropping out of school she still ends up with a place at Oxford), but nice nonetheless.
But then we decided to do it all over again. Saturday afternoon, like the old people at heart we truly are, we grabbed a couple of toonies and hit the cheap seats, where we opted for District 9. I’d read a bit about it when it came out a few months ago; from what I knew, Peter Jackson had gone off to South Africa to film a Halo-based movie, but something had gone wrong with copyrights and that sort of thing, and he’d done a different movie instead. What resulted was what I can only say was THE single best sci-fi movie I have ever seen in my LIFE, and for the next couple of weeks I request you ALL go and catch this before it leaves the big screens.
It was incredible. With sci-fi movies (and television), my general experience is that big blockbusters with lots of special effects and generic good guys vs. bad aliens formulas have always won over mass audiences, while more “intellectual” storylines in Star Trek and X Files episodes are the nerd armies’ best kept secret. Sci-fi that makes you think is generally thought of as “for the geeks” or turned into a cult classic, never reigning the box office or drawing in a nation on a Saturday night. District 9 may just change everything. It’s comparatively low budget ($30 million) to other recent sci-fi movie endeavours (Transformers 2 had $380 million to play with), and cast with a bunch of no-names whose lead actor has never before graced the screen. There’s no outer-space warfare, or journeys to other planets, and the only things getting blown up leave you questioning your morality with a sense of enormous discomfort.
I’m not going to tell you what happens in the movie. They cleverly omitted the major plotline from the trailer, which made for enormous surprise, and I think with good reason. But I’ve never seen anything like this. This is a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking political commentary, which, unusually, paints us as the bad guys. It will tug and tear at your emotions as you feel for computer-generated characters who don’t actually exist, don’t render any sort of human facial expressions, and don’t speak. You’ll fall in love with these characters based on nothing but subtitles, which in my mind, says a hell of a lot about the quality of the script. This film is stunningly original and can easily put a good number of larger blockbusters to shame with its performance, intelligence, emotion and imagination. It’s pretty gory, and I was definitely rather uncomfortable at several points, but anything that causes such a reaction based on raising questions of our capability to be so inhumane is fully justified. Plus, I’m a girl. I get squeamish pretty easily. But I’ve never been so moved by what initially looked like such a boys’ movie. I’ve never seen anything so action-packed and at the same time so reflective, so soulful, and so emotional. I’ve never been prouder to be a sci-fi geek. Bring on District 10. I’ll be one of the thousands queuing up for advance tickets that’ll sell out faster than any Star Wars movie in box office history.