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Posted by GrumpySteen (Member # 170) on August 29, 2009, 15:29:
 
Let me preface this by saying that this movie is more grungy future fantasy and not science fiction. I say science fiction through this, but there's no attempt to make things scientifically plausible in the movie.

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I went to this movie with two other people. Both of them hated it, but I thought it was really good. I think a lot of the difference in opinion was due to the fact that I had very different expectations going in than the other two.

My companions expected an action movie. In the words of one, "A big spaceship hovers over a city, then there's aliens and shooting, like Independence Day. I expected something like that." I went in expecting a movie that illustrated racism in a somewhat objective way. In reality, the movie does a bit of both.

The last third of the movie does have a fair amount of action in it, but that seemed out of place to me. The first two thirds provide a variety of thought-provoking situations, but then the last third pretty much asks you to put away your thoughts and be excited about things going boom. Watching it twice might be good, but I haven't done that yet so I'm not sure.

The action itself was a longish version of the running shootout that action movies increasingly tend resort to rather than things like "plot" and "dialog". Still, there was some cleverness to it and it was made a bit more interesting by the use of a big <spoiler left out>. In the end, however, there's a bit of deus ex machina that left me wondering <minor almost-spoiler> "why the hell didn't they do that instead of trying to fly that thing?"

I looked at the trailer, which I hadn't seen prior to seeing the movie. It does make it look a lot more like an action film than it is, which explains the expectations of the other two. I'm not sure what the point of mis-representing the genre a movie belongs to is, because it always seems to result in the wrong audience showing up, the film getting very bad word-of-mouth reviews and undermining the potential profit. It's not like other thoughtful, non-action oriented movies have become huge hits, after all, even in the US.

Anyway.

Much of the movie is an examination of racism through the interaction of aliens and humans. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important tropes in science fiction. By using aliens for one or both sides of an emotional issue, it gives the viewer a degree of objectivity that they may not normally have.

One thing I liked about the depictions of the aliens and the humans was that each side is imperfect. Unlike some movies that use racism as part of the plot, neither side is entirely likable. In fact, there's much to dislike on both sides. The question of what is and isn't justified is not always clear and the viewers are left to make up their own minds.

One of the people I went with initially thought it made sense to confine the aliens to a walled-in compound because, in her words, "they live lick cockroaches, digging in the filth and fighting over garbage." I pointed out that they had been locked away in the compound and no significant source of income to buy things with and that humans, in the same circumstances, dig through garbage, build shanty towns and live much the same way. She didn't know what to say about that, but clung to the NIMBY attitude that is so prevalent in our society.

So... if you want a movie that can (but doesn't necessarily) inspire some thoughtful contemplation of man's inhumanity to man with a bit of an action movie for dessert, this movie is a good choice. If you want just one or the other, you might find yourself disappointed (particularly if it's the action movie that you're wanting).

Oh... one more thing? There's a lot of swearing, blood, limbs and other body parts in the movie. If you're very sensitive, it's maybe not a good choice. Definitely not a good choice for young kids. The movie earns its R rating.
 
Posted by Xanthine (Member # 736) on August 29, 2009, 15:36:
 
quote:
Originally posted by GrumpySteen:

One of the people I went with initially thought it made sense to confine the aliens to a walled-in compound because, in her words, "they live lick cockroaches, digging in the filth and fighting over garbage." I pointed out that they had been locked away in the compound and no significant source of income to buy things with and that humans, in the same circumstances, dig through garbage, build shanty towns and live much the same way. She didn't know what to say about that, but clung to the NIMBY attitude that is so prevalent in our society.

It's alarming that some people need to have that spelled out, especially since the movie was written by South Africans who very deliberately chose Johannesburg as the setting. I know some people who walked out, or hated it, because they couldn't come to grips with that, or just didn't want to face that aspect of humanity. But you have to. We can't even treat different racial groups of humans like humans. Why would we be any better towards the aliens?

As far as the deus ex machina goes, that may have been Christopher's plan from the get-go, but Christopher's plan got fscked up.

The things going boom at the end was mildly irritating, but, in truth, none of the violence seemed all that gratuitous to me. The situation depicted was a breeding ground for violence.
 


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