Monday, August 17, 2009
Amidst the sea of positive reviews, a few lone vessels carry a different message: District 9 is undeserving of the praise it's receiving. While it surely meets and exceeds the expectations for a "summer blockbuster," the reviewers attempting to describe the film as anything but just that, a summer blockbuster, are painting an inaccurate picture. Director Neil Blomkamp has constructed a flawed film that resorts to stereotypical undertones which seem out of place in such a state-of-the-art project.
District 9's most serious problem comes with the film's portrayal of racial groups, specifically, the portrayal of all Nigerians as violent, cannibalistic savages. Within the ninth district, the area of Johannesburg where the government have placed the extraterrestrials, a gang of Nigerians (the only Nigerians represented in the film and who are only referred to as "Nigerians") extort the "prawns" through food scams and unfair trades.
Besides their shady business deals, the entire Nigerian people are shown as voodoo/black magic practicing madmen. A wild-maned woman dances around holding a bloody alien limb, encouraging the gang leader to feast upon the meat in order to gain supernatural powers. The scene is reminiscent of the James Bond film Live and Let Die as well as countless older films and cartoons in which the dark man is depicted as savage.
It's also not okay to subtitle the Nigerian characters when they speak English--especially when the equally incomprehensible white characters are not.
One reviewer who's been receiving much flack for his negative review of District 9 is New York Press' Armond White. His review, entitled, "From Mothership to Bullship" has sparked a lot of controversy and name-calling. The whole mess escalated as Roger Ebert stepped to White's defense only to renege shortly after. Campaigns have been organized against White and hoards of online scribes have called for his job.
What is it about D9 that's causing so many intelligent people to act so defensive/hostile against naysayers? Is it because the film takes place outside of the U.S.? Because it features arguably inaccurate allegories involving South African apartheid? Or are bloggers just really happy to see a sci-fi flick a little different than the rest? Whatever it is, the swarm of praise is getting ridiculous and what's disappointing about the whole situation is that films like Bigelow's The Hurt Locker will get pushed aside when it comes time to remember Summer '09.