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District 3+1+2+3

August 29, 2009

Imagine that you can’t get Steve Carell (“The Office”) so you cast a talented wannabe clone as a bureaucratic dweeb teaming him up with Zoidberg from the animated “Futurama” then run the resulting movie through the effects departments of several of the leading CG houses and model builders with a little dash of “Star Wars” flair mixed with “Alien”, borrow the craft from “Close Encounters” and hover it over Johannesburg, South Africa with the righteous indignation of say “Hotel Rwanda”, wrap it in CNN style coverage, prop it with every manner of large caliber and automatic weapon from the Barrett to the M134 minigun all spitting ammunition freely as if  Gunny R. Lee Ermy operated each and every one; then add a spattering of heads-up displays from “Minority Report”-meets-touch-screen-election-coverage, and for fun throw in a large scale MECH (a human operated transformer-looking weapon-device), add to this the threat of a transformative disease and a redemptive ending taken from (take your pick here) “Hombre”, “Terminator” or “The Professional”, shoot it on the camera d’ jour, the “Red One” and you pretty much qualify to be the writer, producer, director, cinematographer, heck whatever you want, of “District 9”.

The miracle of “District 9” is that it was made for only 30 million dollars—granted, in a foreign country by foreigners– but you can’t hold that against the film makers, after all, what isn’t made that way these days.  Even the camera it was shot on, the “Red One”, an aggressively  American innovation, is outsourced to third world nations for production.

Ah, but the story, yes the spine of this patchwork of regurgitated glimpses from a not-so-distant Hollywood past, that heralds the future of digital film making as surely as naming a gas-powered vehicle a horseless carriage, the story is as uniquely American as fast food or to put it another way, nutritionless fodder.

Having run out of things to copy–cartoons like the Flintstones, or TV shows like “The Addams Family” and “Bewitched”, or literature as diverse as comic books and copyright-expired 19th century novels, Hollywood and it’s international clones are quickly gobbling themselves up at a furious rate remaking anything and everything that resembles a story, and while Tarantino defiantly copies himself, the boys from down under have cobbled together a movie parsed from other movie fragments, making “District 9” almost every bit as entertaining as say, “Junkyard Wars”.

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