I disliked District 9 from the start, but it took until about an hour in for me to reach the “I really might leave this theater” stage.
Mild spoilers, but not as many as the Rolling Stone review.
1. It’s a personal take on sci-fi, except we’re made to dislike the extremely unsympathetic protagonist very early on. A mid-flick attempt to humanize him (pun) didn’t work for me, as he only seemed repentant as a result of his torturous conditions and quickly reverted to being an ass whenever possible.
We’re left with only a vaguely personal connection to a shallowly defined alien sidekick and a well-executed CG tiny alien tot. (The best scene in the movie is when we first visit their home, and find the pair of them to be defiantly intelligent. Well-scripted and -played.)
2. The transition from documentary to omniscient perspective was clumsy – only made worse by continuing use of documentary devices, eventually leading to a transition back to documentary.
3. The documentary portion is too caught up in it’s tasteless racist (speciesist?) humor, and not interested in enough in its characters. Yes, we get it, subhuman treatment of non-humans is a lot like subhuman treatment of people that are different than us. Were you that afraid the theme wouldn’t play to the back row?
(That said, I did love the abortion joke. Most big summer flicks would never go there.)
4. The movie is gross just to be gross. Gore and splatter is one thing, but did we really need the constant vomiting, dripping, severing, and devouring of unsightly food? Again, gimmick in lieu of plot.
5. The major plot maguffin is a complete deus ex machina, which would maybe be forgivable if it wasn’t for all of the antogonists being completely fucking obsessed with the effects of said maguffin.
6. There isn’t a single good bit of dialog in the entire movie, which leaves the audience to be dragged along for the (yes, frequently compelling) ride rather than strongly engaged and eager to follow. They say “fucking” more than I say “awesome.”
7. Aliens are shown to be viciously strong, except where it doesn’t suit the continually contrived story.
8. The action set pieces just didn’t sizzle – lots of noise and wonderful effects, but the confrontations themselves were one-dimensional.
9. The exploding people trick was just done by Watchmen, though I think it was executed better here. Still, shock value was lost.
I’m in the minority to the tune of 80/20 per the TomatoMeter; the review I agree with most completely is Vancouver Voice:
It’s a bore. Blomkamp offers up an ugly world, poorly photographed. There is more debris, more smudged faces, more gore effects packed into this film than are conceivable in the worlds of, say, Ulli Lommel and Lloyd Kaufman. Worse, nothing happens in this film that the viewer can’t anticipate after the first 15 minutes. It’s mockumentary style is rendered inconsistently since there are scenes shot in mock style but to which the implied filmmakers couldn’t have had access. And, like most so-called science fiction these days, it is really a war story in scientific drag. … [T]he narrative eventually devolves into one of those long CGI fight scenes that at least a portion of the viewing public is finding repetitious and uncreative. The film is also achingly obvious in its political message.
Biggest plus? Constant subtitling, of both aliens and hard-to-understand humans. I’ve been watching movies with subtitles for over ten years; I’d watch every movie and tv show that way if I could.