There are too many things wrong with this movie, too many loopholes, too many questions. I understand what it was trying to do, but it had too many nagging things happening that didn't allow me to go with it.
In its TV ads, there's a quote that said that this was one of the most original movies of the year. Really? I don't think so. I'd hate to geek out on you, but, in this film, a black fluid infects a human being and turns him into an alien. Any sci-fi nerd worth his salt will tell you that this is exactly the plot of The X-Files, the TV series and the 1998 movie.
At the end, a human being goes underground and activates a space ship, which David Duchovny's character does in The X-Files. The only difference is in this film the ship lifts out the dirt of Johannesburg, South Africa. In the 1998 The X-Files movie, the ship lifts out the ice in Wilkes Land, Antarctica.
Some might argue that this is the first time that a human and aliens have been in this kind of situation, or have teamed up like this. Fans of Star Trek, the various TV shows and movies, would argue differently. This film tries to be clever and hip, and, at moments, it achieves that, but I would say it's hardly original.
The whole movie is shot like a documentary. For the past decade, there have been a ton of movies- both large and small- that have been shot like this. It was clever and hip back in 2005. Now, it's just hackneyed and annoying. Personally, I'm sick of it. I like documentaries, but I think I like cameras on tripods more.
The film also goes out of its way to be the anti-Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It doesn't want its aliens thought as bright and benevolent beings.
On the other hand, it doesn't want its aliens to be like those in Independence Day (1996). It doesn't want its aliens to be this big, evil, invading force. The film wants to depict its aliens as regular, poor, misunderstood and mistreated scavengers, like those you'd find in the slums of third world countries like India or South Africa.
Director Neill Blomkamp is from South Africa. This movie is set entirely in that country. It seems the aliens here are metaphors for the plight of people he's seen in his homeland. There's of course no better way to come off as hip and clever than to be all metaphorical and touch upon real world, social issues.
Unfortunately, in his efforts to be clever and hip, Blomkamp skips over some details, which had even a sci-fi geek like me scratching his head.
First, the aliens arrive in a space ship that parks itself over Johannesburg and basically hovers there for 20 years. How? The ship is essentially damaged. How is it able to just hover for 20 years? I mean, that must be some Duracell battery!
The essential conflict is the humans needing to get the now 1.8 million aliens out of the shantytown they live, which is becoming a breeding ground for crime and pollution, and move them to a new colony.
Sharlto Copley plays Wikus, a kind of Inspector Clousseu who by the end is more like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986). Wikus leads a team involved with an organization called MNU. He's responsible for the relocation of the aliens. At first, you think it's going to be like herding cattle, but you learn that these aliens can talk. They're intelligent and some are even reasonable.
It seems the majority of the humans just want the aliens gone what seems like an onerous job, but, later, we learn that some of the aliens know how to get back to their space ship and actually want to go home themselves. We then wonder, if this is the case, why didn't any of them tell Wikus or someone this.
It's proposed in this film that prostitution or sex occurs among humans and aliens, a very gross prospect when considering the aliens look like big, walking prawns, distant cousins perhaps of the monsters from Predator (1987).
The question is why isn't there more dialogue between the humans and the aliens. It's possible for the two species to have sex but not sit down and have a rational conversation. One alien who is referred as Christopher Johnson seems like a very smart and personable alien. Why wasn't there more of an effort to be more diplomatic with him?
The film makes a concerted effort to make it known that these aliens aren't all hostile creatures or religious terrorists. It does show that there are TV news crews all around. Where is Anderson Cooper? Why isn't he or someone like him on the ground trying to get interviews from these aliens to understand where they come from and who they are as people?
Instead, all the film does is whatever it needs to set up a gritty and blood-splattering sequence at the end that felt lame, predictable and forced. Blomkamp enjoys seeing blood squirt directly on the lens. It was a novelty that wore off after the first hundred times it happened in this film.
There is also a quirk, a plot point, in this film that I saw coming a mile away. Apparently, the aliens have amazing weapon technology, which can only be used by the aliens themselves. Humans try to get around this by developing alien-human hybrids genetically, but it doesn't work. By the way, this is also what happens in The X-Files.
By closing credits, the door is left wide-open for a sequel. Trust me, I won't be rushing to see it. This was an ugly derivative of a film that attempts to be cool for younger sci-fi crowds, while being socially relevant with international appeal, but left me with nothing but a sigh.
Two Stars out of Five
Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 mins.