Message Movies in Alien Clothing
District 9 is the kind of movie you see at Grauman’s Chinese. After wading through throngs of sunburned tourists and ghastly cartoon character impersonators, I entered the sanctum sanctorum of movie geeks. The kitsch is three-feet thick in Grauman’s, but the audience that packed that theater wasn’t there to make snarky comments about outdated Orientalist fantasies: the fanboys were there, my friends, and they were there to do some serious bonding with strangers while submitting to the seduction of a very large screen.
Most of them had come to see a film that bore the sacred imprimatur of Peter Jackson. And Sony’s clever Comic-Con-driven marketing campaign gave this low-budget flick a big boost (I don’t think there was one square block in Hollywood that didn’t bear those chilling segregation-themed posters). However, Peter Jackson isn’t my cup of tea: I was there to see the mighty power of science fiction in action. While all artistic forms offer the possibility of incisive social critique, science fiction is especially well suited to it, and it looked to me like District 9 was going to take full advantage of this capability.