SEATTLE, Washington - There was a bit of buzz about this movie before and immediately after its release - that it was a bit more thoughtful than most sci-fi fare, a little more cerebral. Some of these same thoughts were expressed upon the release of The Matrix in 1999.
I've now seen District 9 and it's competent and entertaining enough but it's also utterly conventional. Where exactly is the nuanced, cerebral part... the parallels to apartheid that are as subtle as a brick hitting you in the head?
This movie does what many movies do, rolls out an interesting concept and then ends the movie with a 30-minute shootout that could have been lifted intact from another movie. In fact, that's the exact criticism Roger Ebert had of The Matrix when he reviewed it.
This phenomenon is not limited to sci-fi... L.A. Confidential established a great, Chinatown-ish mood through most of the film, then ended with a big gaudy shootout. The powers that be must have demanded a sweaty Guy Pearce in a firefight. Chinatown has a bullet or two fired at the end, but it's faithful to the tone of the rest of the film.
How far back do we have to go to find some sci-fi without a long concluding firefight? 2001: A Space Odyssey? How about THX-1138? And the latter probably doesn't have a shootout because George Lucas didn't have the budget. I'm surprised he hasn't gone back and plopped a Clone Army into THX.