Science fiction meets social justice without being ponderous in this highly entertaining flick produced by Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies). In docudrama style, we’re introduced to homely extraterrestrials whose proficiency at intergalactic flight fails to translate into mechanical ability when their mammoth spacecraft breaks down in levitating fashion over Johannesburg. Before you can say “apartheid,” the aliens are segregated in the titled South African ghetto where after 20 years the human populace demands their eviction from town. Having familiarized you with its unique and peculiar “history,” the movie then shifts its attention to a pompous civil servant (Sharlto Copley) in charge of displacing the “non-humans.” This bureaucrat gets an unwanted dose of empathy when he’s exposed to an other worldly fluid that begins to transform him into one of the despised “out-of-towners.” Although it’s played with the utmost of straight-faced sincerity, director/writer Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell’s screenplay never takes itself so seriously that it loses its underlying satirical barbs that it occasionally delivers or its feel for dark humor when people literally get splattered in the action sequences. Newcomer Copley’s character even possesses the befuddled cluelessness of a Monty Python alum in his desperate attempt to regain his “humanness.” What makes this film above average is that its primary intent is always to engage you in its storylines and their connecting plots. If you get all the metaphors and underlying symbols, that’s fine, and you can log in your two cents to be part of the online discussion this film is sure to prompt. But if you don’t, you’ll still enjoy this work built on an intriguing premise that’s developed to its near complete creative potential.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES (in alphabetical order): ALIEN (1979), COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970), DARK CITY (1998), DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), MAD MAX (1979), METROPOLIS (1927), ROBOCOP (1987), THE TERMINATOR (1984), THE TIME MACHINE (1960), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
MOST OVERRATED SCI-FI MOVIE … EVER: BLADE RUNNER (1982)