The science fiction movie District 9 intrigues but disappoints. The movie is actually two movies: the first half is a subtle, eerie, complex, portrait of how bureaucrats work, what ground-level refugee camp politics are like, and an alternative take on the traditionally super-powerful alien species that contact humanity in most science fiction. The second half is cops’n’robbers and pointless MacGuffin chasing. The aliens turn out to be… exactly like humans in their personalities, needs, and dispositions. At the same time, most of what made the first half haunting disappears amid car crashes and convenient alien weaponry. The moral sophistication that comes with difficult choices and scarce resources morphs into a psychotic, malicious white colonel and an ignorant black warlord, both of whom provide reasons to blow stuff up.
Cloverfield is an example of a movie that retains its deeper meanings throughout action scenes; District 9 loses them parts way through, then picks up again in the last five minutes. It’s better than most movies but still not as skillfully done as it could have been.