“I’ll make you a deal. You provide the food, I’ll provide the perspective…” – Anton Ego
When I started to write this out it was in the wake of an incident on JustSomeDude899’s blog regarding District 9 but it is also something I have been thinking about for quite some time, the District 9 incident just further pushed me towards it.
I want to get this out of the way right off the bat. I liked District 9. In fact, I liked District 9 an awful lot. On many levels the film felt like it was made personally for a viewer of my particular tastes. If you have come here for a review of the film then honestly, that is the only piece of information you need from me. Anything else you get from this write up probably won’t satisfy your desire for further knowledge on that film.
A week ago, a lot of big praise is being shot around for District 9 and rightfully so because this film is very, very good. It is a smart, funny, awesome special effects summer blockbuster. What the film is not though, is a masterpiece, an instant classic or a perfect film. Using those terms to describe District 9, while certainly easy to do, is both misleading to the general audience and an insult to all the films that have garnered classic status over the years.
Over my years of writing about films, games, music, or what have you I have made the mistake of being overzealous in my praise. It’s quite easy to do and it happens to the best of us (of which I can assure you I am not a part of) however looking back on my myriad of reviews and critiques, the use of those terms in them makes me cringe a little.
I do not like to give out lasting accolades like masterpiece or classic lightly although I do understand why they are used in initial reviews of artistic endeavors. The terms convey, through very dramatic effect, an ultimate satisfaction towards a piece of art.
The problem with using the terms masterpiece and classic with a new piece of art is that it unfairly draws comparisons to the actual classics that have earned their place of honor. The true masterpieces and classics have inspired multiple generations of artists and will continue to do so for many more generations. Is anyone truly prepared to hold District 9 in the same regard as films like Nosferatu, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz or The Godfather?
Of course when posed with that question, the tune quickly changes to the film being a masterpiece of its genre or a genre classic. But honestly is anyone truly prepared to hold District 9 against the likes of Alien, Aliens, The Fly, Star Wars, E.T., or Blade Runner (just to name a few)? Those films have a legacy and a following that transcends even the wildest dreams of their creators. District 9 has had a week at theaters. Personally I think some people need a little perspective but that is just me. I’m not trying to say that at some point District 9 won’t be considered a science fiction classic but at this point it is too early to say.
In the film Ratatouille, critic Anton Ego states that in many ways the job of a critic is easy because writing brings with it no risk. He’s wrong. While critics, both amateur and professional, do enjoy a position of power over those whose art they are critiquing, a critic puts their readers trust on the line every time they write a review. As fun as it is to write a bad review, and believe me the words flow like a ruptured dam for them, the critic must take great care to remain truthful and honest with their reader. The same needs to happen for positive reviews as well because if a critic loses their reader, they are left with nothing but the words they wrote.
Regardless of everything else though, art is subjective and while certain people can maybe provide an objective analysis of the technical aspects of a piece of art, in the end how they really feel about it is an opinion. A review is just an opinion or more specifically a critical analysis based off of the perspective of the writer. It is the responsibility of the writer to truthfully convey his/her opinion as best they can without embellishment and it is the responsibility of the reader to respect that opinion even if they don’t agree with it.
I haven’t decided if I want to write a review on District 9 as of yet. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about it on the internet and on podcasts, including this week’s About 12 Minutes (which you should check out). However I will probably write up a review for Inglorious Basterds sometime tomorrow so maybe I will write up one then. Who knows?