Attack the Block
I’ve been hearing about ATTACK THE BLOCK for many months now. People (internet people, that is) going on and on about how amazing and awesome this sci-fi action movie is. It’s the genre film of the year! Hilarious! Scary! Action packed!
Turns out it’s none of these things.
First things first, the film’s fatal flaw is its main characters. They’re assholes. Terrible, unrepentant dipshits. And I’ve long found that films that follow characters like this are impossible to enjoy (one reason I’ve never enjoyed most Wes Anderson films). One has to root for one character or another, especially in a survival-type action film. It’s impossible to be in their corner though, so you almost root for the aliens to kill them all.
The film opens with our protagonists, a small group of teenage kids, led by 15 year old Moses (how original) as they proceed to rob a young nurse on her way home from work. They do this at knife point. They steal everything she has and she only escapes after an alien crashes into a car next to them. They then proceed to chase the alien into a shed, kill it, and carry it around like a trophy. They then generally talk about how awesome they are while tossing out all the robbed nurse’s possessions.
It tries to frame it as these kids have no choice but this behavior, and tries to strong arm some social commentary in as well. The problems of the lower-class and all the bullshit that comes with it aside, nothing can force you to mug people, deal drugs, and just generally act like assholes. That’s your own choice. And that’s all we see of these characters, and it never really gives them room to redeem themselves. They continually act like little, careless dipshits in the face of everything.
The closest we get to any kind of redemption is Moses telling the nurse, after they’ve later invaded her apartment and forced her to treat one of their wounds, that they never would have robber her if they knew she lived in their building. She rightly points out that reasoning is bullshit, but it never clicks with them.
The other peripheral characters, the non-teenage dipshits, have little reason to even be there. Most people, one would think, in a situation like this, would likely flee or hole up somewhere safe unless compelled otherwise. The nurse decides to come with them because….well no real reason is given. She’s not safer with them. In fact, the only time she’s been safe is when they’re not around. It just doesn’t work.
It’s not a total failure though, the film does have things working for it. There are several action scenes that are pretty darn good. Compelling, tense, and well shot. So it’s got that going for it. The aliens are interesting as well. Black, feature-less creatures (the one in the above picture is different) with only rows of glowing blue-green teeth visible. It makes for some good setups where they appear at the end of a dark hallway, or in a window, and so on. They’re physical effects as well, not CG creations, which is almost always a better choice. But, at the same time, they’re also not terribly threatening. Hell, at the end, once they realize what they actually are, they become almost completely non-threatening. It sucks out all the danger.
The gore is quite visceral as well, the few times it happens. This makes a small percentage of people out there (internet people especially) go apeshit. It felt mostly unnecessary here. Almost out of place.
I’m sure some people found it terribly witty and funny. I’m not sure what those people are thinking.
So I was mightily disappointed, and I don’t think it was a case where my expectations were just too high. It’s just not inventive, not scary, not very stylish, and not that original. It’s just sub-par all around.