Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Saw VI is Better Than District 9


I hated District 9. That was just a mindless action movie. The message didn't grow organically from the characters, the filmmakers just slathered Apartheid onto a popcorn flick to trick us into thinking it had some meat to it. I've said it before and I'll say it again; District 9 is what stupid people think a smart movie is.

The Saw movies succeed where District 9 failed by making sure they earn the preaching. Jigsaw tortures people to get them to appreciate their lives. That's what the movies are about. This is by no means a practical method of problem solving. The real-life application, though, is making the audience wonder how much of life we'd take for granted if we ever actually had to face our own mortality. Being such an amoral person somehow makes Jigsaw's constant preaching digestible. He's no authority on right and wrong, and I think he judges most people too harshly. These movies won't change lives, but they get horror audiences thinking.

Saw VI takes on the health insurance industry. Jigsaw died of cancer, so naturally, on the top of the list of assholes that let him die is William, the health insurance corporation executive who denied his claim for treatment. Jigsaw's revenge is personal, and by extension, we can all feel the satisfaction of watching this guy get what's coming to him. I'm not, however, talking about cuts, gashes, crushings, and [not going to give away the ending], I'm talking about William having to learn what it really means to decide who lives and who dies. In his every day life, William decides, based on a simple formula, who's worthy of life-saving treatment, and who's not. Jigsaw puts William in situation after situation where he has to choose to save a life by ending another. It's no different than applying his formula, but in the same way Jigsaw's torture makes his victims appreciate life, this game makes William see that what he does every day he goes into work is sentence people to die horrible deaths. I left Saw VI hoping that it becomes mandatory viewing at health insurance companies. Maybe it wouldn't be so easy to deny someone coverage if they felt viscerally what that denial means.

The difference between Saw VI, which has already been critically panned, and District 9, which critics raved over, is that Saw VI earns the morality lesson. The filmmakers realize they're making a torture porn horror flick about our current health care debate, so they make the effort to make sure the movie supports the weight of the message, and they actually carry the message through to the end. District 9, however, globs on genocide like icing. They throw aliens into Apartheid without ever actually talking about Apartheid. For those of you that said District 9 would have been bogged down had they actually dealt with the societal issues it purported to be about, go watch Saw VI and learn how a dumb movie can deal with smart subject matter without betraying itself.

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