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DISTRICT 9 (2009)

>> Thursday, September 24, 2009

Christopher Johnson is not in Kansas anymore . . . (alien Kansas)

It would be a lie to say this film was not on my most wanting to watch list of 2009. Now, that said, I didn’t know about it until earlier on this summer by watching the trailer at The fact that Peter Jackson was “behind” it, didn’t interest me much, either. Frankly, I found Lord of the Rings to be technically exhilarating, and a classic example of fantasy, but when it comes to that trilogy, I pretty much think “so what?”. Away from that, District 9 was not directed by Jackson, so perhaps my point is moot.

This movie starts off like it’s going to be compiled much like Quarantine or Cloverfield, made up of documentary and security camera footage. Some into the film, it becomes obvious that it’s a hybrid between that and your usual fly-on-the-wall narrative. This isn’t a bad thing, just a little confusing if you’re paying attention to that kind of stuff. But that might be the only issue I have with this film.

An alien ship has been hovering above Johannesburg for over twenty years, when the government decides to move the inhabitants of said ship (who have been living below in District 9), to an area more than 200 km away from the city due to the unpleasant outcries of the people affected by the “invasion”. Heading this mass eviction is Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley, an unknown amongst many other unknowns - which, in a film like this, hell, in any film, is fine and adds realism to the story. Someone like Johnyy Depp, even with his many Oscar-nominated voices, would have hurt this production. During his intrusive tour of District 9, Wikus comes across a black material that sprays him in the face when he attempts to open it up to see what’s inside. At first all appears fine, until he starts to lose finger nails and teeth (channeling Jeff Goldblum in The Fly no doubt). Soon it’s discovered he is slowly starting to change into one of these “prawns” (a derogatory term used to describe the aliens, as they apparently look like giant shrimp).

What happens once he discovers he is turning into one of them? The usual as you may expect. The government sweeps in and apprehends him, and he escapes. Soon he is one of the most wanted men in the world, with his image and name plastering all media across the globe. It turns out Wikus has the ability to use the alien weapons, which no human can, as they have a genetic safety lock of sorts. And you know us humans - always after new ways of destroying each other. (*shakes head in shame).

This movie is a wonderful example of human ignorance, xenophobia and role reversal. Only once the transformation begins does Wikus learn to have more than just political admiration and sympathy for these aliens. His story is paired with the story of one alien named Christopher Johnson and his son who are in a race against time to gather enough fuel to power a smaller alien aircraft and get back to the mother ship to return home, wherever that may be.

District 9 is weird, but it has great heart and a wonderful and a convincing story at its core. The effects are always realistic, and it’s never a chore to hold one’s suspension of disbelief. It moves quickly, and in the end, leaves you wanting a little more, while still feeling satisfied - definitely one of my favorite movies of the summer. The door is wide open on this one - all aboard the mother ship!

*Still courtesy of TriStar Pictures


Editing Luke September 24, 2009 at 5:13 PM  

You forget to mention the parallels of this film and the actual apartheid between blacks and whites in South Africa that lasted for nearly 50 years. Setting the film in Johannesburg is a clear nod to this dark chapter in the history of racial relations.

Also, what I found notable about District 9, was that the film represents a rare instance in which humans are the aggressors and not the victim of aliens. It's not often that aliens are so powerless in the face of human dominance - at least not until they've destroyed the planet and then humans have a climactic victory in the end.

This was a really entertaining and politically charged movie - a little something for everyone. I agree that it's certainly worth seeing. Dave and I actually saw this when we were in Indio.

Tyler Cyrenne September 25, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

Woah, woah! Politics for one . . . (trails off). :-P But really, I didn't actually know about the rampant racism in South Africa, specificially within Johannesburg. Although maybe that's a good thing for the sake of a viewer going into a movie. The inacceptence of one culture by another was an evident theme, as was the role reversal you mentioned. And although I didn't know the afforementioned information, it does make more sense now, altough the movie was still great either way. Which I know isn't what you're saying, that you HAVE to know that before seeing the film, but it's poignant nonetheless. Thanks for the comment though! It's always interesting to me to see what I haven't touched on. Than again, politics . . .

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