I saw District 9 on Friday.
I see a lot of movies, both at home and in the theater. I probably don’t see quite as many as a professional movie critic, but I do love movies. I also love science-fiction in all its various forms. District 9 combines the best of both.
This is a pretty gritty, real film that has a quasi-documentary feel to it, rife with allusions to aparteit, racism and segregation.
The movie is about aliens who find themselves stranded on Earth above Johannesburg, South Africa. When humans finally get into their apparently crippled ship, they find a lost, sick, malnourished hive-like species of vaguely humanoid creatures who are far from the fearsome invaders we fear are out there. They quickly become a management nightmare for the South Africans who are stuck dealing with these sad creatures who have little concept of our human customs. The real problem with that, however, is that the aliens, referred to by the pejorative “prawns”, don’t understand the human concept of ownership. They’re hated by the locals because they think they can just take things they want and go wherever they please. All of that is why the prawn slum of District 9 is being relocated outside of Johannesburg. And, yes, that’s where the movie gets its name. The film primarily follows Wikus Van De Merwe, a civil servant of sorts, with the company who’s been retained by the South African government to “manage” the aliens. His father-in-law is the president of the company and promotes him to a position of high-scrutiny, heading the relocation efforts. As Wirkus is a bit of a lovable, goofy dolt, it becomes obvious early on that his “promotion” was really setting him up to take the fall if the relocation goes poorly, as it is apparently expected to do. But, things go more wrong than you can guess when Wirkus and his eviction team find an illegal computer “store” run by one of the more enterprising and independently thinking prawn. In addition to the illegal technology, he finds a prawn “gang” cache of weapons and… And something more. Now, if I were to go into too much more detail at this point, I’d be ruining the movie for you and I don’t want to do that.
So, instead of going further with the plot, I’m going to give you some of the other reasons this is such an interesting film.
For one thing, it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life in a modern Africa. A feature of the district 9 is a group of other Africans, in this case, Nigerians, who act as a criminal syndicate preying on all kinds of poor in the district, but primarily the prawn. Also, there is a significant sub-plot surrounding alien technology and weapons that humans can’t use and the aliens seem unmotivated to use to their full advantage. There are also themes about family and loyalty and doing what’s right, even in difficult circumstances.
The film is an expansion of director Neill Blomkamp’s short film Alive In Joburg. (You can see the short by following that link.) If you check out the short, you can see something about how District 9 is going to look and feel when you see it.
And, incidentally, I do recommend that you go see this film. It is a little gruesome and occasionally brutal in its dedication to realism, but I think it’s all worth it. The film is far and away the best film of the season, and probably the year. I cannot say enough about this movie. Well, without giving all the really good stuff away.
So, in short, District 9 is a great movie and you need to go see this film!