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District 9

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You Are Not Wanted Here. DISTRICT 9 (No Spoilers)

Aug 14, 2009 (Updated Aug 15, 2009)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Bang For The Buck

Pros:Brilliant performance by Sharlto Copley.  Amazing aliens, solid social dynamics.

Cons:Dark, dirty, depressing, and a little too close to home.  Pacing is a little slow.

The Bottom Line: Amazing vision of alien impact; dark, dirty, and depressing.  Also insightful, thought provoking and worth the price of admission.  You gotta see this!

District 9 (2009) Directed by Neill Blomkamp
"We are from the Government, and we are here to help."  The eleven scariest words in any language.
When aliens arrived on Earth, they did not land in New York, London, or Tokyo.  No, they arrive and hover over Johannesburg, South Africa.
After three months of nothing, the authorities finally cut their way in to discover the inhabitants, starving, trapped inside.  The ship does not work (except to float) and helicopters are used to ferry the passengers to the ground to a makeshift refugee camp.
These are not Vulcans, or Greys, or even ET.  The Aliens are alien, and are called prawns, because they look like a cross between a grasshopper and a lobster.  They get my vote for the Fungi from Yugoth lookalike contest.
Nor do we know much about them.  We don't know where they come from, why they are here, how they came to be stuck.  We don't even know their name for themselves.
And their technology seems to have a failsafe device; it will only work for a being with their genetic code.  None of it works for humans.
That does not stop us from collecting their weapons, by hook or by crook.  Nor is it just the MultiNational Union (MNU) the oversight organization; it is also Nigerian Gangsters.
The refugee camp quickly became a concentration camp, and eventually evolved into the shanty town called District 9.  But now there are plans to move the Prawns to a "secure facility" (Concentration Camp) called District 10, some 200 miles north of Johannesburg.  Illegal, it is none the less tarted up with procedural window dressing, and a hapless paper pusher named Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is put in charge.  Wikus displays all the sensitivity toward racial issues that one expects from the petty officials of South Africa.  His treatment of the aliens is not malign, per say (more on that later) but rather callus and officious.  However as their eviction of the hapless Prawns continues (and it goes on and on...) he falls into the pack mentality to the extent that when they fire up a shack that is a nursery for the hatching of Alien young, he comments that the popping noise like popcorn is the young exploding from their pupae.
But the story does not exist in a human vacuum; the Prawns are busy as well.  One of them called Christopher Johnson is busy collecting a very rare fluid from salvaged alien devices.  They have been working on this for twenty years, and they have finally succeeded in collecting enough.
Of course this is where Wikus enters the picture, confiscating the precious cylinder and getting sprayed by it's contents in the process.  It's effects truly are transformative.

The Analysis

This movie has some obvious lessons; the apartheid, segregation, racial profiling, plight of the refugee message is somewhat less than subtle.  The slap in the face of South Africa's apartheid government is (deserved) as subtle as...well, a slap in the face.  However, the procrustean nature of the tragedy that befalls Wikus Van De Merwe opens the door to a much deeper and darker look at exactly what it means to be human.  I certainly think the Bureaucrat has crash course in the inhumanity of man, and what it means to be a prawn on earth.The reaction of the government to the aliens is very typical; a new phenomenon is encountered.  The threat is assessed.  They are not a threat.  They are evaluated. Malnourished, without skills and without the training to teach us to advance our technology, they are a burden. They are assigned.  To holding camps.  There are a million of them.  Earth is crowded enough. The bare minimum that can be done for them is all that is attempted. This concept is brilliantly conveyed by the shanty town.  It is in point of fact a real shanty town, with human inhabitants, instead of insects.  The juxtaposition of earthly litter and giant bug men is jarring, but the overall message is the same.  You are not valued; please die quickly so we don’t have to deal with you.

And the metaphor works for any group you care to name; in South Africa, the blacks.  In Gaza, the Palestinians.  In America, illegal immigrants, and the mentally distressed homeless, turned out on the streets by the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. And if you are disgusted by what is going on with the prawns in this movie; ask who has moved back into those same shacks?

This movie does not answer questions; it prefers to raise them.  We do not learn from where they come, we do not learn why they are here.  We never even learn their name.  And I think that is one of this movie's strongest points.  So much of it lingers in the mind, unsatisfied, begging for resolution, that it forces one to ponder, and speculate, and reexamine some of our beliefs.  And that is almost always a good thing.

The entire movie is done as a mockumentary.  Much of it is newscasts, and security feeds.  The rest is shot on a very immediate basis, though thankfully with a far steadier camera than say Cloverfield or Blair Witch Project.  But through it all there is an unscripted feel; it comes across very realistic, with all the uh, umms, and ahhs that litter real speech.  And the CGI Prawns blend seamlessly into the movie; it is easy to forget that they are not really there, actors in incredible costumes.  But no, the aliens are all done on a computer.

Some of the Afrikaner officials are a bit over the top (I pray) but honestly, the whole movie really has a feel of what would REALLY happen after first contact.  You really need to see this.

Recommend this product? Yes

Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Pacing

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