I waited until now to go see District 9 because I’m slightly agoraphobic and I figured the crowds would have died down a bit. Shot in mockumentary-style for added realism, the film is set in an alternate history where aliens came to Earth 20 years ago and settled in Johannesburg. Director Neill Blomkamp hails from South Africa, and while the film can be viewed as an allegory of events that took place in the real District 6, it’s actually more of an action film than a provocative satire.
I’m also quite glad to say it managed to beat out G.I. Joe at the box office. I haven’t seen G.I. Joe, nor do I plan to. The point is, it reaffirms my faith in humanity when a good movie beats out one that is so obviously bad.
The main character is Wikus, an unlikable stooge for MNU, a large private military contractor that has been hired to police the alien slum. Despite showing a lack of compassion for the Prawns (the nickname given to the aliens due to their physical appearance), and actively committing horrible crimes against them, the audience is asked to sympathize with Wikus when he accidentally becomes exposed to an alien chemical. Interestingly, the liquid has unfortunate effects on his appearance which causes his inner humanity to be revealed when the money-hungry MNU decides to harvest his organs for future research. It seems Wikus’ altered state allows him to operate the alien weaponry which has, up until now, been a highly coveted but useless technology.
The Prawns are bipedal and semi-crustacean in appearance with an insatiable appetite for cat food. Why cat food is so addictive to them is never fully explained, made all the more confusing given it is nothing more than assorted animal bits deemed unsuitable for human consumption. In any case, the Prawns are a mix of hot-tempered soldiers and mild-mannered engineers, crafting tools and weapons out of recycled stuff salvaged from a neighboring landfill. They’re convincingly composited into the shaky-cam footage and interact well with their human counterparts, which suggests that either match-moving software has come a long way in the past few years or the VFX artists were very committed workers indeed.
If you haven’t seen District 9, or if it simply hasn’t arrived in your territory, then you should definitely plan to go see it. With this, Moon, and the highly anticipated Avatar, 2009 is shaping up to be one of the best years for science-fiction fans in a very long time.
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