Saturday, August 22, 2009

District 9


I went to watch District 9 with friends yesterday. It was as good as the press is reporting, and really, is one of the more original movies I've seen in a long while.

The premise is that aliens have arrived in Johannesburg, hovering above the city in a gargantuan spaceship. There's no movement at all, and when humans finally cut their way into the ship, they find millions of aliens - "prawns" - inside, in filthy conditions. There is no leadership, and the aliens seem to exist in a caste system - there is a clear hierarchy of command and worker aliens, and the ones in the ship all appear to be simple-minded beasts. After 20 years, the citizens of Johannesburg begin rioting against the aliens, as they begin to commit crime. So, the prawns all get herded into a ghetto, District 9. Control of the aliens has been outsourced to M.N.U., the largest weapons manufacturer in the world, who want to understand how to work alien weapons, which require alien DNA. They want to relocate the prawns to District 10, 200km away from the city. An M.N.U. man, Wikus van de Merwe, is sent to collect eviction signatures. He happens upon a cannister of alien fluid, which sprays his face. It begins to alter his DNA, and his left arm begins changing to a prawn arm. He has to work with an intelligent alien, Christopher Johnson, to retrieve the cannister from M.N.U. and help him get back to the mothership, where there are medical machines which can reverse the transformation. In the end, he succeeds in helping C.J. get to the mothership, although he has to wait 3 years until C.J. returns. Wikus fully transforms into a prawn, and the last scene shows him folding scrap metal roses for his wife.

This is a very creative and original film. People want to look into it as an analogy for apartheid, but maybe we're trying to take things too literally. This is a film about diversity, about recognizing and respecting differences, and about tolerance. So maybe it is about apartheid. The actor playing Wikus is brilliant. Alternately a geeky straight man, and at times unintentionally hilarious, Sharlto Copley plays him perfectly. Very impressed.

It's difficult to come to terms with, but you end up sympathizing with the aliens. The prawns look disgusting - tentacles and antennaes, eerily reminiscent of bipedal cockroaches. Wikus seems nerdy enough, but he actually turns into a huge manipulative prick once he enters District 9. I can't believe I was cheering for C.J. and his little alien son. Smart little bugger.

I'm so glad they didn't elaborate further on the "inter-species prostitution". And I'm going to start saying 'fuck' in a South African accent.


  1. Haha good thing I already saw the movie.

    You may want to add a "spoiler alert" for those who've never seen it and may want to :)

  2. oops, sorry - thought didn't even cross my mind.