Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Film Review--District 9

starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, and Jen Hernandez as "The Beav."

An alien spaceship arrives over Johannesburg, South Africa. The passengers of said ship are wounded and bedraggled.  With no where else to go, they are herded into a refugee camp outside the city.  Over the decades, this camp disintegrates into a walled-off slum called District 9.  But when the camp must be evicted by a private security corporation, an operative (Copley) finds himself spliced with alien DNA...and increasingly devoid of friends.

This is a rough ride.  Not exactly a knee-slapper, no.  That's probably because this is astonishingly close to being accurate.  If aliens did arrive and we had any sort of advantage over them whatsoever, they would be exploited and subjugated by us.  This is science fiction that works.  It taps into the cultural zeitgeist and forces us to look at ourselves via a "what if" scenario.  The analogy to apartheid should be clear to anyone, with the aliens as stand-ins for the black population that is "ready to take up arms against their oppressors" to paraphrase Bono.  Humans even manufacture a derogatory term for the aliens (as we are so good at doing): "Prawns."  And there is debate within the film as to whether or not it is proper to call them "Prawns," with one government official defending the slur by saying, "Well let's face it, it's what they look like, isn't it?"  Indeed they are rather Lovecraftian in appearance.
It doesn't stop there.  The "Prawns" are reduced to eating cat food (even though they like it), there are horrendous medical experiments on them that amount to little more than torture (shades of Mengele), and an overall statement of "man's inhumanity to other living things."  Usually in the name of a profit.

The film is left open to a sequel.  Should that come to pass, I would hope that the filmmakers include a bit of "prequel" as well, explaining who the Prawns are and how they came to us in such a disheveled state.  Make no mistake, this is a good film and quite worthy of its Best Picture nomination last year.  But don't ever expect it to be rollicking good, 'splodey sci-fi or some such drivel.  You'll be lucky to make it through without shedding a tear or turning away in revulsion at times.

District 9 was apparently an expansion of a short film called "Alive in Joburg."  Here it is from YouTube:

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  1. On Facebook,
    Ghost Dogg said: "Murdock was so good in this."

    PilotJess said: "Really liked this movie, and watched with the spouse and oldest son. Both said they had a hard time following it, but it was in part due to the accent."

    Ahab Pope said: "I just watched this again the other day and decided that it is one of my favorite movies."

  2. On Facebook, Armando said: "I had only one very minor complaint and that was the "gun camera" shit towards the end of the movie. And if that's my only complaint that means you got a damn good movie. I want a sequel, but only if it is just as good. Otherwise...leave that alone. It's too good."

    I agree. I'd like a well-done sequel, mostly because I want to know more about the Prawns. For the intents and purposes of this film, their real identity wasn't important.

  3. On Facebook, Ahab Pope said: "I want and don't want a sequel. One of the rules of a great performance is always leave em wanting more."