District 9

Yes, I’m back. After an invasion of pretenders to the ‘Bucket crown (only joking, Rob!) it’s time for a Benjamin J. viewpoint on a film I’d been desperate to see for a long time.

District 9 (2009)

Sci-fi is a tricky thing. Do it right and you create a world so vivid and enrapturing fanboys will write fan fiction about it for decades to come. Do it wrong and you look like a complete tithead who wouldn’t know a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster if it came up and kicked you right in the Tannhauser gate. Luckily, District 9 belongs to the former category.

“When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.”

After a massive ship hovers over Johannesburg, the human race makes first contact with alien life. Finding them malnourished and leaderless, the aliens (derogatorily called “prawns”) are bundled in to a huge, sprawling camp called District 9, policed by a private military contractor called Multinational United (MNU). The story follows bureaucrat Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) as he is assigned the immense task of moving 1.8 million aliens to a new camp, further away from society, called District 10. The plot itself is fantastic. The best sci-fi has always been able to find parallels with reality and District 9 is no exception by holding up a mirror to issues such as apartheid and xenophobia. Sharlto Copey was amazing as Wikus, giving us a flawed hero who is actually relatable, rather than a ripped badass who pisses pure awesomeness. Wikus starts out as a generally unlikable character, who at one point revels in the firey destruction of alien eggs- likening the sound to popcorn popping. What I loved about Wikus is that most of his actions are driven by panic and selfishness- something which I’m sure is the more realistic reaction, rather than taking it upon one’s self to save the World.

I knew I’d love District 9 as soon as the mockumentary voice-over noted that the alien ship wasn’t hovering over a well-known American city such as New York and Chicago for once. It was nice to see such a different approach to the standard “alien invasion” bullshit we are normally fed. In fact, some of the content has a bit of a Bad Taste anarchic feel to it, which can only be a good thing. The effects are very impressive and prove you don’t need an astronomical Michael Bay-type budget to create photo-real creatures to lumber about on screen.

My one problem with District 9 was the fact it was so heavy-handed with its messages. It was fine to allude to apartheid, racism and so forth, but I honestly got a bit depressed with the way that pretty much every human in the film was a shitbag. Yeah, Wikus was good- but as I said before, he’s only acting out of panic. It felt like the film was pausing every so often to remind us that we suck before moving on to the next scene. I also believe that the Nigerians got the shitty end of the stick when it came to being represented as they are portrayed as little more than violent, armed animals who feast upon alien flesh.

“[Points out Alien graffiti] This is basically a guy, and there’s 3 humans here, basically trying to make a warning, you know, saying “I kill 3 humans, watch out for me.”

However, these were very minor problems and were only included to slightly hide the fact that I’ve pretty much being sucking the film off for the majority of the review. It might be a little premature to name District 9 as the best film of the year, but it’s damn tempting. A film would have to be very special to nudge it off my top spot, but the comforting thought it that if District 9 is indeed displaced, we’re in for a massive treat.

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