District 9 (2009)

District 9
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
(number 175)

Racism, apartheid and xenophobia. This movie throws you in the deep end with the employees of MNU who have been hired to deal with the forceable eviction of the aliens (Prawns) to a barbed wire enclosed camp they won't be able to leave again. Sharlto Copley plays the inimitable Wikus Van De Merwe who you just hate straight away as being the white dude who embodies all that’s wrong with ingrained cultural racism.

Of course, the other main character is the alien Christopher Johnson. A scientifically minded alien with a son who is introduced part way through.

The special effects of this film are what makes it though. The work Weta did on the aliens, the alien weaponry and the body transformations… it's all horrific and totally believable in the context of the premise that they’ve set up. I especially love the moment when one of his eyes is affected by the transformation and it goes larger than his regular eyes.

I remember showing this film to my parents and my mum’s reactions were a kind of perfect reflection of the emotional punch of the story. At the start of the film she was afraid of the prawns, she hated the way they looked and was afraid of them. By the end of the film she was pretty much crying for their plight and complaining about how awfully they had been treated.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, especially the alien people. Christopher Johnson is the alien we see who is trying the hardest to integrate (wearing a complete set of clothes, able to read human language) and he is also working to free his people. Activate their ships and get them off a planet that hates and extorts them.

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not relate it to the history of South Africa and apartheid, the idea that it could be repeated again with no apparent concern from the majority of the population is chilling. But in the same way it’s important for Japan to keep telling stories where there’s a massive explosion or two, I think it’s really important for South Africa film makers to tell these stories, use them to explain the cultural make up of their country and try to come to terms with the things that were done. I can’t give more insight than that, beyond a term in 4th form studying apartheid in social studies I know very little of the history, but I do know it’s important to talk about it and look hard at these ideas to better prevent it happening again. Films like this are important.

Bechdel test: No, there are only a handful of named women characters and they only talk to the camera in interview situations or to Wikus.

Best line:
Christopher Johnson's Son: we're the same!
Wikus: we're not the fucking same.

State of Mind: I love this film, but the action sequences could stand to be trimmed quite a lot. The ultimate build of the story is immensely satisfying though and you have to love the special effects.

Watched movie count

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One thought on “District 9 (2009)

  1. Great review. I really liked this film, and the apartheid allegory. Thoughtful scifi films seem to be a rarity so I savour them when I can! I think the generally unknown cast helped my enjoyment too- its so much easier to suspend disbelief when the main character isn’t played by Matt Damon.

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