District 9

That's not nice.
"For humans only. Non-humans banned!"

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for the Tagline: PART TWO. Today I'm going to be digging up a film from my backlog of "Movies that I reviewed in an alternate universe but think I reviewed here." Today's featured film is District 9, a movie about one man with a funny sounding accent who evicts a bunch of aliens from their homes where they're minding their own business, and then is later given cause to regret his hurtful, speciesist actions. The film stars Sharlto Copley as Wikus van de Merwe (I talked about him as a psychopath government killer in Elysium). Wikus works for MNU, a corporation that has been put in charge of the... relocation of the alien race referred to derogatorily as "Prawns" by the South African government. What?! Aliens you say? Yes, well in the movie, some time around 1982 a large alien space ship appeared, and stopped over Johannesburg, South Africa. Investigations inside the ship revealed a large number of half starved aliens who were then relocated and restricted to District 9, a ghetto specified specifically for the aliens. Eventually, even THAT doesn't satisfy the bunch of racists, and so they now want to move them somewhere else. ANYWAY Wikus has been put in charge of the relocation, but that all goes straight into the crapper after he is exposed to a strange alien fluid while attempting to relocate several of the aliens. Wikus begins to undergo a transformation into one of the aliens, and so is detained by MNU for study (as you might expect of an evil corporation, they eventually decide to vivisect him) Wikus eventually escapes, and flees to District 9, where he agrees to help the alien Christopher Johnson (no I'm not kidding) who says he can reverse the mutation if he can only get back to the mothership. 

This is Christopher Robin.
Now I don't think it's especially hard to see the real world parallels here, considering that the movie is shot right in Johannesburg, and pertains to segregation based on a thing (in this case species but I mean replace that with literally any other thing and you see what the movie is getting at) and the inhuman treatment individuals receive because they are different. This particularly is relevant to South Africa, which even in the wake of the Apartheid era still struggles with issues of racial segregation and inequality. The plot of district 9 and the forced relocation of the aliens in it is a thinly veiled reference to real life relocations being carried out against the majority black inhabitants of various parts of Johannesburg (notably District 6 which was declared a "whites only" zone, isn't that genuinely awful). In addition it's easy to see a commentary on what happens when you put a for profit multinational corporation in charge of administering your nation and allow them to supply their own personal army. The result is not usually great for people, and it is predictably awful in the movie, with MNU pursuing their own interests to the detriment of everyone, including their own employees (I guess Wikus' healthcare doesn't cover alien mutation, unless you count being autopsied as healthcare. Which I do not).

I want one.
All that being said, the movie's emphasis is not really on social commentary. Those themes are definitely present, and I would say that they are consciously placed in the movie, but they aren't the focal point. First and foremost, this film is a sci-fi action flick, with seriously dark undertones (I think you can see the similarities between this and director Blomkamp's second film Elysium). For a movie shot on a 30 million dollar budget, the special effects are really impressive, especially given the prevalence of the aliens in the movie. There are also laser guns, and a robotic mechanized suit that the aliens can operate which I think was my favorite segment of the movie. There's commentary, but mostly there are explosions and aliens and guys with guns. I generally enjoyed this movie a lot more than Elysium, partly because it wasn't quite as bleak (which is to say that Elysium was incredibly dark) and also because I thought the plot was just generally a lot tighter than Elysium, which I feel had a series of really substantial plot holes (magic healing beds, robots that won't work in factories, inexplicable misery etc.) Also Wikus, while initially a clueless asshole, becomes less shitty of a person. Matt Damon's character in Elysium does not become a better person, he just sort of runs his race until he gets to the end and dies.

I know I'm comparing them a lot, but Elysium and District 9 are two movies that are similar in theme,
One of those probably too.
content, and tone, but one was much better than the other, and District 9 was it. I highly recommend you check it out if you didn't and see for yourself. Also enjoy the tiny little baby alien who is super smart even though he is really small. That's all for now, everyone should brace themselves because we're getting close to Christmas, and that means I'm going to start inflicting holiday films on you unlucky bastards.

1 comment:

  1. Yay someone else who liked this movie. Perfect? No, but entertaining and as you said, had some good themes underlining the sci fi action base.


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