DISTRICT 9 :: ACTION :: 031
I’m very old-school when it comes to science fiction. I treasure story-line and style in my sci-fi flicks like I treasure Texas Pete hot sauce in my morning eggs. If an alien is to be the center-point of any story, they best be either scary (H.R. Giger’s Alien), interesting/realistic (Roswell), cute (E.T.) or a combination or these, to keep my interest. It could be an obvious sock-puppet-alien, but if the story is intriguing and is shot in a stylistic fashion, I just might, one day, own it on dvd or (the testament for a truly epic film) blu-ray.
THE BEAR BONES
Twenty-eight years ago, an alien spacecraft hovered above the city. Military raided the ship and found ill and malnutritioned aliens aboard. They were given refuge at a camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, known as District 9. The year is 2010 and District 9 has deteriorated into a militarized slum and it is the job of the munitions corporation, MNU (Multi-National United) and operations manager Wikus van der Merwe to evict the alien tenants. However, during the operation somethings goes wrong and Wikus must save his own skin… and rescue his new-found brothers.
Before I begin to rip District 9 a new alien butt-hole, I have to begin by saying that there is a deeper layer to this film that many of us North American’s (for the most part) cannot appreciate. If you don’t know about Apartheid in South Africa, please read A Subtle Knife’s article, “Becoming the Alien: Apartheid, Racism and District 9.” And although I appreciate this aspect of the film, my critical conscience will not allow this film to escape on the basis of it’s social, historical and political underlining.
As I sit here writing, I am being uber-nerdish. Moving my fanny to-and-fro to the Star Wars IV Cantina song, I am thinking just what could have made this movie a Joyce Review success? My answer:
- Don’t lie to me via the movie’s trailer. The one I saw was short and sweet. The government had an alien in what looked like an interrogation room. The alien, so disgusting he was cute, said, “shrump, sher, chularp, twanp.” Translation: “We just want to go home.” (awww!) Instantly my heart hurt for the poor gargantuan cockroach and thought this was going to be a fascinating movie with the aliens being held hostage – not that they were so pathetically weak and stupid they couldn’t get back and repair their ship.
- Make the Multi-National United actually consist of united, multi-nationals. If aliens make themselves known, and there is money to be made and research to be had… you better bet your sweet behind that America will be present (not to mention the UK, Germany, France and Russia).
- Build a friggin’ wall! Confining a couple million aliens to a refugee camp will take more than a metal fence and barbed wire. At one point in the film, Wikus actually sneaks into District 9 by crawling under the fence! Oh, you poor aliens. You can build and hide secret, underground, laboratories but you can’t arouse a single en-force mutiny or break out?
- Create realistic tensions. Racism amongst humans is absurd, but when you have aliens as ugly, irrational and temperamental as this, absurd becomes understandable. If we know the capabilities of their weaponry, wouldn’t we be a little more kind to them, since we know that a) there may be more of them somewhere; b) they could find a way to leave; c) since they can be hostile, and are quite strong they could cause a rebellion; or d) find a way to leave and return to destroy us? It is for the same reason we don’t intentionally anger our dentist. Yes some can be sadists, bent on causing pain to us lesser mortals… but they are usually more intelligent than you or me and does us a decent service. My feeling is that the world would have seen them as a great nuisance and threat, and would come to the consensus of termination/extermination.
District 9 did satisfy me in a couple of aspects. It took itself lightly (for the most part) and gave the audience a likable protagonist in Wikus Van De Merwe. Who wouldn’t enjoy a South African version of Martin Short and Steve Carell? Personally, I would have liked more backstory. Had the aliens been able to communicate anything to us other then their love for cat food… maybe it would have earned another bear print (but maybe not)? Are they scientists, soldiers, or explorers? Do they have a leader? Do they have similar anatomy/physiology as humans or are they just as we see them, armored Jar-Jar Binkses with octopus lips? District 9 was entertaining but did not make its way into my top 10 alien films, and is quite far down on my list of sci-fi favorites. I think I’ll re-watch Blade Runner now.
Just how wrong do you think I am? Drop your comments below!
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