District 9 – Four movies in one
Watching District 9 with my 18 year old this weekend and observing how is interest level changed made us realize that the movie is four movies in one. He was interested in some parts, bored in others and excited/laughing in others.
An alien ship stalls out of Johannesburg. The aliens are rescued from the ship, and, 20 years later, they are in a slum called District 9. Tension with the locals incites a movement to relocate them out of the city (to the cleverly named District 10)
The movie is:
- a political commentary; setting a ‘let’s discriminate against aliens’ movie in South Africa, still remembered for Apartheid/racial segregation is ironic and well done. The aliens are segregated, forced into a slum called District 9, and generally regarded as outsiders and inferiors (feeding them cat food?) by the residents (both black and white with interesting documentary like commentary). Obvious parallels are drawn to District Six in South Africa as the aliens are told they are to be forcibly relocated outside the city limits (and asked to sign documents in English to make sure their rights are protected!). As with most of these types of movies, the military/corporate complex (MNU) is portrayed as doing dissections and weapons research in secret. My son was casually interested in this part, but I could tell he was wondering why he came with me.
- a SciFi flick; Wikus van der Merwe works for MNU and is assigned to lead the project of relocating them. On inspecting one of the aliens (called ‘prawns’) shack, he finds a canister and gets spray with a black fluid when he opens it. This starts the transformation of turning him into one of the aliens. My son perked up a bit as Wikus developed a nice little alien arm in place of his hand.
- a first person shooter; when the alien weapons start shooting, the young males in the audience (including my son) woke up from the political commentary part of the flick. The weapons can only be operated when they sense alien DNA, and, of course, Wikus becomes a very wanted man by MNU. Gruesome tests confirm he can operate them while he is a prisoner, but he escapes, gets back to District 9, gets a weapon from the Nigerian criminals that traffic in District 9 and starts blowing people away. There are even scenes (ala Doom) where the camera is following the MNU hit team down the stairs looking for Wikus shot to look like a first person shooter.
- a buddy flick; the canister that sprayed Wikus was fuel to get the space ship’s command module jump started again. Wikus and Christopher Johnson (an alien) invade MNU HQ with lots of alien weaponry to retrieve the canister. Lots of blowing up and mayhem ensue, but the buddy flick part starts as Wikus start getting each other out of jams, and then the “I’m not leaving you behind” buddy language begins (plus lots of “I’ll be back for you”. There’s even a nice Butch and Sundance scene where they are running through the trash heap shooting over their shoulder…just beautiful, man.
Somewhat set up for a sequel, but an enjoyable movie.