19 August 2009

District 9

Drug my dad to see District 9. Explained it as ‘aliens land and are put in concentration camps’ which is just about all I knew about it. I started following the early viral sites: Multinational United, D-9, Maths From Outer Space, MNU Spreads Lies - but not with any kind of regularity.

I saw Wolverine last May, which despite what other reviews say was not a total waste of time, and before it was the preview for what at the time I described as a strange and fascinating little movie. That is totally what District 9 is, this completely bizarre movie that will leave you both enraptured and confused. It’s this year’s Cloverfield.

Not-So-Quick Summary: Twenty years ago a large alien spaceship arrived on earth and settled over Johannesburg. After a few months of nothing happening, humans finally broke into the ship to discover about a million aliens in a cargo bay malnourished and maybe a little crazy. After spending some time helping the aliens, deemed ‘prawns’ for slang, the alien camp is turned over to Multi National United. MNU is a private corporation, weapons manufacturer and mercenary distributor. On the plus side, we cannot use alien technology. On the downside, shit is about to hit the fan.

Wikus van der Merwe works for MNU. Wikus has put in charge of alerting the prawns that they are being moved from District 9 away from the city to District 10. Wikus van der Merwe is not the brightest bulb on the porch. Finding alien technology, he sprays himself in the face. Rather than immediately knocking him out (which would have been hilarious at that point), it slowly begins to change him into an alien. MNU is at first not pleased, until they discover he can use the alien technology. Wikus solicits an alien(who has the best alien name ever)’s help to get himself un-aliened; but the prawn wants to get to his ship so he can go home and then rescue his people on earth.

Shit, it is going down. Loudly.

Here’s the thing. There is not a doubt in my mind that if a group of aliens showed up on earth lacking in some sort of defensive capability that would stop us – we would totally do exactly this to them. Relegate them to second class citizen status and experiment on them. Humans, by and large, are nasty, brutish creatures. Honest, I do believe that at the edge of our solar system there is a little flashing beacon warning ‘Abandon Hope all ye who enter here.’ And if there’s not, there should be. In fact, while I expected to argue this point with my dad on the way out, he was there before me.

I will say this, the third act, while engaging, devolved into thirty minutes of people exploding, losing limbs, or dying in otherwise horrific ways. I’m telling you, shit is going down. In my perfect movie, they would have left a lot of that out and focussed more on what (if anything) are the repercussions of the ending. As it is, while several Very Important Things happen, we have no closure. No way of knowing if it was all for a purpose or nor naught.

I enjoyed the movie immensely. It was no Star Trek to make me go back half a dozen times, but I will probably try to see it at least once more before it leaves the theatres. I’d say it is easily the best alien movie in years, maybe since Independence Day. But ID was never really about the aliens, it was about humanity. I’d go so far back as ET on comparable movies – although the theme and message of this one is quite different.

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