Old Movie Review: District 9

Most fans agree: 2009 was a great year for sci-fi. Two big movies in the genre, both with good receptions. District 9 was one of them, and I am one of its fans.

No other movie opened with me hating the main character so much, and then ending with me rooting for him out loud. This is a film that punched me in the gut.

The main character, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), is a pretty big douchebag at the start. He’s just doing his job of evicting all the “prawns” (aliens, the actual outer-space kind) from their ghetto in Johannesburg, South Africa, so that the government can move them to a more controlled camp. His life is turned upside down, or maybe inside out, when he’s exposed to an alien substance.

Some people might find the documentary style of filming to be a source of annoyance. It’s certainly a technique that can be misused easily. For myself, I think the film uses it in a way that actually helps the story, instead of just being a gimmick for realism. It’s not overused, and that’s key, and by a little under halfway we see very little of it.

The film’s aliens are very interesting as well, being nicknamed “pawns”. Despite their grotesque appearance, you can still connect with them, or at least sympathize with them. In general I liked their design, though I’m not sure how the humans understood the alien language. Can you imagine attending a course to learn to understand sounds you couldn’t make yourself? This, and other questions, is left for the viewer to fill in.

Some question they left a little too vague. For example, they could have alluded to who exactly Christopher (the main alien) was a bit more. Was he a mechanic aboard the ship? A leader of some kind? He seemed to be smarter than the other prawns.

The film is a clear in its message about the problems of segregation and population movement/increase, but it doesn’t cram its morality too much down the viewer’s throat. I think had the aliens been even the tiniest bit more human, the film would have suffered from over-the-top moralizing. Ironically, because the aliens were so different and gross, we can sort of sympathize with their plight, while ignoring the clear parallels to our world’s own problems.

Still, it’s a great movie, even with the moralizing, which I myself enjoyed discussing. It’s visually amazing and disgusting (but in a totally good way).

Dice roll: 5

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