Friday, August 28, 2009

District 9

I didn't know what to expect with District 9. I knew that it had to do with aliens, but I didn't know anything else about it. Another alien movie, but this one is produced by Peter Jackson. I figured everyone would be talking about it, so I took a chance at the drive-in.

Watching this movie, I went through many different emotions. Disgust, anger, hate, sorrow, fear. The emotions were all negative, but I do think the movie was trying to communicate a larger message. I like the way it was filmed, as a mock documentary, and it was talking about everything after the fact, which I thought was pretty cool.

As I was watching it, I kept thinking how improbable the whole thing would be. Not necessarily the whole alien encounter thing but the response of humans. I didn't buy that humans would let the aliens come to their planet. Why would they let them live in a colony? I feel like it would be too big of a threat. I understand that they wouldn't accept them--we can't even accept each other for petty reasons like racial color, religious preference, or sexual preference. I think the movie is a great reason to point out our feeling of superiority among everyone around us.

I also thought it was quite improbable that both species could eventually understand their dialects after twenty years. How could we understand their language? They might not even have a language that is even close to English to be translatable. They made absolutely different noises. I just don't know if it would really ever work out. I mean, how does anyone learn a new language when you can't communicate anything to the other group?

So basically, in District 9, aliens come down to Earth and hover over Johannesburg, Africa for months. They do not come out. Humans eventually fly up and pry themselves into their spaceship. They are malnourished and need help. Humans send them down to a compound they call District 9 where they fence them in and provide them shelter and food. It is a heavily militarized area.

Twenty years later, their population is growing and they need a bigger compound. The people of Johannesburg are also growing quite tired of having them around. The plan is to ship them to a different compound 200 KM south, so the person in charge, a man named Wikus, goes door to door to give them eviction notices. Note that these aliens are given human names and identifications just like human beings.

Outside of the compound, humans try to deal food, weapons, and other pleasures to the aliens. It is considered the Nigerian black market. There's even inter-species prostitution. Yuck. The aliens really like catfood, so they try to sell them that as well. There are picketers and protesters outside the compound. The aliens have even earned a new derogatory nickname as "prawns." It is the equivalent of a racial slur.

The conflict in the story begins with Wikus is exposed to a very valuable liquid to the aliens. This liquid, held in a tube, can transport their spaceship back to their homeland where they all want to return. Unfortunately, Wikus starts to slowly turn into a prawn. The government tries to do tests on him as he is the only successful person to transform into a prawn. Others have tried by digesting parts of the aliens or having intercourse with them. There is even a special lab that does testing on them that the main alien, Christopher, stumbles over with Wikus when they try to secure the liquid.

Wikus eventually runs away from the holding facility because he gets his hands on some alien weapons. Alien weapons only work when an alien holds them (which is really genius), so he escapes and hides away. The only place where he is safe is when he is among the prawns. Christopher then discovers his problem, and they decide to go on a suicide mission to get the liquid. Christopher promises that if he gets his liquid, he will turn Wikus back into a human.

In the midst, the Nigerian black market tries to cut off Wikus's arm for their own military gain, Christopher and Wikus murder a lot of people, and Christopher and Wikus eventually return with the liquid back at Christopher's hut. Christopher says that he cannot change Wikus yet because he must return back to his homeland. He promises to return three years later to turn him back. Wikus gets angry, but in the end, Christopher and his son are able to fly away in the giant spaceship alone.

This is where I got all sad: Wikus slowly transforms into an alien and must live with the other prawns. He misses his wife terribly and leaves her little things outside her door to let her know that he is still alive and loves her. The movie ends without closure whether Christopher will return to save the other aliens, if he will return for war, or if Wikus will ever change back to being a human.

I liked the ambiguous ending. It also leaves room for a potential sequel. I think it would make a good sequel. I thought the whole thing was kind of dreary and sad though. It was horrible to see how we treated the prawns, but I guess I can understand it too. On one hand, I see that we must respect everyone, but on the other hand, I don't know how much I would trust them. They are so powerful and technologically superior that they could wipe us out in an instant.

I was kind of disappointed with how the aliens were physically created. They looked very human-like with two legs, two arms, eyes, and mouth pieces. It was very similar to the human body, and they even communicated in similar ways that were able to be understood. I don't know what else I would have preferred, but it just bared quite similar to humans.

What I didn't know is that it is based on a similar actual account that happened in South Africa, where it takes place. Check out its origination: "The title and premise of the film are inspired by historical events that took place in District Six, an inner-city residential area in Cape Town in South Africa under apartheid. In 1966, District 6 was declared a "whites only" area by the apartheid government and for the next several decades, 60,000 people were forcibly removed and relocated to Cape Flats, 25 kilometres away." I love the spin off. It's so very clever. It's easy to substitute something alien (an actual alien) in place of another group of humans to make a point. Brilliant.

District 9 was a bit raunchy and disturbing, but I think it brings up interesting points to talk about. How would you feel about having aliens drop down on our planet? How should they be treated? Do you even believe in aliens? Why would they come here? What could we learn from them? A believable tale or not?

So what do you think of District 9?

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