The Night Out: District 9 (2009), or The Eex Foils

14 08 2009

South African history is a big, muddled mess, like the history of any nation that has been invaded by the white man in the past. Integration for some reason has never been an easy ordeal, as we can solemnly and ashamedly attest. One of the modern world’s more infamous and saddening examples of this was the eviction of over 60,000 blacks from District 6 of Cape Town in the early 70s. Apartheid was in full swing, and blacks were given little choice but to leave their homes and move to the shoddy Cape Flats complex, where they would be forced to stay until the mid 90s after the fall of the regime. It was a very embarrassing episode in history that occurred just a little too recently to blame it on the ignorance of a long-dead generation. Today, I saw the sci-fi film District 9, a film by newcomer Neill Blomkamp that bases the fantasy of an alien spacecraft landing on Earth with the very real horrors of Apartheid that Blomkamp witnessed during his childhood. It is a wonderfully-crafted sci-fi thriller in the spirit of Alien Nation, as well as an important reminder of the dangers of giving one group of segregation.

It sets up an alternate history in which, during Apartheid in 1982 Johannesburg, aliens land on Earth in an enormous spaceship. When the humans discover them inside the ship, they find that the aliens cannot start their ship back up and are stranded on the planet Earth. Earthlings, at first, are willing to help them and set them up in a temporary town outside Johannesburg called District 9 while the world deliberated on what would be done with them. But as time went by and no decision was reached, the temporary town became a nearly unlivable slum, and with slums always come crime and unrest, even for aliens. So the humans and the aliens of South Africa clash over and over again for the next 20 years, until finally it is decided that at least until someone can come up with a solution, the two species should be kept apart. A company called MNU is asked to oversee an operation that will evict the 1.5 million aliens from District 9 into a camp farther from the humans. A South African man named Wikus van der Merwe is assigned to deal with the hard task of actually evicting them. He goes from house to house notifying them and busting any aliens under suspicion of illegal activity. During a raid on one house, he finds an odd alien cylinder that, after some poking and prodding on his part, sprays him in the face with a strange fluid, causing him to fall ill. And as his illness progresses, he begins to see changes in his body that force him to see the entire world in a new light. In this decade-long struggle for equality between man and alien, and the key to it all might just be one man’s change of heart. And body…

Director Neill Blomkamp blows this one out of the water. I was incredibly impressed with how much he made me care about a completely computer-generated race of bug-like aliens (known as the Prawn). The humans’ cruelty towards them is a rough but realistic flourish by a man who has seen similar things first-hand. The Prawn are disgusting, hideous, noble, and virtuous all at the same time, and the fact that they’re slumming it up adds a hyper-realism to this very sci-fi movie that has the feel of a documentary. The Image Engine creature design team did an amazing job, and while at times the budget does show on the CG, it doesn’t do so very often. You often forget that they’re not there, and I found myself caring more about them than I did the human characters.

And speaking of the humans, I officially LOVE the South African accent. It’s like a mix of Welsh, New Zealander, and Australian accents, combined into one freaky patois that makes even the most serious dialog slightly hilarious for me. Especially from the mouth of the film’s star, first-time actor Sharlto Copley! What a great job on his part as Wikus van der Merwe! He’s a natural, and he had never even done it until his friend Blomkamp asked him to. He’s a character who’s strong on the inside, but doesn’t realize it until AFTER he’s run away from danger quite a few times. He’s a serious man, but he has a humor that, at least for me, comes out of his thick, meaty accent. I don’t know why, but a grown man saying “Fook you!” instead of “Fuck you!” gets me every time! So if you saw my hilarious title above, that was just me toolking loike a Syouth Eefrican guy, so pardon my patois.

District 9 is a moving film that will both shock you and awe you. It shocks with a powerful message about the horrors that exist when one set of people holds dominance over another set of people, and awes you with how undeniably entertaining it is. It features a cast of new faces and a first-time feature director but pulls no punches when most films with such a line-up might have stayed near the kiddie pool. I really enjoyed just about everything, and have no suggestions to these newbies besides, “Keep up the good work!” A job well done, you South African wunderkinds! I give District 9 9 van der Merwes out of 10. Eexeeleent!

Tomorrow I ACTUALLY watch The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit! I promise!

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4 08 2012
“District 9”: A documentary approach to alien movies « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

[…] “District 9” to anyone interested in alien movies and also those who what to take a look at something different. And if this whole thing doesn’t convince you, the movie has an 8.1 score on IMDb… […]

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