Exploring District 9
Humans Are Scarier Than Aliens
Do you enjoy movies about aliens? Is one of your secret fears that you may one day contract a virus that will turn you into an alien and you’d like to get some tips on how to cope with that? Are you a fan of Peter Jackson’s and are up for whatever the producer in him can throw at you? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, District 9 may be the movie for you.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the film opens in 1982 Johannesburg, South Africa. An alien ship is discovered to be floating above the city and, for nearly three months, the world leaves it there untouched all the while pondering about its purpose. After said time has elapsed, a government team is sent to explore the ship and is shocked to find that it is occupied by a large group of malnourished and leaderless aliens who are hence forth referred to as “prawns.” Believing their actions to be humanitarian in nature, the team moves the prawns from the ship and houses them in a poorly constructed, garbage filled government camp called District 9. Fast-forward 28 years, the camp is now overseen by Multinational United, a private military contractor that seeks to relocate the prawns to an even worse living community. This is when we meet our protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley). Poor Wilkus is an MNU field operative who has been assigned by his commander (who also happens to be his disapproving father-in-law) to manage the relocation operation. While going door-to-door to inform the prawns of the move, he stumbles upon a canister owned by a prawn and accidentally sprays himself with the liquid it contains. Over the course of the day, he begins to transform into a prawn. As a result, he becomes the property of MNU and is set to be dissected. Unable to literally lie down and die, he breaks out of the facility and becomes a fugitive. Will Wilkus ever return to his human form and be able to reunite with his wife? Can a human and a prawn that have been taught to hate each other learn to ban together for the common good? Why do the Africans enjoy eating the prawns? These questions and more will be answered once you see District 9 for yourself.
Admittedly, District 9 is an interesting movie with a lot to offer. To begin with, it is told in mock documentary style that done well can feel real and relatable, but done badly is just a joke. Watching this movie, you feel like you’re watching a true alien piece on a respected network. Unfortunately, it has some utterly disgusting moments (brutal killings, cannibalism and such) that can make your stomach churn and turn your mind off. I for one nearly left a couple of times, but stayed because I needed to see if the movie had a purpose beyond the obvious. I’m glad I stayed because, had I not, I would’ve missed out on some great movie moments.
District 9 is a movie that seeks to point out human flaws by magnifying them to catastrophic proportions. In other words, as we strive to protect ourselves from our enemies we are, in turn, becoming the enemy. The humans in this movie feared the prawns as they were different and entered our world without an invitation. Though what they received from the government in the form of food and other resources was pitiful, this microscopic amount was seen as exceedingly generous by many citizens. They sought to have the prawns removed from their city not only as a means of protection from possibly violent creatures, but to protect their natural resources from hungry mouths that only seemed to get hungrier as the prawns appeared to reproduce at a rapid pace. Despite the government’s efforts to diminish their numbers (Agents were sent to burn down sheds where the baby prawns were being kept. Adult prawns were executed for the tiniest infractions.), it is undeniable that the prawns surpassed the government’s original prawn population cap. Though I may be going out on a limb here, I believe that this movie touches upon society’s fear of illegal aliens. In America, we patrol our borders and take other precautions in the hopes of keeping our land free of aliens. Due to the economy, our eyes are meant to be kept open even wider to help the government maintain order thus allowing precious jobs and assistance to remain in the hands of legal citizens. Out of fear, we forget that, legal or not, we are all human beings just trying to get by. Like many outcast humans, the prawns were peaceful people unless they felt threatened. However, as in our society, humans only got to see the prawns in attack mode and thus, frightened of being their next victim, petitioned for the prawns to be made even more of outcasts. From day one, the government had its own agenda and used the impressionable public’s outcries as a means to carry it out. The prawns were better off starving to death on a ship that was their own. Once at the mercy of human beings, they had no chance of freedom nor had they the ability to thrive. Everyday, through our inability to see beyond the popular norm, we create new monsters.
For someone who only goes to see movies from particular genres, District 9 has opened my eyes to a new world of movies. Up until now, I was unaware of all that could be learned from aliens. Though I do not promise to become a Sci-fi geek, I will no longer balk at the idea of seeing another of its kind. Still, I caution you not to bring young children or people with squeamish stomachs to this movie. It has an important message, but it is not given to you in a pretty package. I guess that’s the point of these types of movies though. If you have money to spare, I urge you to see District 9. The coming attractions do not do it justice.
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