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District 9 (2009)
An Alien Film like no other
Based on a short independent film, Peter Jackson's latest movie tells a tragic story of a race of aliens stranded on Earth, twenty years ago, and are forced to live in heavily guarded concentration camps. Under the cruelty of human authority the aliens are forced to endure harsh treatment from humans as they burn down their young to maintain population of the alien beings. The Nigerian crime lords, located near the District 9 area, make their living trading with the aliens for inter species prostitution and food in exchange for alien weaponry, yet the Nigerians often resorted to eating and canabalizing the the aliens; believing that by eating them they would gain special powers to use the weapons. Unfortunately, the human race has never been able to use the weapons successfully due to the fact their weapons are biologically engineered just for the aliens. Hence the dillema of "District 9", as the aliens themselves are portrayed more humane than the humans are as the film shows, they have the advanced technology far exceeding our own. Yet, they never use it during the movie until the very end when they're merely defending themselves. The story is told through the eyes of Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) a man that seemed to have had it all, as one of MNU's (Multi-National United) social services representatives, until one freak accident allows him to sees things in a different light. The first twenty minutes of the film is shot almost like a documentary as it explains "District 9" entire history as to how it developed into a slum over the years in Johannesburg, South Africa. Explaining the appearance of the aliens, nicknamed "Prawns", in the 1990s and how District 9 came to be the crime infested slum it is today in the year 2010. Indeed, like "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring", Peter Jackson is able to tell a brief narrative of this film's history in a short amount of time without making the movie feel rushed or lack any kind of story development. The special effects in this film were simply amazing, especially considering the budget for this film was a measely thirty million dollars. Not to say that isn't a lot of money, but in terms of how much money is usually spent on special effects in Hollywood films and the quality of "District 9" CGI, makes it even more astounding to believe. Throughout the film, Neill Blomkamp, the director, is able to portray a film that questions the very nature of humanity and how deep our own prejudices are. Making you wonder whether the humans are the real monsters of this movie. Although, I'm sure "District 9" won't be the most popular film of the summer, but it'll definitely be one of the best ones due to its remarkable story.
The film follows a MNU social worker, Wikus, as he is assigned the daunting task of getting the aliens to sign an eviction notice, so they can be relocated to another concentration camp that has been set up in another part of South Africa. During his assignment he discovers a vile, that was retrieved by the prawns and analyzes it, despite his colleague's warning, as it accidentally sprays all over his face. What seemed to be just another daily routine for Wikus, turned into a nightmare as it is later discovered the liquid, inside the vile, was not only fuel for the aliens' ship, but it also has a side effect to it as well to humans. Wikus is displayed as man that is unsympathetic to the aliens, at the beggining of the film, as he tries various tactics to force the prawns to sign the eviction notice, ranging anywhere from bribery using cat food or threats if need be. In one scene when one of the prawns, Christopher, refuses to sign the notice, Wikus threatens to take his child away into child services due to horrendous living conditions. These scenes show just how unsympathetic the human race is to the alien species since as one person in the movie was quoted, "It would be so easy to identify with them if they were from another country or something, but they're not even from this planet." Indeed, it isn't until later into the movies when Wikus finds himself turning into an alien himself, none of his human friends, wife, or family would help him. Even having his own father in-law, who works as MNU's top executive, issuing orders to have him disected for scientific research. This allows the audience to see how heartless mankind can when we allow our own prejudice to take over. As like humanity's past, we've always been cruel to those that have been different. Like the slavery days, the holocaust in WWII and the times when American settlers slaughtered countless Indians just for being different. "District 9" shows a dark side of humanity that seldom would want to believe, yet deep down we know it be true.
Another poweful theme this movie has is that it displays how greedy mankind can truly be, like when Wikus begs and pleas to speak with his wife when MNU experiments on him in the lab. When he first started changing into a prawn, instead of allowing him to speak to his wife, he was forced to do a series of tests as they try to exploit the fact that he can use alien technology for their gain. This allows the viewer to see just how greedy humanity is when it comes to opportunities, thus seeing another darker side to the human race.
Like the aliens that Wikus felt no sympathy for in the past, he was suddenly thrust into a world where the only friends he could rely on was the prawn that he threatened, Christopher, along with his son. It isn't until Wikus is completely abandoned by his family and friends that he finally realizes what its truly like as a prawn. Irony at its' best. As his interactions with Christopher and his son, it allows the viewer to see a more humane side to the aliens as they help Wikus with his predictcament by giving him a place to stay, despite what happened earlier between them. Allowing the viewer to gain an even more sense of empathy towards the aliens in their struggle.
In another scene, Christopher gets captured by MNU, as Wikus tries to fly away in the alien craft, the MNU's soldiers fire at the ship despite Christopher telling them that his son is in that ship. This scene works very well as it shows even more about the cruelty of human nature and allows the audience to feel an even deeper sense of sorrow for the prawns, as Christopher pleas for them not to hurt his son.
Even though this film is heavily story based, that is not to say it doesn't have solid action sequences to keep the average movie goer entertained. As I stated earlier, the special effects are simply beautiful as it could easily rival any big budget film's F/X like "Transformers 2" and "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince", yet what makes it even more amazing is that it was all done with a budget of thirty million dollars. Hard to believe when you see the quality of the film itself.
Overall, I don't think this film will be too commercially popular due to its content, but I do believe out of all the alien movies I've seen, this is by far one of the best ones to date. Using a strong storyline, and character development that will keep anyone entertained. Definitely one of the best films of the summer, in my book.