Will Preston

A documentary featuring a magical and invisable cameraman.

by on Jul.04, 2010, under Films, Review

District 9

The door staff for the World Cup 2010 final were having a fancy dress day when the cops came a calling!

I always hoped that when aliens finally landed (I say finally. IT WILL HAPPEN!) that they would be like nothing we have already seen before in countless science fiction literature and motion picture. Maybe there ships are made of ultra strong jam that tastes like plastic? Maybe their bodies are composed of crying? Maybe they have five sexes, three that combine to make a sperm catapult that feed separate genetic information to the remaining three sexes who cover physique, intelligence and ethics.

If you’re like me, that conjures up the image of a fairground game bred with an orgy.

It’ll be normal for them, but horrifying to everyone on the planet that it vomits up instant xenophobic hatred that we declare war with the intergalactic interlopers. Of course by this point, the human race will have devolved in technology after the fifth nuclear war to the point where a shitted stick is the closest thing we have to automatic weaponry (a dog turd covered rock for long range killings!).

And of course a cameraman dressed in rags will be on site to document the entire thing, right up to the point where the alien race hands us a gift wrapped box containing our own laser bitten arse.

In a way, District 9 is the movie I was hoping for. In the early Eighties, a large ship of aliens accidentally Independence Day’s it’s way over Johannesburg in Saath Effrikaa, giving the country one other thing to be world famous for apart from the apartheid, a theme which is overt and prominent right form the first trailer Discovering that their ship has wondered light years away from its course, and thus has left the aliens weakened and vulnerable, the government (of Saath Effrikaa) provides the aliens a makeshift settlement in the form of District 9.

Next comes the inevitable 20 years of racial segregation and the slumification of the district, that carries a direct comparison/homage/satire of the real life District 5 in Johannesburg. All of this back story is filmed in the style of a real life documentary, the film’s main selling point. The mother ship that looms over the city isn’t to be seen, but to be believed. It really looks like a life-size model was made just for the film, but of course this is the age of simple CGI.

The aliens (or “Prawns” as their appearance makes obvious) are a little too obviously CGI’d in, but it’s either that or a guy in a horrible rubber suit. Which is kind of what happens later. Granted, this is nit picking, but it’s also a plot spoiler so by all means skip the following paragraph (Take Heed Now does not hold any responsibility for movies ruined for people).

During the course of the film, the nearest thing we have to a protagonist, the bureaucratic anything-but-hero Wikus is sprayed by an odd alien chemical. Next thing we see is his slow transformation into a prawn resulting in the lowest costing entity in this film; the prosthetic hand. It’s not badly designed, it’s just obviously a rubber prop.

But as I said: Nitpicking!

After this break in equilibrium, the movie starts to abandon the documentary approach and goes for the modern-Hollywood-shaky-camera approach. At first it’s like a simple gear change; you can tell it’s no longer a documentary as the cameraman is a little too intrusive. Intrusive to the point where we’re being fed restricted plot points from the point of view from anyone else but the documenter. Again, I’m nitpicking at first, but later it goes gung ho both with the camera approach and story where the film just decides to become Rambo, Iron Man and the last scenes of Terminator 2.

It isn’t bad action, it just feels borrowed.

However the alien weapons are a bloody joy to watch. At the press of a trigger, the target (usually human) paints the walls in six directions with their body matter. Yummy! Despite the disappointing route the film goes down in the end, it’s still a clever thing one to watch. Most of it feels believable and a lot of work has clearly gone into the presentation and the scripting of the documentary style parts.

It’s science fiction that hints on contemporary social issues before deciding to distract you with a typical firework display. There’s some hidden depth here that the director is shying away from for the sake of the mainstream audience attention.

And no amount of shitted stick waving is going to uncover it.

Well, not until the sequel, possibly.

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