Contributed by Nikolaus Ong
Following Peter Jackson’s success with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, one would expect his new film to have a cast of big names, a story with a myriad of twists and turns and mind-blowing special effects jumping off the screen.
But District 9 is surprisingly devoid of the above. Which does not make it a bad movie — quite the opposite, actually. If one were to put District 9 under a microscope, one would see that beneath its violent surface lies many layers, making it a movie that one could watch over and over again.
District 9 is the slum area in South Africa occupied by an alien race, derogatorily called “Prawns” (thanks to their resemblance to the sea creature). The Prawns came to earth on a spacecraft, but its leadership had been destroyed. After some years on Earth, humans began to abuse the aliens and District 9 became a militarized zone housing the Prawns. The movie opens in the year 2010, and the Prawns’ situation isn’t so different from other illegal immigrants first-world countries across the globe. The humans want their weapons, and in exchange, they give the Prawns canned cat food (which has a catnip effect on the aliens).
The plot is simple, and the delivery, original. Played out realistically, the movie is filmed like a documentary, and opens with a number of “news interviews”. Through these interviews, viewers are told of the history and background of the story. I expected this raw documentary-like quality to fade out and Peter Jackson’s signature slick Hollywood style to kick-in, but this was not the case. Somehow, the beginning of the movie feels like a stolen reel that did not go through Hollywood’s state-of-the-art post-production.
But as the pace picks up, viewers are caught up in the action, following the protagonist, Wikus (Sharlto Copley), through the alien refugee camps.
In the beginning, the aliens are portrayed as low-intelligent, dysfunctional and outcast; bullied and taken for a ride by humans (the South African mafia sell them fake cat food!). Yet the Prawns bear an undercurrent, a hint that they are a higher life form, biding their time until the mother ship becomes operable and ready to take them back to their planet. Ultimately, this is a story of racism and prejudice.
Wikus is tasked to evict the alien refugees from their current area of containment to District 10. What follows is a story of human turning against human, human turning to alien for support, bodies of alien and human alike being blown up and more.
If anything, the anti-Hollywood, raw and original feel of this movie is what makes it a winner. Highly recommended for its violently gross and wildly enthralling qualities (ladies may not necessarily agree). Above and beyond the edgy plot and delivery, District 9 poses several thought-provoking questions about the state of our humanity and affairs we see in our world today. That’s something you can’t say about many films we watch these days.