Monday, September 14, 2009

REVIEW: District 9

Rarely does a movie stick to my ribs like this one did.

Like all UFO buffs I have had daydreams (and a few nightmares) of what it will be like when the aliens come. Like most people I assume it will be with shock and awe like we saw in a completely ridiculous movie like Independence Day or that awful remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I mean to tell you District 9 was the negative image to Independence Day's glossy print.

This film was presented to us as a quasi documentary - real and gritty, with nervousness and curiosity. None of the fake patriotism and bravado of the usual Hollywood fare. In District 9 the aliens were not the villains. Predictably, and might I say realistically, the real villains were an overwhelmed government and a multi-national weapons manufacturer called MNU.

The story takes place in Johannesburg South Africa where 28 years ago a city sized UFO took up residence in the sky above the city. We are told documentary style how after three months of absolutely no activity the authorities finally cut their way into the ship. In it they found over million starving aliens. Derogatorily called Prawns because they resemble the earthly decapods we eat with cocktail sauce, they were a hive mentality race cut off from their "queen" and were lost and helpless.

The aliens were brought down to the planet and set up on the outskirts of the city in a refugee camp known as District 9. Intelligent but leaderless the aliens were easily herded a separated from the human population. Despite the razor-wire and guard towers the aliens were not safe from humans or safe for humans. After almost 30 years the human population grew tired of the problems the aliens caused and money spent on them. MNU is tasked with a relocation plan to move them 240 kilometers out of town.

As with any good villain MNU has ulterior motives. The aliens have advanced technology and weapons but try as they might MNU's scientists can't make them function. Because they are constructed with a biologic interface tied to the aliens DNA they are useless to humans and their armies. Hoping to uncover secrets hidden in District 9 that would help them with a breakthrough MNU sets out to begin the relocation process. Thus the story begins.

An MNU field operative named Wikus van der Merwe is tasked with the relocation operation and becomes the unlikely hero of the story. The sidekick, so to speak, is an alien called Christopher Johnson, who has a small and inquisitive young son whom he fiercely defends. It is hinted in the side line interviews that Christopher might be a surviving member of the prawn leadership caste, in that he shows much more knowledge of how the alien technology worked. He also possessed and had hidden the command module seen falling from the ship 28 years earlier but was never found.

This is all I would like to say so as to not spoil the experience for anyone interested in a very well done alien romp at the movie theater.

I really enjoyed it and I would say it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that a sequel could be forthcoming - there was still a lot of story to tell.