By Neil McCormick
The plot of District 9 is as follows:- the film is set after over 20 years after an event had occurred. An Alien craft had arrived on earth. Instead of the events shown in sci-fi films of the 1950s etc, there are no shiny lights, no music and light show as seen in the 1970’s film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. There was nothing! – not even a hint of a home invasion or offer of giant advances in technology. Man felt cheated!
For 3 months they waited, till finally; man had enough and broke in to the space ship. When they did get into the spacecraft they found that the aliens were mere “workers”, refugees. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them. Meanwhile the weapons industry attempted to use or backwards engineer the alien weaponry. Unfortunately there was a problem. The alien weapons were designed with a biological dna password – only aliens could use them.
Due to civil unrest between the humans and the aliens, it was decided the solution was to move the aliens over 220 miles from Johannesburg to a new area. And that is how we meet the main Character – Wikus van der Merwe.
He has been charged by his father in law to move the aliens to the new District. In the course of carrying out the evictions , Wikus picks up an alien artefact and contracts an alien virus which begins changing his DNA.
Wikis becomes the most sought over man as his DNA would enable the weapons industry to use the alien weapons. When he escapes, a smear campaign is launched to make him the most wanted man. Ostracised and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.
The rest of the film is spent with the MNU trying to find him and in the process we watch Wikus transform into an Alien aka “Prawn” By so doing, he becomes a better person.
One thing you can remember about early Jackson films is the blood and gore in the likes of Bad Taste and Brain dead. Well this makes a welcome return in District 9. Both the director and Producer had been due to work together in a film version of Halo. Sadly due to financial difficulties it did not happen. However you can get a feel of Halo in some of this film – the use of alien technology and the battle scenes are a great example.
Make no mistake, District 9, written and directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson is a wake up call that Hollywood needed. Made for the small sum of £30Million, it goes to prove you do not need the £100 of Millions Hollywood usually throws away, seeking the next blockbuster. Yes there is CGI but it is perfectly employed and adds rather than dominating the film.
In making this film, Blomkamp has revitalised the Sci-fi genre.
The normal formula the industry uses of:- ensuring there is a happy ending , making sure they cast as big a star as possible in the lead role and making the lead role a heroic dude who can’t be injured goes out the window here.
Wikus starts off as a horrible being – his gleeful laughing at the Prawn eggs “popping like popcorn” while being destroyed by fire in one scene was disturbing. But as he morphs into an alien its poignant that we see a transformation – its almost ironic that as he becomes more alien – he gains more humanity and humility.
Kudos has to be given to the design of the aliens, their resemblance to a prawn is remarkable, it’s so weird and alien that they can elicit fear and disgust but also how emotive it can be at the same time. A lot of it was in their eyes, there were a couple really moving shots that expressed so much sadness with how eyes were expressed.
As much as I enjoyed this film, whilst I loved the docu style approach to the start of the film, with the crew following Wikus. I would have loved more of this slower paced style but then, it just started to get too fast paced and too ‘Hollywood’. It was as if the transformation section signalled a change of direction.
But overall, it is an entertaining watch. Probably one of the better films I have seen this year.
I am going to leave you with one query I have.
There is one scene at the end that I picked up on. This is something I have not seen on any site too date. Wikus’ wife is sitting in her bedroom some time after the events. She is looking at a gift of a rose made out of recycled metal – she has been given by an unknown party. I take it we are meant to assume it came from the now transformed Wikus. This is due to earlier in the fim we are shown a gift he made her.
The thing I picked up was in the background to the scene – there are baby scan pictures, a picture of his wife and a child and a card entitled “to my girl friend”. The question is, has his wife found someone else? Wikus makes no mention during the film that she is pregnant let alone had a child.