johnlink ranks DISTRICT 9 (2009)

I highly recommend seeing this movie with as little knowledge about it possible. The trailers don’t give much away, and much of their content does not appear in the movie. Go see it without knowing much about it, and you will be rewarded with one of the most original science fiction films in years. If you haven’t seen it, don’t make the jump below. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

DISTRICT 9 is the story of a group of worker bee aliens who have been relegated to the slums after 20 years on Earth. The plot of the movie gets going as they are about to be relocated to another area of South Africa.

NOTE: THIS RANKING UTILIZES THIS SITE’S ORIGINAL SYSTEMIC ARTICLE WRITING METHOD. THE METHOD BY WHICH THE RANKINGS WERE ARRIVED AT, HOWEVER, REMAINS THE SAME.

I watched DISTRICT 9 (2009) in theaters on 8.13.09. It was my first viewing of the film.

FILM

This is an ambitious movie. A movie which bases its themes on South African apartheid, the concepts of community versus the fear of that which is ‘other’, familial obligations, loyalty and betrayal, and the morality of scientific experimentation (among others).

The aliens, which arrived 20 years earlier, are being segregated like any other race would have been during apartheid in South Africa. Those in power treat the aliens with little regard, pretending to use legal authority only as a shield against any possible condemnation. The humans kill the aliens with little regard (though it is also noted that some aliens kill humans for fun), and burn their babies for the entertainment of it.

The ‘hero’ of this movie is Wikus Van de Merwe. As fellow podcaster John R. pointed out after seeing the film, it is hard to think of a protagonist being less likable or more contemptuous. I can imagine a SCHINDLER’S LIST where one of the Nazi soldiers begins by indiscriminately killing Jews, only to find out he is becoming one and must seek their help to provide him shelter. That would be the closest analogy I could draw to the transformation Van de Merwe undergoes. When he makes his heroic amends at the end of the film, it is truly earned. It would not be surprising to merely see him walk away based on his previous actions. Because of the build, it makes that last stand even more heroic, more inspirational.

I also have to mention the humanization of the aliens. I love that they are individuals, with their own look and personality beyond being a massive alien pack. It is interesting the way they have adapted to their surroundings, wearing clothes, tattooing themselves, forming gangs like the humans they live among. It is also an amazing point of detail the way they have been given anglicized names (like Christopher Johnson). It seems that much of the violence they demonstrate is not their innate nature, but rather another example of the way they imitate what they see. It is pointed out that they have no leadership, they are followers. And in this film, they follow the tone set by their human counterparts.

This movie is amazingly unique. Yes it is cartoon violent at times, and yes there are some plot holes which seem to defy logic (i.e., if the aliens have some of these weapons, why have they not tried to use them at all. We have already seen that some of them can be ultra-violent). But overall, this is a detail-oriented science fiction film which, I can already tell, will reward multiple viewings. SCORE: 9

MOVIE

Because I had no idea where this movie was headed, I found myself worrying at a few occasions about the ride I was being taken on. It didn’t seem like an ending could adequately wrap up the set up which was so deliciously laid out. I was not disappointed, however. This movie is as strong in its quiet moments as its loud ones. Maybe it could have gotten into the meat of the story a little more quickly, but I won’t begrudge its attempt to really lay the groundwork for the relationship between human and alien. SCORE: 9

ACTING

Sharlto Copley as Van de Merwe is a revelation. I can only imagine a ‘star’ trying to take on such a despicable role, and then relying on his off-screen cache to be the sole reason the audience then roots for him. Casting an unknown (in his first movie role) was brilliantly daring, and it works. His choices are often human. When he betrays the alien Christopher at the end, he does so because he cannot stand to not be with his wife for the three years he would have to wait for the alien to fix him. When he soon chooses to fix this wrong, he does so because his conscience won’t let him walk away. It is contradictory, but all too human. We see him transformed from an infant[slaughtering bureaucrat into a sympathetic alien/human hybrid. This is not done cheaply, and his performance is extraordinary.

The only reason there is not a perfect score here is because I found the villain to be decidedly one-sided and cartoonish. With the layers of relationships created between the Nigerians and the aliens and the MNU and the rest of society, I would have liked to see an equally layered performance by the head of the military. Instead we get a brutish, one-dimensional caricature. SCORE: 9

WRITING

Brilliant, brilliant script. I am tempted to take a point or two off for some of the above-mentioned plot holes, but I can’t think of why I should. This script is so unique and wonderful that I have to give writer/director Neil Blomkamp credit for getting it all on screen. I won’t reiterate all the things I love which I’ve previously mentioned, but I will say that the dialogue, and human moments (and I use that word loosely, because some of the most human moments come from aliens) are plentiful and rewarding. SCORE: 10.

FINAL TALLY

FILM: 9; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 9; WRITING: 10

9+9+9+10+0=37

FINAL SCORE: 9.25

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~ by johnlink00 on August 14, 2009.

One Response to “johnlink ranks DISTRICT 9 (2009)”

  1. Well done! This was a tough one to sum up for me. I think you’ve got the analogies right on.

    I disagree with your example of a plot hole however. The same thought (ie “If the aliens have these weapons, why don’t they use them?”) did cross my mind, but then reached this conclusion: what would they DO with the weapons? Shoot their way out? Where would they go? The whole reason they were there in the first place is because they were stuck on Earth. If they shot their way out of this ghetto, where were they going? It’s not like they can disguise themselves, and they have to eat. The military would simply hunt them down and kill them all at that point. Logically, I think the aliens would have realized that, and that’s why they never did use the weapons as you suggest. That’s how I interpreted it, anyway.

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