District 9 is the first sci-fi movie I’ve seen in recent memory that wasn’t a (multi-)hundred-million dollar money shot. I’m looking at you Transformers 2! Strangely if you didn’t know that the film was produced on a meager $30M USD budget, you wouldn’t know. It’s that good. From start to finish the polish never wears off, but that’s just the thing: It’s not really polished at all. I mean the effects look superb but the gritty, realistic style remains consistent throughout the duration of the film.
First of all, the relationship between the humans and the prawns (what they call the aliens) really draws you in. The pain and sympathy I felt for the prawns was tangible. I really felt bad for them. There was an obvious commentary about Apartheid equating the prawns to the native Africans that really is very thinly veiled. Set in the slums of Johannesburg where the prawns have been isolated, it doesn’t take much effort to imagine how many millions of native African people are actually living like that today.
One of the biggest pieces of imagery on that tip was at the gates to District 9 itself. At base the gates are two large statues of a human and a prawn holding hands with their arms raised in an arch over the entrance. Across the bottom of the gates is a motto that says “District 9: Paving the Way to Unity”. Oh the irony! Get it? Because the aliens are being oppressed? Oh nevermind…
And then there was the ALIEN WEAPONRY. Holy shit, y’all. I think the best weapon was probably the arc gun which basically shot a lightning bolt which upon hitting the target made the target explode like a hot dog in a microwave. There were missiles and machine-gun style weapons, some sort of sonic blast gun and I think even some lasers (pew pew), but it was all about the arc gun, dude. Seriously. I giggled like a school girl whenever someone on-screen was vaporized into pink mist or a burst of guts. It was just so awesome.
The aliens are being oppressed so that we can get at their weapons. The catch being that the weapons are bio-activated by their DNA, so we humans can’t use them. It gets interesting when the main character (Wikus) encounters some black goo (there’s more to it, but I don’t want to ruin it) that slowly starts turning him into a prawn. This allows him to use the alien weapons and thereby makes him the target of the powers that be and also our unsuspecting human/alien hybrid hero. See the twist developing there?
If you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading… NOW. I have some questions and observations that you might consider to be spoilers:
- WTF is the black fluid? It’s clearly used as a fuel, but it also happens to modify your DNA to turn you into a prawn? I’m sure glad gasoline doesn’t have that side effect.
- Does it affect all DNA or just so happens to affect humans in this way?
- Those questions, and the fact that the prawn hero, Christopher, insists on returning in three years to “fix” Wikus in the scene where he is returning to the mothership are clearly setting us up for a sequel.
- The movie closes with Wikus having fulling transmuted into a prawn. Will we see him again? Will he regain his humanity as promised by Christopher? Will there be more exploding guts? I fuckin’ hope so, bitches!