Tuesday, September 8, 2015

District 9

Major Spoilers. 
I saw this movie cut for TV.

I heard this film was mind-blowing and amazing back in 2009 when it released, but for some reason I was still surprised when, six years later, I finally watched it, and yes, it blew my mind.

There is basically nothing bad to say about this film. It's extremely creative with its premise, and its mockumentary filming-style; very well thought out, and convincingly realistic. Although it was undoubtedly a no-brainer for the South African filmmakers, the fact that it's set in Johannesburg, and has no big, famous actors (well, at the time) in its cast sets it apart from your typical alien fare wonderfully.

This is one memorable movie.

So there's this amazingly realistic (because anything that could be real really was) science fiction, wholly new kind of alien invasion story, that is interesting enough to be a movie all on its own, and for the first act I was even tricked into thinking that was all it was. There was not one character that seemed fitted to be a leading character or hero; there only appeared to be neutral side characters or villains. I thought the film was being original by not giving us a human character for us to root for, to force us to concentrate on the (granted, very interesting) alien's problem. But as interesting, thoughtful and remarkable the base plot was, in the end it only serves as a complex background for one of the most unexpectedly amazing character pieces I've ever seen.

Sharlto Copley was a producer, not an actor at the time when he took on the role of Wikus van de Merwe for his director friend Neill Blomkamp, but the moment he became Wikus, he became not only an actor, but one of the best in the business.

"My name is Wikus van de Merwe... and what we do here at this department is we try to engage with the prawn of behalf of MNU, and on behalf of humans." With general idea of what to say, Copley and other cast members would just improvise their lines.

Wikus starts a caricatured stereotype of a government employee; dorky, shallow, unremarkable, a jerk, and perhaps slightly endearing, but mostly because you feel sorry for him that he doesn't know how annoying he is. He's obviously overjoyed at getting to be such a main focus of the documentary -- he puts on his best face for the cameras and talks to them incessantly and happily while doing his job, which was sometimes so cruel it made a disturbing contrast. Like the scene where he casually and gleefully oversees the murder of alien eggs as part of population control.

Then, when Wikus's world is turned on its head (as literally as something can figuratively be turned on its head) we see the real him, and he's not a very likable guy either, (much like the first one, only even less nice). Though we do pity his terrible, bizarre situation and admire his desperate fight against it. Still his self-mindedness gets in the way of his reaching a hero status... until the end. In the final climax he enters that exo-suit a desperate coward using up his final thread of hope, and emerges it a brave, selfless, straight-up awesome hero.

I cannot get over how cool this is! And I am becoming have become a fast fan of Sharlto Copley.

I found it very interesting and strangely profound that for the entire movie, this guy would never shut up -- he was seriously talking almost constantly, every chance he had, and to anyone he thought might listen -- but in his last scene, once he has finally become the hero we never imagined he could ever be, he never says a word.

District 9 was a bit of a sleeper for me. It took me whole week to soak it in and realize how blown away I was. Then I had to watch it again to confirm my being blown away, and was blown away again -- by the world, the character, the physical transformation from man to beast, and the heroic one from beast to man; and the incredible performance that made it all convincing. It really is one of the most remarkable movies I've ever seen, with one of the most deceptively extraordinary, mind-blowing heroes at its core.


  1. You always come across a certain movie that after you watch you you think ,"How have I not seen this movie before??" It happened to me with a recent movie too. You did a great job at reviewing the movie and writing absolutely nothing about what the movie is about!

    1. Well in this case I do know why I never saw it before. It was rated R, and I'd never caught it on TV before then. I certainly didn't expect to love it as much I did though! What movie was it with you? Thanks Ivy! I feel like I gave a lot away, but I tried very hard to not mention anything I didn't have to. :)

    2. I'm 24 and I'm still wary about R rated movies; as long as their isn;t to much horror and gore, then I'll watch it. The movie that I saw was The Untouchables that was made in the late 80s. It's inspired by the true story of the special police force that brought down Al Capone in the 30s. Even though it deals with the mob, it's not exactly a mob movie (like The Godfather), because the mafia is portrayed in a negative and villainous light. It was just a fun and exciting movie! I'll be reviewing it soon : )

    3. Same -- at 22, I've only recently stopped dismissing R movies just because they're R. Now I research a lot to know what I'm getting into, and it's nice, cause I found that many R movies have positive elements that are worth the extra content. Uncut, D9 apparently has pervasive language which I do try to avoid, but don't mind the violence much. I haven't seen that one, but it sounds pretty cool! I'll keep an eye out for your review, and then maybe I'll watch it sometime. :)

  2. I too like this movie. The direction, the acting and the special effects - everything works perfectly.

    Most importantly, I like the social message - the obvious parallels to apartheid and how humans discriminate against one another, based on superficial aspects like looks and color of the skin.


    1. Oh yes, I love it when movies show the depravity of human nature, and this one does it particularly well -- and then adds to it by mixing the heroic journey and hardcore action into it. :)