Monday, March 5, 2012

District 9 (2009)

The story idea for this movie is phenomenal for a science fiction fan such as me.  To have aliens arrive on earth but remain dormant over a continent like Africa is really fascinating.  In any film I can remember watching about extraterrestrial beings coming to earth it’s almost always an extremely popular area of the planet not Johannesburg, South Africa.  The movie doesn’t pinpoint exactly how or why they arrived on earth but it does provide hints that it was unintentional.  I, in my usual manner, like to imagine and ponder the unexplained in movies such as this.  Perhaps they were possibly a merchant ship which became lost and decided to regain their bearings while residing on earth only to encounter an unforeseen setback that prolonged their stay.  Another scenario is they could have been a vacationing or exploring alien race that had inner turmoil among themselves which resulted in their being stuck on earth for 20 years.  If you haven’t yourself thought of possibilities it would do your imagination well to try as I believe it’s interesting to see what one can come up with.  The movie seems to conform to what, in truth, might actually happen to an alien race powerless or of a non aggressive nature, might do if it arrived on earth.

Questions remain as to why they've arrived.
                The humans mostly represented by MNU a major corporation in the story, wait three months after the arrival date, and decide to force the aliens out of their spacecraft.  The aliens were found dying, starving most likely.  MNU is basically a corporate raider looking to gain advantage of the alien weaponry, now don’t they sound like the human beings you’d like to first interact with a seemingly intelligent alien race.  A command module breaks free from the mother ship spacecraft and descends into District 9 but is never recovered.  The hovering mother ship remains in the air unable to make any type of lengthy journey as hinted later in the movie; it needs a special alien fuel.  The humans give the aliens the name of “prawns” due to their appearance.  It’s a fitting name for them and gives a sort of undermining view of them from the human perspective.  Humans clearly take advantage of the prawns in any manner they can, which includes trading any type of item for the coveted alien weaponry. 

He's so happy and human..
                The beginning plot of the movie involves MNU being hired out to relocate the prawns from District 9 to the new District 10 quite a distance from Johannesburg.  The locals are feed up with sharing their city with an invasive alien race.  The prawns are scavengers and violent at times by actually killing humans to get what they want.  It’s thought that the prawns have lost their leaders and the remaining species members are mere lackeys.  They’re unable to organize for themselves or think to a higher extent which is why they live in such a degraded state.  I love that idea and it’s an ideal explanation for why things have, over time, gotten out of hand in District 9 in the first place.  One of their employees, Wikus van der Merwe(Sharlto Copley), is chosen to lead the eviction process in District 9.  How exactly do you evict a species that is nearly impossible to deal with though?  Wikus explains to a fellow that is assisting him that all you need is a mark or for the prawn to hit the clipboard in some fashion to count as being properly evicted.  What an underhanded method to use on an alien race that is lost and desperately trying to survive.  At the same time MNU is attempting to move them to a better locale, it’s really a mind boggle as you go along to try to figure out who is better or worse in the movie.

If it's not yours, don't touch it!  He should be fine.
                Wikus, our good buddy, gets his position since he is the son-in-law of the executive.  Don’t be mistaken though as the father-in-law, Piet Smit, is quite a tool indeed.  Let’s get to a very interesting part here to keep your attention for keeps shall we?  Wikus eventually gets to Christopher Johnson’s shack in District 9 and Christopher is smarter than your average prawn let me tell you.  Wikus has to try to outsmart him by questioning whether he has a permit to have his child prawn with him.  The kid prawn is hilarious and its childlike qualities are kind of cute in a bizarre way.  Wikus offers it some candy but the kid prawn hurls it back at his face, ha-ha!  Wikus gets pissed and forces entry into Christopher’s shack but finds nothing more than computer parts everywhere for the most part.  Christopher is quite upset at this as he knows MNU has no right to barge in as he really has complied with everything they’ve asked so far.  He shows a great sign of intelligence which tickles me to death in a movie like this; I can’t say how much science fiction stuff perks my brain waves.  Christopher, later, is seen working on a project to extract a fuel source for the mother ship which has taken considerable time to attain.  Christopher leaves in fear he will be caught with it and can’t afford such a setback.  It’s clear he must be the brains of the prawns because he has his partner prawn to address Wikus and try to hide the fuel container.  Wikus and his cameraman investigate the shack to the dismay of the prawns to find a chemistry set.  He is very fascinated by it and claims that this prawn is up to something.  Wikus lets his curiosity get the better of him and gets infected by an unknown black chemical as it sprays him in the face!  You should have kept your hands off of it however; the weaponry of the prawns is all DNA encoded which means only they can operate it so this alien container must not be made in the same format.  That’s interesting considering how valuable it is.

It's my party & I'll puke if I want to!
                There is a tussle which you get to see Koobus (David James) blow apart Christopher’s friend.  Koobus is a nasty bugger so to speak.  He clearly dislikes anything not of this world and even Wikus to some extent as you get the feeling he only respects military strength.  In other words Koobus is the guy you hate in this movie but it works well for the story.  Wikus begins a fantastical transformation into one of the aliens.  It first shows signs when he is discharging black fluid from his nose a couple times soon after.  He arrives home with a broken arm he suffered while tangling with the prawns earlier in the day to a surprise party in his honor.  It couldn’t be a worse time for him as he’s feeling like utter crap from his new infection.  He ends up vomiting black fluid all over his cake in front of everybody!  Now that’s icing on the cake!  When MNU discovers Wikus has bonded his own DNA with that of the alien DNA they decide to dissect Wikus to harvest anything they can use to their own needs.  His wonderful father-in-law Piet Smit decides that for poor Wikus right in front of him.  I told you he was a jerk.  Wikus was also pretty freaked out when he first saw his new prawn forearm when the doctor cut the cast off.  Before they decide to chop Wikus up they had him fire the alien weaponry which gave all the scientists and MNU guys major boners.  Am I being too shrewd?  It’s true they were so impressed with this breakthrough in the weapons area.

I was playing before Chris!  We're cool right?
                Wikus’ initial escape gets me in the way he did it.  He holds a scalpel to a doctor’s neck to use as a hostage shield when a security officer blocks his escape.  The officer should know to detain Wikus at all costs even if to injure or kill the doctor.  Perhaps they had few doctors so it was difficult to do so?  It’s not a total mishap but worth a mention.  Piet Smit lies to the media and informs them Wikus had sexual relations with a prawn, thus becoming infected.  Koobus is sent to hunt him down whom he takes a liking to in his sick way.  Wikus does try to call his wife to explain the horrible turn of events that so quickly overcame him but she is so torn between what she’s heard from everyone that she can’t come to terms with what Wikus says.  He ultimately flees to District 9 for safety.  There he meets Christopher Johnson, at a more desperate hour, who now becomes his reluctant ally in hopes to cure himself of the transformation.

Go have sex with a prawn & find out if this happens to you!
                Wikus discovers the command module underneath Christopher’s pad and is dumbfounded.  Christopher’s son takes a liking to Wikus in a funny way.  I really enjoyed the antics and behavior of that little creepy prawn.  Christopher informs Wikus that the fuel he confiscated earlier was for the mother ship and could also stop the transformation process into a prawn.  Wikus goes back and forth on what to do knowing he has little time to act.  He’s in quite an uncomfortable position, if you put yourself in his shoes you’d probably want to suicide.  They decide to break into the MNU building to retrieve the fuel container since it’s basically the only thing they can do.  It’s time to pay a visit to some really strange people that are storing the alien weapons within District 9.  Wikus confronts the Nigerians and they see his altered arm.  They want it to ingest his arm, that’s right to eat, to become like Wikus and use the weapons for themselves as well.  Wikus ends up snatching one the weapons and firing at a few thugs.  He is able to make off with the weapons needed.  It seemed the violent nature of the Nigerians gets stunned as they let him just leave without any gunfire directed at him.  Perhaps they were too frightened or simply obeying their leaders order to let him go?  Their leader did claim he would find him later; he seems crazy enough to be patient enough in that aspect.

George, man, you were always so funny.. *sob*
                The two infiltrate the building easily enough but Christopher discovers the sickening things they’ve been doing to the prawns in the labs.  Wikus didn’t realize it was this bad but then again he did blow apart a prawn in his forced experiment earlier when MNU wanted to gut him apart for parts.  Christopher suddenly gets extremely emotional and just stands staring at a barbequed looking prawn while gunfire is spraying all over the lab.  He doesn’t get hit by any of it of course.  Wikus finds and retrieves the fuel then Christopher gathers up some of his alien parts scattered about in the room and makes a bomb.  I told you this prawn was a smart one and luckily for them because without that bomb I believe they would be done for.  They flee back to District 9 to fulfill their plans until Christopher surprises Wikus with a new revelation.  Christopher, upon seeing what the labs offered him regarding his prawn pals, decides to use all the fuel to zoom back home for help.  He wants to save his kind from the terrible human experiments.  I can understand that, it is quite disturbing after all.  He tells Wikus it will take 3 years before he can return.  Wrong words Christopher, you’re becoming too comfortable around this human.  You should have told him it would take a couple weeks in your super duper rocket plasma powered high tech ship!

                Wikus knocks poor Christopher out from behind and proceeds to steal his command module.  What a keen idea dude, can you operate it?  What will you do when you get to the ship?  How do you know how to operate anything on board it if you make it?  He’s a desperate fool and tricks the little son prawn into helping him fire up the command module.  The son is excited but questions where his father is.  Wikus does manage to fly the small ship a short distance until it’s shot down by the MNU rockets.  Koobus never lets his prey go without a fight.  He also captures Christopher believing he knows something about what’s going on regarding all the ship activity.  He also catches up to Wikus and snags him as well.  Your brilliant full proof well thought out plan worked Wikus!

Stings.. little.. it.. a.. only.. #$*%..
                The Nigerians do catch up to Wikus as they promised and thus begin the action segment which takes over the finale of the movie.  They capture Wikus and bring him back to their base.  They are quite bent on eating the poor man’s arm, gross!  Wikus gets in an alien tech suit of some sort that the son prawn has activated via the command module.  Way to have faith little guy, even though Wikus is sort of a turd to you and your father.  The following scenes stretch an action sequence to a state of disinterest at a moment you want the story to progress.  The tech suit action was engaging as far as the war like atmosphere it generated and it does connect the story overall but it gets out of hand.  It felt like a video game as a number of nameless MNU soldiers were mutilated in all sorts of visually creative ways.  The tech suit scenes went on and on while forcing Wikus to yammer off uninteresting lines as he controlled the suit, mostly profanity of some sort.  The action scenes should have been cut a bit to keep general interest up.  The camera work was done well though during the action which I enjoyed.  I like a bit of action but this film had a very interesting story that beckoned more screen time than a few more “boom boom” scenes.

                Wikus rescues Christopher and realizes he needs to let him get to his ship.  It’s about time you come around you fool.  There is an awesome moment as Wikus snatches a rocket Koobus fires to intercept Christopher and his son escaping in the command module to the mother ship.  I love the disgusted and disappointed look on Koobus’ face as he witnesses that.  The mech suit finally breaks down and Koobus drags Wikus out of it.  He now looks more and more like a prawn as Koobus is clearly going to kill him on the spot for all the trouble he’s caused him.  However the prawns that see Koobus furiously go after him possibly in defense to Wikus.  They don’t harm Wikus so they probably have accepted him into their family now, ha-ha!  Koobus gets the fitting end we all wanted of him since the moment he was introduced into the movie.

                The local people celebrate the departure of the mother ship at long last and a news report continues to discuss what ever happened to Wikus as he was never seen again.  The movie ends with a prawn crafting a metal flower of some sort that he left on the porch of Wikus’ wife’s home.  Was it Wikus?  Most likely but the mystery remains what will become of the prawns if the mother ship returns.  District 9 gets destroyed and the remaining prawns moved to District 10 where they continue to grow in numbers.

After thoughts
                The science fiction aspect blends so masterfully with the documentary style the movie takes.  It’s not until more action sequences occur in the ladder part of the story that the movie takes its first hit of damage.  I can understand the military presence, considering they want the alien technology so badly, but I feel it began to get out of hand.  You have Koobus, an MNU officer, who is clearly very hostile at his job, many times fail to kill main characters when given a chance.  It felt to me his hatred to the aliens would prompt him to do so in a state of reckless aggression.  He doesn’t come across as a merciful character.   

Child star is born! Next up: Home Alone 5 - Lost in District 9
                Christopher’s son was quite delightful and really brought a sense of innocence to a story that had none.  The visuals on the aliens were excellent and nothing more to be desired of their realism.  A thought that keeps me thinking is will the alien space craft return in three years?  Will it be for war?  Will it be to rescue the stranded aliens?  Will the humans continue to think of the alien’s solely for weaponry or to co-exist?  The seed of wonder at the intro and end of the movie really impresses.  It has a really solid cast where you don’t hate any one performance.  For science fiction it succeeds in a genre that is very difficult to do so.  Aside from a few too many action scenes along with a cliché type of escape by Wikus from MNU it was a movie that makes me want to see what will keep happening throughout.  I also would like to see the story continue somehow as the Christopher Johnson prawn character was interesting.  A history of the aliens would be a treat for the likes of me.  It’s not as good as it could have been but it succeeds with its incredibly interesting mystery of what the aliens really were, where they came from and what purpose they might have had.  The re-watch value personally, is worthwhile in the future.

                Rating:  8.5 of 10



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