Sunday, 30 October 2011

Narrative: Film Review on 'District 9' (2009)

FIG.1: District 9 Poster

Director: Neil Blomkamp
Producer: Peter Jackson
Year: 2009
Cast:  Sharlto Coplay, Jaso Cope, David James

Neil Blomkamp's District 9 is a science-fiction tale of extraterrestrial refugees landing on earth in 1982 with their motionless spacecraft hovering above Johannesburg. Even after 28 years, the 'prawns' as they were called from the locals, did not attack anyone but instead they were  treated like normal refugees by the Government of South Africa. No other film made by Blokamp and Peter Jackson himself has had such success. It succeeds in storytelling, outstanding CG Effects and brings up a world wide message on xenophobia and racism.

FIG.2: Humans meeting the aliens
The film's documentary approach is rather funny at first, more like a badly made news report but soon enough that approach falls by the way side and becomes a standard observer of what is happening mode. This switch from documentary to observer mode entices the viewer but in a good way. 
 Apart from being really imaginative , resonant and dramatically turbo charged science fiction film, which will make any science fiction lover cringe, District 9 is based on one basic subject which is obvious throughout the whole film: racism. But Blomkamp put a twist to the subject by using refugees from another planet rather than a different country. Most earthlings were less afraid than annoyed; they saw the illegal aliens as just another class of lowlife troublemakers. In a way, Blomkamp is trying to portray peoples' behaviour towards what's different to them and how they react violently towards it to defend themselves. Wilson suggests that:  "At its heart, the film is about the lines we draw around “us” and “them,” and how truly shaky those lines are. We can accept any sort of horror, any torture, as long as it isn’t one of us."  ( 2009.Wilson)
In the film there is a lot of reference on racism between blacks and whites in South Africa. Blomkamp shows both sides of the story with both races being shown racists to each other. Earthling race-politics do not appear to exist, and the only important black character in this movie is a Nigerian crime-lord with cannibal tendencies: yet the whites, presiding over their alien experimentation labs, are as bad, or worse. 
Even when the main character of the story Wikus, the human who got mostly attached to the aliens, got exposed to a fluid they were using and started transforming like one one them, he was instantly named as a threat to mankind. Wikus was the helpless hero: the one who became victim of his close encounter with aliens, but he's a unique one. Hewwit argues that:  "Refreshingly, Blomkamp shies away from the easy, traditional path of the reluctant hero — for most of the movie, Wikus’ motives are powered by blind panic and a selfish desire to become human again." ( Hewwit.2009) It was interesting how Wikus's transformation was shown; it was very similar to David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) where the main characters were spliced with a weird creature and started deteriorating. They were becoming more of their splice and less human, with their natural human skin peeling off in whole chunks of meat, their nails falling off and strangely coloured liquid coming out of their mouths.  Blomkamp chose to show the transformation in this way, probably to represent in an over exaggerating way how people feel about unfamiliarity.

FIG.3:  The 'prawn' people
In the whole, District is undoubtedly a film which will not disappoint sci-fi fans. It is the film which fans were waiting for a decade or even half a century for. It is packed full of suspense, action and has managed through a science fiction theme to raise contemporary issues in a very clever way. It is a must-see; a hybrid of political allegory and B-movie kicks, it reboots motifs from classic extra-terrestrial and urban catastrophe movies such as Silent Running and Planet of the Apes.


Steven Lloyd Wilson. Us and Them (2009)-Film Review At: (accesed on 30/10/2010)

Chris Hewwit. District 9 (2009)- Fil Review At:  (accesed on 30/10/2010)

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: Film Poster At: (acccessed on 29/10/2011)
FIG.2:  Humans meeting The Aliens At :  (acccessed on 29/10/2011)
FIG.3: The 'prawn' people At: (acccessed on 29/10/2011)

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