District 9

District 9

Sep 17

So I realize I’m weeks behind here, but we finally got out to the movies last weekend, and after a fine meal of cuban food and sangria, we saw District 9.

District 9

It’s an astonishingly great movie, only “astonishing” because even though the hype and reviews had prepared me for something enjoyable, I never expected it to really fire on absolutely every cylinder, and work on nearly every level. It’s an action flick, it’s a sci-fi think piece, it’s got twisted humor and great performances, the FX is discrete and effective.it’s really got everything.

Astonishing.

What I actually went in expecting was some kind of allegory for apartheid using aliens instead of blacks; that’s part of it, and it’s worth considering, absolutely.

But I have to say, the emotional human story hit me much harder. Sharlto Copely will probably never get an Academy Award nomination for his work as Wikus van de Merwe, the middle-management paper pusher who suddenly finds himself in a horrifying position with no one to turn to except the aliens. He won’t get nominated because the Oscars never recognize genre films, but he absolutely deserves one.

Wikus slowly evolves before our eyes from this doughy, trodden functionary, disdained by his father-in-law and blithely regarded by his own family, to a fierce, desperate man with unexpected depths of humanity and inhumanity, in equal measure. There’s a single act by Wikus that I never saw coming, and by the time it happened, seeing it just about broke my heart, because I never imagined the character would be capable of doing such a thing, until he actually did it.

At first, there’s something strange and fascinating about Wikus’ relationship with his wife Tania; by the end of the film, it’s a touching and gentle marriage, maybe the only oasis of human-to-human compassion in the film. Again, it defies convention; she’s sorta out of his league, and so you expect the relationship to be built on something diabolical. Maybe it’s a marriage of convenience, or maybe it’s to further her father’s career. Instead, it’s just a beautiful woman who found true love with an absolute dweeb.

District 9 turns aliens on their head too; these are worker drones, devoid of ambition, who turned up on our cosmic doorstep for reasons unknown. We do know for certain, however, that they have no aspirations to ruling our planet or devouring our young. At best, they may want to get home, and even then, there seem to be only a handful among the millions that actually care much about even that. It’s hard to say whether their shiftlessness is part of a larger story point about their race, or is just cause they’re lazy. Either way, it’s intriguing.

Just when you think nothing’s new under the sun and the summer’s gonna be a wash of transforming racist caricatures and R-rated comedies, along comes District 9 to restore your faith in sci-fi as a vehicle for delivering thrills, humanity, and food for thought. Great flick.

12 comments

  1. Kelly

    I wish Copley could be considered for an Oscar. His performance makes the whole movie work. Amazing to me that it was his first major role. A completely unexpected and amazing acting job.

  2. 100% agree. The story was well written and masterfully told. I was really please with how unpredictable the movie was. Anytime I thought I had the next step figured out I was turned on my ear. My wife is not a sci-fi buff, I just finally got her to watch Event Horizon this year, but she totally loved District 9 as well.

  3. And they didn’t want this guy directing a Halo movie. Morons.

    I loved D9. Hell, it has a mech and it actually looks plausible/real.

Leave a Reply