Monday, February 22, 2010

District 9

Avatar is not the only Best Picture nominee this year that is sympathetic to an alien race, portraying humans as the villains except for one empathizing protagonist, one who faces a crisis of identity when made to penetrate the alien society. Also, hopefully without giving away too much, but both these movies end the same way.

District 9 takes place in South Africa where an alien ship seems to have stalled above Johannesburg. The aliens, unlovingly nicknamed "prawns", are extremely hideous but seemingly helpless, and the human race musters just enough goodwill to set up a refugee camp for the poor saps. Just not enough goodwill to treat them like anything but garbage.

Everything I've read about this movie can't help but go on about how it's an allegory for South African apartheid. Luckily(?) I know next to nothing about apartheid so there'll be none of that. No use pretending otherwise.

Our nerdy protagonist is tasked with serving eviction notices to the prawns in their shanties, until an accident turns his hand into a sort of lobster claw. He then goes around saying "fohck!" a lot and gains the ability to use the alien weapons which, well, I'm not sure exactly how they work but they seem to have a button that auto-detects enemies and makes them explode.

The movie is fiercely original, and though it glides into the typical sci-fi action movie climax, it presents plenty of creative ideas and leaves us with a lot to think about. For instance, we're given the premise of how the prawns arrived on Earth, but nothing as to where they came from and why they left. Why did they come here? How did they find us? The lack of exposition only enhances the intrigue.

And how does an advanced alien race travel across the cosmos and encounter another intelligent civilization, just to act like a bunch of slum-dwelling spearchucking macacas? Ah, the mysteries of life.

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