Saturday, April 16, 2011

District 9

I'm a bit late to the game on this one. District 9 came out in 2009, but I just watched it on Netflix Streaming for the first time. I'm actually a bit surprised that it took me this long to watch it, because I'd heard so much hype for the movie. And I really have no excuses because it's been on streaming for a while. Anyway, I really liked it. It was enjoyable and intriguing. I'm not much of an expert in alien movies or science fiction movies, and so my opinion is coming from a novice of the genre. I'm not really sure how to go about sharing my opinions on the movie, because they're a little all over the place. So, how about this? (not that I'm really asking because by the time you read this I'll have done it anyway, but whatever) I'll share some adjectives to describe the movie, and then I'll go into a little more detail about each one: horrifying, complex, engaging, and realistic (I know, ha ha at me calling an alien movie realistic, but as I said, I'll explain.)

Oh, I guess I should go into the storyline a bit for those who haven't seen the movie. I'll try to be as spoiler-free as possible in this review because I feel that's probably the best way to go into this movie (even thought I had kind of been spoiled as to its plot). However, I can at least give you the setup as best as I can remember. I may be a little off, but I'm going to try and do this without looking anything up so there's that. Basically, the movie begins by explaining that twenty years ago or so, an alien ship came to a town in what I think was Africa. Somehow, these aliens got to earth, and they were put into this place full of shacks. Most people didn't like these aliens, and wouldn't let them shop in their stores, treated them badly, ect. So, now they want to move these aliens into some type of camp resembling a concentration camp. Our main character (whose name I can't remember and am really tempted to look up right now but I'm sticking to my non-looking-things-up goal) is a kind of nerdy looking guy, and he gets put in charge of this group who's trying to move these aliens into this new camp. In the midst of this, however, he get's sprayed with some kind of alien device. That's when things start getting interesting. And while I'm saying that in a tagline, trying-to-intrigue-you-kind of way, I also mean that it was literally the point when I got interested in the movie. The first 16 minutes or so was setting the movie up, and my impatient self considered turning the movie off. But, I'm glad I stuck with it because it was really interesting once the plot got going.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures


District 9 was horrifying on both an emotional level and on a visual level. Visually, it was just really gross. There's a lot of gore, and I found myself cringing several times throughout the movie. To be honest though, I don't have the best tolerance to gore, so you'll have to take my opinion with a grain of salt. On an emotion level, it was horrifying too. One of the movie's main themes is the mistreatment, and that can be pretty hard to watch. Even if it's happening to alien creatures, it's appalling to watch someone get yelled at and treated like they're nothing. 


District 9 is pretty obviously trying to comment on the mistreatment of people and racism by showing the mistreatment of these aliens. However, the movie really made me think about questions of morality in the situations shown. Because, to be honest, if aliens came to earth, we might be right in being wary about them. The main alien shown and his son seemed pretty nice, but most of the aliens shown were kind of scary and tried to hurt people. It honestly might have been pretty stupid to just welcome the aliens right away. On the other hand, torturing them is not cool either. Plus, the storyline about the main human character lends itself to some morality questions. 


One reason that District 9 worked for me is that I felt a strong connection to the characters. I think part of the reason that I felt a disconnect from the first little chunk of the movie was that I hadn't become invested in any of the characters yet. And to be honest, the main guy wasn't the most likable guy ever. But interestingly, I cared a lot about what happened to him. I became invested in his fate, and therefore, I was invested in the movie. Also, I became invested in the two main aliens. They were still very "alien-like," but there was almost a humanity to them. This engagement with the characters was probably one of the strongest aspects of the movie for me.


When I use "realistic" here, I'm talking more about the style of the movie than its plot. Although the whole movie isn't done in this style, it's partially done as a mockumentary. This was a really interesting choice stylistically because it was cool to imagine this as a real event. They looked at the alien invasion from the perspective of "what if aliens really landed on earth?" Parts of the movie looked almost as if they could have come from a special on the History Channel. This style gave a uniqueness to the film, and made its horrifying moments all the more horrifying.

I could see some people not liking this movie, but I'd say it's worth a shot, especially if you have Netflix. And if you decide to watch it, I'd advise you to stick around until the main plot kicks in. District 9 is a bit weird, but it's interesting and different from a lot of things that I've seen.

Have you seen District 9? What did you think about it?

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