District 9

Comic Book Guy contributes a movie review

District 9

For those of you who don’t know the plot outline, here’s the synopsis: aliens arrive on planet earth, not to conquer or eradicate the human race, but as refugees. The aliens, called “prawns,” are segregated into a ghetto (District 9), where they are kept separate from humans, ostensibly for the safety of both man and alien. A large multinational corporation is put in charge of policing the aliens and relocating them from District 9 to District 10. Mayhem ensues.

This is classic science fiction fare, full of archetypical images and plot devices. Giant spaceships (think Independence Day – okay, maybe not a classic but you can trace it back to Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”), one man and one alien’s journey of discovery together (think Enemy Mine – okay, that’s not a classic either but it’s an archetype nonetheless), cool alien bio-technology coveted by large evil corporation (think Alien and Aliens– now those are classics) and a healthy serving of the not so thinly veiled allegory (think half the Star Trek TOS you’ve ever seen). The list could go on. Despite the heavy use of these things, or perhaps because of them, the film works. Shot as part quasi-documentary, the plot unfolds quickly and engages the viewer. The use of unknown actors and the lack of “star” talent give the film a certain authenticity that it would certainly lack if say, Brad Pitt, was cast in the lead. Likewise, the use of special effects enhances the movie as opposed to being the reason for the movie. This is not Transformers II, although the film does shift into action adventure mode for the last 30 minutes or so. Don’t worry. It works.

The film does provide food for thought. It touches on a lot of issues: racism, illegal aliens (literally), civil rights, xenophobia, corporate malfeasance, medical experimentation, man’s inhumanity, and exploitation of the disadvantaged. It’s all there and more. Set in South Africa, the film obviously brings to mind the apartheid regime that once ruled that country but it also echoes our own segregated past and the horror of the Nazis’ Final Solution. It’s easy to mistreat the prawn – they aren’t human. But what does that say about us?

One word of warning. The R rating is well deserved. There’s some ugly, graphic violence and plenty of F-bombs. Even so, this movie is solid. I give it an “A.” Best sci-fi or action film of the season.


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