A few words on District 9

click tracking
District 9
is, by a wide margin, the best movie I have seen this year.

Do yourself a favor: don’t read anything about it, don’t listen to what anyone says about it, just stop doing whatever you’re doing right now and go to see it.  I’m serious.  It’s absolutely flabbergasting.

How good is it? This is how good it is: while I was watching the movie, every ten minutes or so I had to remember to force myself to blink — I didn’t want to miss a second.

Anyone who would like to discuss the movie below the fold is invited to do so, so if you haven’t seen it, be warned: comments may contain spoilers.


85 Responses to “A few words on District 9”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    I’ve been kicking myself for not seeing it already. Maybe I can sneak it into my schedule for tomorrow.

    Now entering spoiler avoidance mode.

  2. yesdrizella says:

    Would it be fair game to discuss the movie in this post, or should I await for a write-up? Because I would love to discuss this movie with people who’ve seen it (and who like discussing movies). D-9 is a perfect example of why I love sci-fi.

    • Todd says:

      Discuss away! I put a spoiler warning into the post.

      • yesdrizella says:

        Thanks so much!

        *****SPOILER ALERT*****

        I really did love this movie, but I wish the ending focused more on Chris’ escape and less on Vikus’ ~noble sacrifice~. The story was obviously an allegory for colonialism and apartheid, and it felt kind of cheap to end the movie with the human drama when the humans never made themselves very likable.

        • it felt kind of cheap to end the movie with the human drama when the humans never made themselves very likable.

          I thought that the fact that the humans weren’t likable, were, in fact, despicable was rather the point. D9 invokes South Africa’s post-Apartheid history throughout the movie but most strongly in the final scenes where the human characters are basically left hoping that the aliens, should they return in force, treat humans more kindly than humans treated aliens – possibly a reflection on the hypocritical expectations of white South Africans in the post-Apartheid era.

          I found D9 fascinating because Wikus doesn’t really have that noble sacrifice – he comes back to fight but only because Christopher is his only hope, however faint, of being restored. Although the movie follows the standard beats, he doesn’t really become the aliens’ Great White Hope. It is Christorpher and his son who will save them, if they are saved, while Wikus, if he’s still alive, stalks his wife from the shadows.

          • yesdrizella says:

            where the human characters are basically left hoping that the aliens, should they return in force, treat humans more kindly than humans treated aliens

            I didn’t really get that. To me, it seemed like that avalanche of spectators were cheering as the mothership left. Though I do think it would be interesting to explore that should there be a sequel.

            And I meant “noble sacrifice” in a facetious manner, hence the tildes. Wikus performed an “unselfish” act for selfish reasons, which is why I wish the movie had ended with Christopher rather than Wikus.

            • My interpretation of everybody cheering wasn’t that they were happy with the aliens’ escape, but that they were happy because the big damn hovering ship was no longer blocking the sun. That seemed one of the major points for me — while there were a few humans that were concerned with the aliens’ rights, the vast majority were concerned with the presence of the ship and the aliens. So at the end, yes, the humans were left quavering at the thought of vengeful alien repercussions.

        • shocka says:

          The story was obviously an allegory for colonialism and apartheid

          Yes, like the way both of those things ended with video game shoot outs and mechs and lightening guns that make people explode.

          • yesdrizella says:

            Oh, for the ability to detect sarcasm through the internet!

            Anyway, maybe allegory is the wrong word. It was 4 a.m. when I wrote that. “Parallels” is better-suited, I think.

            • igorxa says:

              uh, no allegory is a perfectly acceptable word for that. either the commenter above you is being facetious, or they don’t understand the meaning of allegory.

          • Anonymous says:

            That was actually one of the things that I kind of liked about the movie. I’ll repost what I said on MA about the subject:

            “Just got back from this. Quite good. It had a pretty well-done socio-political allegory going there for a while, but I liked that the writers didn’t seem to feel bound to it, shoehorning in connotations for allegorical consistency. This really have the story some room to move, and was the main factor in making it work on a fun, pulse-pounding level, and one with slightly more cerebral stimulation.”

  3. darclady says:

    I have nothing more intelligent to say at this moment except ‘same’.

    It was very very well done. Even at a drive in it was impressive,and I similarly was loath to look away for even a second.

  4. mimitabu says:

    this is great news. i’ve been seeing a lot of movies in theaters recently, so i saw the trailer a couple times. normally, i see a preview and think “god damn, that looks like shit,” but this movie piqued my interest immediately. can’t wait to see it.

    • mimitabu says:

      incidentally, moon is the best movie i’ve seen this year, i believe.

    • craigjclark says:

      I haven’t seen any action moves this summer, so I managed to miss the trailer. What I did see, though, were the neat little stickers that they’ve had around concession stands and the like:

      They immediately intrigued me.

      • sheherazahde says:

        I haven’t seen the movie yet. I read about those “non-human” posters and stickers and I considered getting some. But I’m totally pro non-humans. 🙂

  5. I agree, best movie of the year (I haven’t seen ‘Up’ though).

    Two rather minor things bothered me: 1st, Going in, the documentary style led me to believe that it would be shot that way throughout, sort of like Cloverfield as filmed by an Action News 5 team. The trailers with their ‘There’s lots of secrets in District 9’ refrain did little to dispel this impression. At some point it turned into a more conventional sci-fi story shot with an omniscient POV, albeit an excellent one.

    2nd, There seem to have been some inclusions of typical action movie cliches: the cute and plucky kid, the hero who says, “I’ll hold ’em off… you just [fill in the blank with impossible but crucial task]!”

    • Todd says:

      The shift from documentary-style to omniscience bothered me for about two seconds. Then I said “Well, I didn’t really want to see the whole thing documentary-style anyway,” because I think that style’s overdone now. I like how it was a documentary for the first part, then said “Okay, got it? Okay, now it’s going to be a movie” and then just moved forward with that style with such velocity and impact. It showed both a lot of confidence in the narrative and a lot of faith in the audience’s level of sophistication.

      • craigjclark says:

        And don’t forget, as the film went on it also freely mixed in cable news coverage and surveillance camera footage (among other media) to give us a fuller picture.

  6. craigjclark says:

    I saw it last night. Thought it was phenomenal. I really hope it manages to reach a wide audience. Out of all the big-budget, special effects-driven extravaganzas that have come out this summer, this is the first one I actually wanted to see and I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed.

  7. I enjoyed the film. I really did. But aside from the astounding visuals and great action sequences…I couldn’t quite figure out why. I mean, sure it’s an allegory regarding Apartheid and all that with fucking aliens…but honestly, I couldn’t give a shit less about Apartheid. I’m not ignorant–I just don’t care.

    So…why did I find myself so attached to Christopher Johnson and his son, and thus, the entire alien race of the film as a whole? I didn’t think I would find the answer in Roger Ebert’s review, but I did:

    What Neill Blomkamp somehow does is make Christopher Johnson and his son, Little CJ, sympathetic despite appearances. This is achieved by giving them, but no other aliens, human body language, and little CJ even gets big wet eyes, like E.T.

    That was it. He singled out those two aliens by giving them identifiable human characteristics…and also making them (the son, namely) a bit cartoony (the E.T. eyes thing) at the same time. I kind of feel it was a cheap move on Blomkamp’s part. Unlike what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in LOTR to make us sympathize with him: Gollum is the anti-E.T.

    • sheherazahde says:

      Cheap but effective! It worked on you.

      • I was actually going to write: I kind of feel it was a cheap (albeit effective) move on Blomkamp’s part.

        I opted out of it at the last second for fear of tarnishing my POV. Oh well. Yes, it did work on me.

        • Todd says:

          I thought the movie used Apartheid as a jumping-off place and then went to a much broader vision of humanity. I’d be willing to bet that very few of the people in the audience where I was had even heard of Apartheid, or Johannesburg for that matter. But that didn’t stop them from enjoying the movie for one second.

    • All the aliens were performed by the same actor. I didn’t notice Christopher Johnson as particularly more humanesque than any other alien. He is, however, the only one we spend any time with. And the only one Wikus spends any time with.

      I agree about the kid’s big eyes. All kids have big eyes. Aliens included.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Unlike what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in LOTR to make us sympathize with him: Gollum is the anti-E.T.”

      You mean what Tolkein did, right?

    • greyaenigma says:

      I think mostly that they were the only ones where you got to see them long enough, up close enough, and in circumstances where they would express what we like to think of as human emotions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dude, I don’t know about you, but the moment I saw a impoverished alien wearing a bra pissing on the side of a shack in a shantytown, I thought of them as indelibly human.

    • pjamesharvey says:

      You don’t care about Apartheid?

      Does this mean you approve of racial segregation, or that you don’t see it as a problem?

  8. eronanke says:

    Honest to god, I didn’t think the allegory would be so entrenched; before seeing it, I thought it would be a jump-off point for the story, not the entirety of the story.

    That being said, while I do find the “ignorant racists makes good” storyline fine, I found myself asking WAY too many questions about the world of the movie. I found myself (in between bouts of weeping like a baby) asking, “Where the fuck are the Americans? Why is South Africa running this show?”.

    South Africa is still suffering the blight of Apartheid repercussions. Some argue it never really ended. I say to myself, how can one nation, especially THAT nation, be trusted with ALL interactions with a new Alien life form?

    Frankly, I think I prefered the world of “Alien Nation” better; the Prawns in D9 were obviously intelligent (although they weren’t viewed that way by humans), equal to the Newcomers. So the question I ask here is, how, then, do we see the two movies/plots unfolding so differently in their respective universes, and why does an American population more readily accept their Aliens as opposed to the South Africans. Can we, as an international audience, be expected to believe that the South African government would so readily repeat their own history and to segregate their populations so readily?

    If that’s the case, why even take them off the mothership? Why not simply house them there, amongst their own and provide food? (I was *desperate* to know why they were there in the first place – I hate loose ends!)

    I know there’s dense material here, but you know me, always bogged down in the details.

    • Todd says:

      The script hints at why they’re there, and why so many of the Prawns are such slovenly horrors. The idea is that they’re an insect society, and their Queen has died, and that’s why the mothership came to a halt. The drones who worked under the Queen are all mindless and stupid, which is why they couldn’t take care of themselves once the mothership stopped. The idea of Christopher is that it’s taken the aliens 28 years to come up with an individual smart enough to figure out how to fix the ship. But the movie doesn’t spell out any of this, it just lets the narrative happen and lets us wonder about it.

      • eronanke says:

        The idea is that they’re an insect society, and their Queen has died, and that’s why the mothership came to a halt. The drones who worked under the Queen are all mindless and stupid, which is why they couldn’t take care of themselves once the mothership stopped. The idea of Christopher is that it’s taken the aliens 28 years to come up with an individual smart enough to figure out how to fix the ship. But the movie doesn’t spell out any of this, it just lets the narrative happen and lets us wonder about it.

        Have you heard of the Invisible Knapsack? The terms ‘slovenly’, ‘mindless’ and ‘stupid’, ‘couldn’t take care of themselves’, etc, are all terms that were applied to the Blacks of South Africa under Boer control. It’s a literal application of the “White Man’s Burden”. BECAUSE we have no idea what happened on their ship and BECAUSE we have no concept of their society, we beastialize and infantalize them. It’s a reoccurring theme in colonialism.

        Now, Christopher knew how to repair the ship. Christopher, we must assume, was *on* that ship and was not of the next generation like his child was. We must assume that, therefore, his knowledge was specialized but not necessarily limited to him amongst his people. I certainly don’t think it’s fair to say that ‘it’s taken the aliens 28 years to come up with an individual smart enough to figure out how to fix the ship’, because Christopher himself says it took 20 years to collect the fuel for his shuttle. We also don’t know about their ‘Queen’; the theory that they were of the working class and had not competency after their superiors disappeared/died was a suggestion by an ‘academic’ in the film, one of many statements, some of which were disproved later in the film.

        I think it is a wonderful thing that this film has put us, again, into the mindset of the colonial powers, but I hope its viewers don’t get stuck there. Watching the film with a background in anthropology disturbed me greatly, not because of the nature of the Prawns, but because of the way the people (including the ‘Academics’ and ‘Activists’) were so casually condescending.

        • eronanke says:

          I totally don’t mean to sound bitchy if I came across that way! (It happens all too often, I’m told)

        • Todd says:

          Since I don’t really know that much about Apartheid, I kept being reminded about the Africans in Amistad. Here we had a bunch of individuals from a bunch of different tribes and nations, who had been captured by African slave-traders as though they were wild animals, then shipped to the slave-trade center, then put onto this ship and sent across the sea in some of the most appalling conditions imaginable, and then managed to free themselves and kill their captors. But when they arrived in New England, nobody could understand anything they said so they were captured and imprisoned and treated, once again, like animals. And then the people who actually tried to help them treated them as noble animals, which is hardly a step up. (And you could say the movie treats them that way too, for that matter.) They’re from a culture so radically different from that of the Americans (and the Spanish, for that matter) that nobody could imagine that they were individuals with hopes and dreams and agendas and so forth.

          That’s what kept coming to mind when I’d see the prawns in their living conditions, with their pissing on the ground and their mania for cat food and their squalid households — I just thought, well, we have no idea what their life was like on their home planet, they’re in this really dire situation and they’ve been placed in a situation where they’re treated like animals, or worse — what would you expect to happen?

          In any case, I can see the parallels with South African history clearly, I just thought that the same parallels applied to any extreme cultural clash, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Watts in LA. Which is what will make the movie resonate with audiences everywhere.

          • sheherazahde says:

            “I just thought that the same parallels applied to any extreme cultural clash, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Watts in LA. Which is what will make the movie resonate with audiences everywhere.”

            District 9 has very clear parallels with the “homelands” in South Africa. But equally applies to ghettos in Europe and the US and even Japanese American internment camps, and the current US illegal alien detainment centers (watch “The Visitor”).

          • eronanke says:

            That’s exactly the path I’m on with this except for the list of animalistic behaviors; all of which are not adopted behaviors, but probably forced adaptations.

            Where their pissing on the ground is probably due to the fact that we never once see a water source or source of water in the ghetto. Improper or lack of plumbing is seen everywhere in the townships of South Africa.

            Their mania for cat food resembles drug addiction, such as the proliferation of heroin into poorer communities throughout the world. (This is also present in Alien Nation with sour milk being the drug of choice to the Newcomers.)

            Their squalid households were made with whatever was given by the South African/MNU officials; there was no means to produce better or cleaner structures.

            I contend here only because the Townships are *exactly* like this, and are allowed to continue in modern South Africa. It’s a deplorable situation, and I feel that Prawns are an almost perfect mirror to the oppression of Black South Africans because they were given nothing to work with, no way to improve themselves, no way to vent their rage, and were then blamed for animalistic condition by the Boer and Afrikaaner governments.

            The point of contention, I feel, is this: I just thought, well, we have no idea what their life was like on their home planet. These aliens have space travel, extremely well developed technology, and the ability to pick up languages very quickly. They obviously had a society, just as ancient Alexandria and Rome had niched and complex societies, that were obliterated by the Dark Ages, just as I feel the crisis on the ship (whatever it was) and the movement to District 9 obliterated theirs. There is no reason to think that the aliens lived like this *always*, and I think that doing that buys into the colonizer mindset. It’s higher thinking to posit what their society is like, but you have to be careful not to use their current status to color our understanding of it.

            Just like you wouldn’t point at Southern Sudan and say, “Well, we have no idea what their life was like before colonization, they’re in this really dire situation and they’ve been placed in a situation where they’re treated like animals, or worse — what would you expect to happen?” We expect better because of our humanity. We expect and we blame warlords and politicians and rapists and women who have children that they can’t feed. We (as liberal westerners) never objectify a people as animalistic. We always have to look for some individual to blame.

            And that’s why the movie struck such a cord with me, and I wonder how a person who is racist might perceive it, or ET for that matter. Will they see the Prawns as an indistinguishable mass or as individuals? At times like these, I wish I could seek out that input, that opinion, but I worry about how repulsed I might be afterwards.

            Can I ask you a screenwriter question? What was the point of having Christopher leave with his son in the Mothership? Why not, after it was repaired, ask to take ALL the Prawns home? Doesn’t it imply that he plans on returning en force?

            • Todd says:

              As a screenwriter, I wanted Christopher to somehow magically beam up all the prawns and take them home, that would have restored equilibrium to the narrative. But on the other hand, it would have settled all the questions, and the script is obviously much more interested in keeping the questions open and provocative. Plus, if Christopher took all the Prawns home, that would have left Wikus all by himself. This way, Christopher has to come back, to fetch his kin.

              • eronanke says:

                My sister said, “Sequel” and left it at that.

                It’s extremely provocative, I grant you, but saying that he would return in 3 years, Christopher implies it was not an escape as one ‘academic’ posited. He’s going, and he’s coming back.

                I would have assumed that the Prawns, (and Sheharazade brings up a good point about having room for all the original Prawns and their next generation aboard the ship), would have all gone, taking Wikus with them, ‘curing’ him along the way. Had he gone with them, he could return as an emissary to earth, having lived among them for so long, but that strains into Heinlein territory.

                Did you guess, as I did, that before it was revealed as fuel, the ‘black goo’ which caused Wikus’ transformation was an infectious agent meant to change the whole world into Prawns as a mode of reactive colonization? All the coughing in public places/on people really pushed that thought in my head. Frankly, I thought that might be a good twist, if a little Twilight Zone-ish.

            • sheherazahde says:

              “Why not, after it was repaired, ask to take ALL the Prawns home? Doesn’t it imply that he plans on returning en force?”

              It’s possible that there is not enough room in the space ship. There are more of them now then there were when the ship arrived.

              • eronanke says:

                Excellent point! I hadn’t thought about it. Although, I wonder, as they were obviously attempting to regulate Prawn reproduction (the ‘abortion’ scene), and their constant and casual killing of the older generation, whether the population count might have remained similar.

                Perhaps it was a lack of food supplies? They were, after all, malnurished when they arrived, (or so the South African media reported), perhaps they were running out of food, so to make sure they could survive the journey, he only brought his son along.

              • Also, wouldn’t all the prawns born on Earth be citizens of South Africa, and therefore deserving of all assigned rights therein? Much like American born children of immigrants are American citizens.

                Taking them home would be taking them away from the only home they’ve ever known. Think about how much they’d miss the cat food.

      • greyaenigma says:

        My theory for about half the film (since the trailers and press let me know there was going to be a transformation), was that the precious fluid was going to be their equivalent of royal jelly — because they needed a leader to get their act together — and Wikus was going to end up being the leader.

        It made a little more sense than their gas can changing him into one of them, but apart from that (and slight disappointment at being wrong), I’m not that bothered with the way they went.

        I don’t get how or why some people can’t even acknowledge this as an allegory.

    • sheherazahde says:

      “I say to myself, how can one nation, especially THAT nation, be trusted with ALL interactions with a new Alien life form?”

      Because the aliens “landed” there. Possession is 9/10 of the law. Just because Americans think we should run the world doesn’t mean other countries agree.

      • eronanke says:

        Because the aliens “landed” there. Possession is 9/10 of the law. Just because Americans think we should run the world doesn’t mean other countries agree.

        This has nothing to do with American imperialism, it has to do with the plain fact that Canada, America, and Northern Europe are more technologically and socially advanced (in terms of development) than South Africa.

        And first contact is *hardly* something one nation can ‘possess’. In fact, it’s suspension of disbelief to think that the UN wouldn’t have been present managing District 9 all along, as they do many refugee centers where countries can’t afford or are uninterested in the task.

        I simply think it was fantasy to think that it would only be a South African situation, especially with a technologically advanced race like the Prawns. There was one ‘American’ character (if I recall correctly) working for MNU in their weapons division, ok’ing the dismemberment of Wikus. That would make sense, since it is unlikely that the head office of MNU would be South African, as South Africa buys/manufactures very little in terms of weaponry.

        I hate that I’m always distracted in movies because of these details, but it happens – if First Contact were to happen as it did in the movies, there would be an International Taskforce appointed almost immediately, with a very heavy American influence – it’s likely that they would field out to partner nations the necessary tasks, e.g.,the biotech research (say, to South Korea). As a comparison point, let’s discuss post WWI colonialism in Africa and the Near East; when these regions were freed from the Ottoman Empire and the Italian and German colonial powers, a group of Western nations gathered to decide their fate, maintaining order and spreading the spoils between them, attempting to prevent further war and maintain stability(unsuccessfully, mind you.) But this is what happens when a global crisis occurs – the ‘winners’, or those in power, get more say than others. Hence, my wondering where the Americans are.

        It’s not as if they aren’t allied, and it’s not as if there’s a negative history between South Africa and America. I expected there to be much more than a vague multinational corporation involved. The South African government itself was barely involved in the movie. It bothered me some.

        Anyway, sorry for the rant.

  9. samedietc says:

    still need to think more about it all, but shooting from the hip

    1) Did anyone else experience a mix of intense stress and boredom in the movie? I mean, I was on the edge of my seat in some regards (seeing a character who might work in *The Office* dealing with an alien slum was pretty tense–I kept waiting for him to (inevitably) screw up); but I also spent a while waiting for the story to begin. (Possibly, this was an effect of the multiple POVs–starting from cinema verite/faux doc, switching to omniscient camera with flashes of tv coverage.)

    2) From an SF-fan point of view, was anyone disappointed by the back-story questions–how did humans learn the “prawn” language? How did the “prawns” learn English/whatever Nigerian language the ganglord used? Why did the spaceship stop at Earth in the first place? (I mean, did they run out of fuel and need a place to stay for 20 years to distill the black liquid?) Why are there Nigerian gangs in the slums?

    I don’t expect all these sorts of questions to be dealt with in a film (whereas, if this were a novel, I might expect more about the back-story), but I did think of them.

    3) Taking the film’s back-story as a “give-me”–I don’t know how this world came about, but I’ll suspend my disbelief to see where the creators take me–, I’m still not entirely sure about where the film wanted us to go: the humans are unlikable (what should we make of Wikas’s sacrifice to save Christopher Johnson when he had earlier abandoned him to be killed by the MNU security force–the “cowboys”?), the aliens aren’t particularly likable (until Christopher Johnson’s son and friend are introduced, and even that isn’t that compelling).

    Wait, let me try again: the film seems to take an interesting, non-blockbuster approach at the beginning, with an unlikeable protag, unlikeable secondaries, and unlikeable antagonists–but then it becomes a collection of cliches: a cute alien child! an alien buddy-cop suicide mission! a change of heart! a heroic death–but really he’s still alive!

    (That full-alien Wikas still retains some old ways makes me think that the theme really is about people being similar, which doesn’t really seem like a theme worth the time.)

    I know this may sound pretty negative, so I’ll end by saying that I’m very willing to be talked around to the other side and am still thinking about this.

    • Re: still need to think more about it all, but shooting from the hip

      Did anyone else experience a mix of intense stress and boredom in the movie?


    • greyaenigma says:

      Re: still need to think more about it all, but shooting from the hip

      I was bothered by how the humans and aliens were able to understand each other. It made some sense that Wikus and the warlords could, after years, pick up some of the language, but even in that case, they seemed a bit too facile with it.

  10. ndgmtlcd says:

    The big question for me is: How does this compare with Alien Nation (1988)?

  11. mimitabu says:

    i just saw it. i liked it, but i didn’t quite love it. some comments:

    re: the faux selfless act by wikus at the end, mentioned a few times above,

    i don’t think it’s intended to be a “selfish, selfless act.” i believe they were trying to imply that the protagonist has changed since he abandoned the alien earlier. he doesn’t expect to survive after they leave, but now he is more interested in helping them (due to the injustice they’ve experienced, and the bond they’ve formed over the past day or two) than helping himself.

    not sure what else to say. i liked the exploration of colonialism/apartheid. i thought ending it with a personal triumph that PLAINLY entailed that aliens were on their way to earth to destroy the human race was beautiful.

    that the fuel to start up their ship turns humans into prawns… that’s a bit much(:. kind of an obvious plot device, ay? it didn’t bother me while watching though.

    my friends didn’t like the acting, though i thought it was fine. dialogue was a bit dry though. i felt like the lack of style and general economy of the dialogue made it such that none of the characters really got individuated in any way. the protagonist had the most dialogue, but his character was “dumb selfish guy” (which is fine with me in the larger context of what’s going on in the movie… i just thought this dialogue aspect took some color out of the story).

    i’m not sure what i think of the pacing of the movie. it seemed a little slow, but i’m not sure. there’s a few logic problems, but that’s to be expected with an out there premise. i think the action movie cliches (and there were a fair bunch, as well as heavyhandedness–eg we didn’t need to hear 1 african use a click consonant to get that the alien language was alluding to that, nor did we need wikus to catch a rocket and make blaringly clear that christopher would not have escaped w/o wikus’ sacrifice) [the action movie cliches] obscured a lot of the interesting aspects of the script… i didn’t really know or expect what would come next, and when i did have expectation it was (until near the end) usually defied. i’d like to hear todd’s thoughts on the script itself.

    (incidentally, the ending and its cliches reminded me of the movie sunshine. [sunshine spoiler ahead] the Main Bad Guy who survives obviously perilous assaults so he can have a big scene with wikus in the end was pretty offensive to suspension of disbelief–at least how it was carried off. it’s like sunshine, where the Bad Guy ended up an outrageous horror movie villain, when he (and the movie) would have been so superior had he just done 1 Big Thing that had gradual implications for the crew of the ship. weird action movie cliches can really hurt the viewing experience in my opinion)

    overall, i enjoyed it. also, as an oldschool anime fan, anything that includes a guy getting inside a mecha and going to town = something i can get behind.

    • Todd says:

      That’s interesting that you found the pacing slow — I found it incredibly swift.

      As for the dialogue, it’s my understanding that the actor playing Wikus improvised all of his lines, that there was literally nothing written in the script for him to say.

      I agree that I’m at a loss to explain why the precious black fluid that will start the mothership should also be a biological agent that turns humans into prawns.

      I’ll probably write something about the script in the future, but I’ll have to see it at least once more before doing so: I spent my first viewing of the movie with my mouth hanging open.

      • mimitabu says:

        i will say that this movie being made for $30m while, say, the half blood prince cost $250m is pretty jaw-dropping.

        also, since my review seemed kind of lukewarm, i was very satisfied with how the plot unfolded. it doesn’t have any ridiculous twists that blow your mind, but i was never quite sure where the plot was going to go, so there was always a sense of excitement. i mean, it wouldn’t have surprised me if halfway through the movie wikus ended up on the ship and the sub-genre of the movie changed. having events unfold (generally) naturally and still retaining unpredictability is pretty impressive, given the subject matter and genre.

        (not that sci-fi is inherently predictable, but once you set up the plot of this movie, i’d think it would be very hard to stray from predictability… i’m rambling though:))

      • is this true?! that’s amazing this just makes me love the film more!! I’m seeing it this friday (again!) all i know is i loved it, i thought it was smart and it kept me really entertained. and when i went home it made me want to write!

      • Anonymous says:

        Remember, they establish at the beginning that the aliens’ technology has “a biological component,” so it’s plausible that what we think of as fuel could be the ship’s “blood,” and thus contain some sort of species DNA.

        That failing, hey, the cannister of black goo is the film’s MacGuffin. I’d argue it can do anything it wants, as long as it does so with a modicum of consistency.

        — N.A.

    • sheherazahde says:

      “i thought ending it with a personal triumph that PLAINLY entailed that aliens were on their way to earth to destroy the human race was beautiful.”

      My understanding about the ending is that it represents the post-Apartheid white fears of retribution from the oppressed group. We hope the aliens will treat us better than we treated them. But why should they?

      • mimitabu says:

        all allegory aside,

        “sorry, it’s gonna take 3 years.”
        “what why?”
        “need to head home and get help first. i won’t let my people be used as medical experiments.”

        that sounds to me like, “sorry, your operation is going to have to wait a bit… brb enslaving/annihilating the human race.”

        at the very least there’s going to be some sort of reckoning whereby a vast amount of people will be punished (which probably means executed).

        • sheherazahde says:

          While “enslaving/annihilating the human race” is an option, it would not be necessary to do so to both save and avenge those who were stuck here. Since there is only one alien settlement the aliens could restrain themselves to just the immediate area around the refugees.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t fully enjoy the film, in part because it was so good — so sad, so uncomfortable, and so viscerally gross. (Croenenbergian body horror gives me the willies something fierce.) I admired it, and I’ll readily agree with all the well-deserved praise it’s been getting, but I can’t say I was entirely having fun.

    I thought the effects were extraordinary — after a few minutes, I forgot Christopher Johnson was CGI. (The big-eyed little kid, not so much, but he was effective, too. And big eyes are a common natural trait among baby animals — cuteness is a way of making sure your parent’s don’t eat you.) I loved the fluid skill with which Christopher worked the spaceship’s controls; it was a lovely little reveal about his character.

    The bad guys are a bit … one-dimensional, whether we have Greedy Corporate Overlord, Whacked-Out Nigerian Crime Lord, or Colonel “Nyaaaah! I’m a Racist! I’ma Git You!” But sadly, none of them are exactly beyond the realm of believability.

    The very ending was subtle, lovely, and quietly moving. The notion of Wikus’s soul in an alien body, still in love, still pining for his angel, breaks my heart a little.

    Also, death by mass-driven flying pig carcass? AWESOME.

    — N.A.

  13. mr_noy says:

    I saw District 9 last night and it is definitely one of the better films of the summer. While I understand some people’s criticisms I enjoyed the film although, upon reflection, there were a few nagging questions that I’m not sure were answered satisfactorily.

    I haven’t read through all of the posted comments yet but it seems like many people have the same questions I do. There were a few things that felt like cheats or the filmmakers tried to explain it away with a throw-away line but the result is you want to know even more about the aliens and some of things that feel like plot holes.

    Still, considering it only cost a modest $30mil and was shot in Johannesburg with a local cast of unknowns Blomkamp made a crackling good movie. D-9 has the benefit of having an interesting premise which, for once, isn’t based on a book, comic, video game, tv show, etc. It’s an original story and even though it’s content to be a well paced action film it actually gives you something to think about as you watch it. That’s more than can be said for some $200mil+, 2.5 hour long, dreary roller coaster ride movies this summer.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I was thinking about the alien fuel and how it changes human into prawn. Do remember the stuff on the floor of the ship when they first enter the ship. At first I thought it was alien excrement. But could it be the fuel and it has some how leaked into the ship. Remember that Chrisopher now exactly what has caused the mutation with human when he see him . Why would alien have medical equipment ready to change him back to normal unless technology is known to cause the mutation? Just my thoughts. Maybe prawn do not really look like prawn.

    • greyaenigma says:

      If that were the case, the teams that entered the ship first would like have already undergone exposure.

    • Anonymous says:

      They were wearing biological (if smart nuclear) protective suits if remember right. I am sure everything that came off the ship got complete hose down.

      A good question is though, How did Christopher know what was causing Wikus condition? Why did they have medical machine to undo the mutation.

  15. greyaenigma says:

    In addition to (or as expansion to) the royal jelly/fuel theory I wondered for a while whether the aliens were really transformed into that form by themselves. This caused me to fear that the climax of the film would involve the aliens finally being transformed into their normal forms — which would, worst case, be extremely human-looking.

    This time, I was happy to be wrong.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think the Apartheid metaphor holds true throughout the movie; if that was intended to be the main point of the movie, the Prawn would have to be the oppressors as they are the minority immigrants. Whites were never the natives or the majority group in South Africa, afterall.

    I think the film makers deliberately chose to use imagery from Apartheid to comment on how Europeans and Americans are treating immigrants into their own countries. My very first impression at the start of the movie was, “so they’re either Mexicans or Muslims. Where is this going?”

  17. Yeah, while strong pointers to colonialism and apartheid the allegory isn’t limited there… there were also strong ties to situations like say… Palestinian refugee camps.

    On another note, it’s worth noting that in the the full (very urban) theatre I saw the movie in, the audience cheered when the black gang leader was killed, and kinda gasped and looked away when the white cowboy was killed. I liked the way the film provided just enough to let the viewers stew in their own irony. Creating enough of the evil-dark-other-that-will-eat-you-out-of-savagery motif, stratifying this intersectionality of degrees of evil-only and savage-evil so that the audience could, were they so inclined (as Hollywood audiences most often are) to sit in their own prejudice even in the moment of condemning the brutal oppression on the prawns.

    I also think that the scene where the gang leader is going to cut off Wikas’s hand was originally intended to be a rape scene (eat the flesh for power, Wikas fucks the prawns and gets the power, fuck Wikas to get the power) but that the film-makers backed out of it. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that, but I know a good chunk of me thinks it was a cowardly move.

    • Oh, and in the first shots of the movie, I twas sure it was going to turn out that the ship didn’t malfunction and that their leadership didn’t die. I was sure that they had been dumped off by some other culture as waste life.

      The filming of the scene where they break into the ship is obviously calling on the modern slave and murder imagery of displaced people – people who have been transported, through desperation or against their will to a new country and then abandoned in the vessel they were brought in, either out of malice, happenstance, neglect or public policy to die slowly of starvation in squalor.

      I too wondered at the fuel that causes mutation, and now thinking about it I wonder: if they turn out to be working classes, working with hazardous material which causes widescale mutation, shipped out and dumped to another planet as a waste caste and if they were not in fact originally “prawn-y”.

      If that’s the case, Chris is doing a bit of what Wikas did by breaking in to MDU… going back to the homeland to bust in and get what’s needed to save the others, but he may not be welcome himself. It would explain why he didn’t even consider take any of the others with him – perhaps they’re just as unwelcome there at home as they are here.

  18. Anonymous says:

    District 10

    after seeing this film, it definetly seems as if its leaving room for a sequel (Christopher promising to return in three years, Wilkus still on the run, aliens moved to district 10) it is all speculation but one can assume the sequel would be called “District 10”, involve the return of Christopher, and be released around 2012.

  19. scribe_ari says:

    I know that I can not be as eloquent as some of the commentators here, but I can share my reactions to the film.

    It was powerful. Multiple times I found myself cringing from the horrors, how immediate they were, and those were just the human on human horrors. Wanting to look away and deny it but being unable to. The total willingness of the humans to treat one of their own as nothing more than an experiment once he had been “tainted.” I ended the film feeling dirty and hating every one of them, Vikaus included.
    The “abortion scene” and his glee at it all had me fighting my urge to scream at the screen. The movement of Vikaus from the gleeful, abusive, and careless oppressor to sad and hunted creature who is still self serving in the most monstrous ways was, I think, well done. He is not a hero. He is a selfish bastard that only wants it all to go back to the way it was and all go away. As viewer you know it can never go back. Even if the alien comes back and restores him, he will never be able to go back. He will be captured and dissected. The movie tells you as much with his experience at the beginning of his transformation. He is now the sub-human.

    The very plain stereotypes used for the director, scientist, mercenary commander and even Vikaus allow you the comfort of focusing on the story itself as presented, and not spending too much time trying to analyze the side characters or their motivations. They are what they are.

    To me the MNU is very clearly the UN. Too many individual nations would rather leave the day to day dealing with problems to “someone else.” Simply because that someone else is willing to do it, any number of atrocities are overlooked just so that they do not have to take responsibility for the problem. The UN has committed any number of atrocities that the rest of the world overlooks in their eagerness to not have to do the work themselves.

    I very much appreciate the number of things that are left unanswered, and left for the viewer to speculate on and decide for themselves. Just like real life. We only see what is before us and are left to decide on and discover what answers work for us as individuals.

  20. I started to get bored once the false-documentary aspects were set aside. I would’ve liked them to keep going with it, especially in cases like the weapon testing, the aborted vivisection, the birthday party, and the attack on the MNU offices where in-situ footage would’ve made perfect sense.

    • I mean, a non-shit Cloverfield would be cool. Buddy action flick w/ Hybrid Iron Man? Seen it.

    • taskboy3000 says:

      doco++; action–

      I’m in particular agreement with this.

      Act I and even Act II were really compelling. That’s where the social commentary is. Witness Wikus’s glee at burning the hidden brooding shack — that’s intensely messed up.

      The end of the film was pretty much a buddy action film. The quest was pretty much ripped out of E.T. The aliens were more interesting as nearly insane scavengers.

      The Wikus in Act I is a glimpse into the kind of bureaucracy that allows war crimes to be executed — completely white collar and boring. When I heard that MNU was a “military contractor,” I could not but think of Blackwater.

      Wikus doesn’t even have an office — just a small cubicle. But he wants power badly. What a wonderful, hapless villain!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Sorry I’m coming late to the comments, and I haven’t even read them all —

    but I did want to say that I particularly loved how the film managed to echo both The Office and The Fly (1986).

  22. pjamesharvey says:

    I find it interesting that ‘Prawn’ refers to the aliens in a derogatory manner in the film, and yet everyone is using the term when discussing the film. Why not ‘alien’ or ‘creature’?