Wednesday, August 26, 2009

District 9

Last night, making a change from lowering the average age at the Pauatahanui Lighthouse the other Sunday afternoon, we raised the average age at an almost sold out showing of District 9 at the Embassy.

District 9 has been getting rave reviews from all and sundry, and justifiably so. The scenario is that twenty years ago an alien spaceship appeared over Johannesburg, and hovered ominously but uneventfully for sometime. Humans eventually cut their way in and discovered 1.2 million starving bipedal aliens inside, who they brought down to earth and housed in a refugee camp. Twenty years on the alien population has swollen to two million and the township they live in (District 9) is a slum. So its been decided to move them to a camp 25km outside the city and and a corporation called MNU (who seem to be a kind of military quango) has the job of organising the eviction.

Enter the "hero" of the film, Wikus Van der Merwe, the MNU employee who is in charge of the operation. Unexpected things happen to Wikus on eviction day and he begins a closer relationship with the aliens ("prawns") than he was expecting. On one level, District 9 is the story of what happened to Wikus, and on another its a story about apartheid - about how a fictional underclass is treated in South African society and how that mirrors how non-whites were treated in South Africa last century. While this second level is quite obvious it isn't too dominating or laboured too hard. And since Wikus' story is such a rollercoaster ride of shoot-em-up drama, you only have to reflect on the other aspect if you want to.

If you want to know more about the plot, there are lots of other reviews you could read. There are many joys watching this film and one of them is not knowing what's going to happen next. It begins and ends documentary style with talking heads and chunks of Sky-news-type footage, with straight filming of Wikus' story sandwiched in the middle. I enjoyed the novelty of Afrikaans accents and names, and the splatter factor of the fighting and I liked the fast pace and noise. I liked how the story was firmly rooted on earth (moderately unusual for a science fiction film) and how it focused on a particular individual while considering the plight of humankind. It was completely engrossing, escapist and exhilarating and watching it is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.

Anne's rating 4/5, Ian's rating 5/5

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