Review: District 9 (2009)

Trigger Warnings: Blood, extreme gore, guns, vomit, body horror, medical experimentation, cannibalism (mentions)

In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed “The Prawns,” appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, is contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge. In this operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical and must rely on the help of his only two new 'Prawn' friends.

My husband found this one in the $5 DVD bin at Walmart and decided we should watch it. I knew nothing about it, but he'd heard somewhere it was good. (That's kinda how he picks a lot of movies, it seems.)

About 10 minutes or so into the movie, I asked him if it was supposed to be a metaphor for refugees. Apparently it's supposed to be a metaphor for apartheid (which is why it's set in South Africa), but I think either interpretation works... least at the beginning. Once Wikus gets exposed to the alien chemical, it turns into more of an action movie and loses the metaphor a bit.

There's three main factions in this movie.

  1. The MNU, which is the government agency who deals with stuff related to the aliens. They're doing a bunch of illegal and unethical stuff to the aliens, mostly because humans can't make the alien weaponry work and the government wants to use those weapons.
  2. The Nigerians, who are arms dealers selling things like meat and cat food (which the aliens like for some reason) to the aliens in exchange for money or alien weapons, and scamming them while they're at it.
  3. The aliens, who are largely passive (due to the whole “being oppressed for the past two decades” thing) and the closest thing to “good guys” this movie has.

And then there's Wikus, who should probably be considered a faction of his own because he is looking out for himself and himself only. We find out about 30 minutes in that he has a wife, and about halfway through he has an emotional phone call expressing that he loves her, and that's it. It's only in the last 10 minutes or so that he shows any hint of caring about anything other than himself.

(Also, he makes some incredibly stupid choices that had both me and my husband telling the screen how dumb he was. My husband was okay with that because he felt like it was realistic, but I like my protagonists to have a little bit of common sense.)

The movie around him, though, was enjoyable. The plot was solid, the CG or SFX makeup or whatever it was to make the alien stuff was good, the action scenes were solid, the acting was good, and the main antagonists were well done. Wikus was just a terrible person. I don't think it was a bad movie, and it was quite entertaining, I just think I would have liked it much more if Wikus was a better character.