Monday, August 24, 2009

Excuse To Eat Popcorn and Junior Mints: District 9

One of the fringe benefits of being unemployed is having the option to go see a movie in the middle of a day on a weekday. Today was such a day for me and I opted to check out District 9. I originally heard about this movie when I started seeing marketing posters such as the one to the left on the sides of Manhattan bus stops. I never went so far as to look at the website, but the movie was definitely on my radar. Since the movie appeared in theaters, I had been seeing favorable mentions of it in friend's Facebook updates and decided to give it a whirl.

How was it? On the surface it may appear to be just another alien movie, but this focused more on social commentary while still mixing in the requisite alien weapons, spaceships and the what not. The social commentary was mainly about apartheid and segregation (the movie is quite non-coincidentally set in South Africa), but there was also stuff in there about what happens when powerful, wealthy private military contractors/corporations are given too much power as well as humans constant craving for more powerful and deadlier weapons. The film seems to be geared towards getting the audience to think about these issues and I feel it achieved that goal without being preachy.

Quick plot summary: An alien spaceship gets stranded over Johannesburg. With no way to get home, the aliens wind up stuck on Earth and eventually are forced into a shanty town by the government. The main character, Wikus, works for a military contractor named MNU who controls this camp. With tensions between the aliens and humans mounting, MNU decides to move all the aliens to a new, more remote location. One day while he is serving eviction notices to the Prauns (the derogatory name used to refer to the aliens) in the slum, he is exposed to a substance that fuses alien DNA with his own DNA and he starts turning into one. After that, he is on the run to try and find a cure while the military contractors hunt him down, so that they can harvest his organs and blood. Why do they want him so badly? The aliens advance weaponry can only be activated when an alien uses it, so they want to figure out a way to harvest the DNA and give humans the capability to fire the weapons. Wikus becomes tied up with an alien who can cure him, but he wants Wikus' help in getting the alien mothership activated again, so that he and his people can go home. Vicious Nigerian gangs get involved along the way adding yet another element of danger to Wikus' journey.

The pace is fast and the film doesn't have any slow parts where they over explain some part of the story line. They did leave room for a sequel, but hopefully they will just leave it be because the ending was satisfactory.

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