Monday, September 07, 2009

District 9

Saw District 9. I had little impression of what to expect but that it was supposed to be good. Supposed to be good + science fictiony = worth a try. Oop, making it sound like I did not like it. I liked it, albeit…

The movie was done largely as a documentary, hand held camera and people being interviewed. Shifting from that documentary, as this movie did, giving us views outside the documentary camera’s view,  seems wrong, a lack of rigour in the narrative, but I guess that is a minor point.

The plot is a sort of deflated Childhood’s End. Aliens, borrowing the huge hovering spacecraft that appeared in Independence Day, arrive on Earth, but only because they ran out of gas or something. Earthlings feel obliged to rescue the aliens. Rounding the aliens up and placing them in a restricted zone represents rescuing. I neglected to mench that the city over which this spacecraft hovers is Johannesburg. So we have these aliens, a million strong, in apartheid. That is where the movie begins.

The plot concerns the effort to move the alien camp away from the city, because the humans do not quite cotton to the so called prawns. They are named this for a resemblance, tho they also resemble less husky versions of the Predator alien, with wormy mandibles or whatever they are. Their language suggests a less clicky Xhosa.

The move is headed by a mid-level government factotum with a Dutch name that I cannot remember. He is eager and efficient in his sweater vest. To satisfy legalities, he must get the signature of every alien that he evicts. We get a first hand and alarming view of the squalour in which the aliens live, slum of the slummiest.

Our Hero is efficient and dedicated, plunging forth into the violent near anarchy of the alien camp. At one residence, he discovers a small canister that the aliens had tried to hide. In handling it, he gets sprayed by its contents. He immediately sickens. He carries on with his duties but odd physical reactions occur, like black stuff pouring from him, and his finger nails failing out.

At this point, the tenor of the movie changes. Our Hero is almost a parody of thoroughgoing governmental mediocrity. He is earnest but it is shocking when one hears him call the aliens prawns, which is as good as the n-word here. His physical sufferings, tho, begin a desperation in his life.

It becomes evident that Our Hero is turning into an alien. His DNA is combining with alien DNA. His hand has turned into a claw-like alien appendage. This is of governmental interest because the aliens have interesting weaponry that will not work in non-alien hands. So the government performs hideous experiments with OH, including having him shoot not just pigs but aliens with this weaponry. His father-in-law is a government official overseeing all this.

OH manages to escape, and goes on the lam in the alien sector, er district (9). Yipes + yipes. He happens upon the alien who had the canister. This alien, yclept Christopher, has a small prawnling, a son. Christopher declares that he can cure OH but he needs the canister. The canister contains fuel that can get his hidden small ship to the mother ship.

OH must get the canister back. At this point, the government has smeared him, declaring that he had been having sex with the aliens. His wife turned from him, in a bitter phone call. OH tries to get weapons from a Nigerian mobster living amongst the aliens. This ends violently with OH in possession of alien firepower. Christopher assists OH in getting the canister. Christopher almost gives up when he discovers evidence of the horrid government experiments performed on his people.

Somewhere along the way, Erin walked out. He is a sensitive young man, and the violence, which is vivid in flowing excess, and the crushingly sad squalour, proved too much. He walked down to Barnes & Noble. Beth and I were battered but too caught up in the plot.

The plot darts on. OH battles government and Nigerian bad guys.Christopher is collected in custody but his son manages to utilize the canister. He powers up the Iron Man (or Transformer) machine that OH gets into. Much SPLAT as OH battles everybody, helping Christopher get to the mother ship. Christopher and son do, and promise to return, in 3 years. OH’s wife comes to understand her father’s culpability and her husband’s victimization. The movie ends with him fully transformed into an alien.

Okay, that rendition of the plot was scattershot. The point centres on the transformation of this bland government entity into a tragic figure. Furthermore, the crushing horror of the camp. I thought apartheid but Beth also thought of Palestine. The movie picked at recent scabby wounds.

The violence was terrible in its lush, flowing presence. It was not pretty or fun at all. I say that because the trailers included a batch of same looking violent mush, thoughtless lumps of cinematic ploy. One was about some murderous teen hottie, one was a robot affair featuring Bruce Willis (ugh), one was some malarkey about God’s vengeance, act 2: murderous angels, and one was zombie killing with Woody Harrelson, so the future is bleak for movie goers. D9 was just so sad and relentless, so close to home. For all its wide-angled horridness, it was quite subtle. I am not up for seeing it again, but it was worth watching. Not what I expected at all.