District 9 (2009) directed by Neill Blomkamp
I'm writing this quite late at night after a hectic day in the studio where computer's crashed at regular intervals. My brain is quite fried. The biggest surprise for me was that Astrid wanted to watch District 9 last night. She normally steers well clear of this type of picture. District 9 was surprisingly good.
So let's start with the obvious parallels with Avatar. Jame's Cameron's epic came out just after District 9 yet both films have aliens (or deal with the unwanted outsider), both films could be classified as sci-fi and both pictures are violent. Although Avatar's themes also cover environmentalist ideals, it's strange to have two movies form a similar genre both coming from political angles. There, the similarities end. District 9's sense of fun and fast pace offer a different experience to Avatar's pompous though well meaning message. Incidentally, I think Avatar is still the better film.
It takes balls to have this movie located in South Africa and the opening seen with the Alien craft floating over Johannesburg is a cheeky nod to Independence Day. The aliens' space ship ship has broken down and the South African government start up District 9 to shelter the aliens found on the craft. The way the Aliens are depicted and treated is of course mirroring what happened during Apartheid era South Africa and for me this was as great a portrayal of the racial conflicts and problems that arise from segregation everywhere as I've seen. So, this already puts District 9 into original territory for an alien movie.
The fast editing, different film choices (from HD to video tape to film) suck you in from the off to what is a roller-coaster ride. After awhile the movie descends into a typical shoot em up display of firepower and revenge. All the characters are pretty hard to like (from alien to human) but as the film moves on you find yourself rooting for the annoying central human character (or is he?) and his finally sympathetic alien allies. I'm sure there working on the sequel already, but District 9 was a real fun blast.
I am generally against watching action films because they tend to bore me after the initial half an hour.
The mold for action is: present the ideas plus the events that lead to danger, then for the rest of the film just shoot and bomb, drive and run so you can hold hands in the end.
That said, I suggested watching District 9 last night, because untypically for myself, I was ready to be inspired by the fusion of human and alien DNA. I was up for imagining what happens when human rights are extended to extra-planetary beings. As human rights have continually been used to justify war and the exclusion of others has been internal to defining humanity, it is fascinating to imagine what happens when Otherness lands on Johannesburg from a spaceship.
District 9 is surprisingly imaginative and multi-faceted in its dealings with the Otherness of aliens and most of all in the way it presents human reactions to the non-human presence. There seems to be a wide acceptance of the hovering spaceship over the city, while at the same time the aliens are the newcomers and therefore it appears 'justified' to put them in shanty towns and controlled camps for the time being.
Biotechnology is at the heart of what the aliens have and humans so desperately want to develop. Weaponry, unfortunately is what humans want this technology for. What is more interesting to me, is that through an accident a fusion of human and alien DNA occurs in a man. This becoming offers us a chance of asking a line of questions about the fluidity of being defined human.
Just last week I learned that the tiniest variation(less than 1% change) on human DNA-pattern could really drastically change humanity's make-up, while right now we are over 90% made of the exact same ingredients (and yet we appear so different to each other).