8/14/09

District 9 and the Mustachioed Hero

There are two reasons to like District 9. 1) Because it's just generally an awesome movie. 2) Because it's the first movie I know in which the hero proudly sports a mustache.

Wikus van der Merwe (yes, I did have to look that up) takes his mustache to District 9, a refuge/slum for aliens who inadvertently landed on earth 20 years ago, in order to serve them eviction notices. The plan is to move the aliens farther away from Wikus' mustache, which resides in Johannesburg, South Africa, because people keep complaining about them. But things never go according to plan.

The aliens, which don't have mustaches, but do have similar tentacley protrusions, are called prawns by the locals. My guess is that their actual name is unpronounceable by humans since their language in general seems to have been made up by a man throwing a coin down a water drain. Which makes sense when you meet a prawn named Christopher Johnson. That's just easier to spell than KRRSTIKKKLYPPLR JKKTIKNSNNN.

The film goes back and forth between documentary style and omniscient third-person narrative. Wikus' mustache brings a camera with him to District 9 in order to document the eviction (which doesn't go over very well, as you might imagine). Several people are interviewed, and these interviews are interwoven with the narrative to give a sort of background on Wikus and the organization for which he works, MNU. It's a very interesting way of shooting. On the one hand you have people fully aware that a camera is there, but just as easily you get insight into the characters when they don't recognize the cameras. It made the narrative both real and realistic.

The animation of the aliens is truly spectacular! Nearly flawless. It's as if they were puppets, except that they did things puppets just can't do. This is a giant leap in CG realism the likes of which I am totally looking forward to seeing progress in the future. Soon enough we won't need actors except for the voices! (That's a lie. There will always be actors.)

District 9 tells the story of clearly superior aliens being beaten and dominated by humans and what they do to react. What really got me about the story was what could humanity's motive possibly be for not allowing them to take steps to actually get back home? This opened a disturbing and poignant line of thought: humans are always trying to dominate. They always need something to be able to kick around and be better than. If it's not racial discrimination, it's species discrimination. It's sad, really, but the only reason the humans let the prawns stay (aside from trying to learn how to work their weapons) is because they want to lord over them and feel like the superior species by sheer virtue of the fact that this species was living in a slum while they had nice beach-side houses. It's very sad, but very poignant. A lesson well learned in the end when Wikus' mustache walks a mile in the prawns' shoes. Er... bio suit?

Go see District 9! It is perhaps the best original sci-fi movie of this century! And if there isn't a district 10 movie forthcoming, someone is going to get hurt.