Hollywood summer blockbusters have been following a particular trend year after year after year. And that is of the high budget popcorn entertainers solely driven by, and reliant on a hyperkinetic style of octane-exploding, fast-cutting, eye popping soul-less and plotless bag of shit. And amongst those farted by the likes of Michael Bay, we get an awesome sci-fi flick which has almost no known names associated except for producer Peter Jackson. District 9 surprised me, amazed me and held me by the collar pulling me straight towards the screen and enthralled me by the magic that we once called cinema. It has redefined the art of storytelling. If I was to compare the levels at which the movie connects, I would mention movie marvels such as City of God, Black Hawk Down and ET. As @leesargent from QYDJ tweeted me once, it is indeed different shades of awesome. And here’s why!
Pssst.***May contain spoilers.***
But, if you haven’t seen this movie, drop anything you’re doing right now and go watch it.
1. Flash Flash Flash!
D9 has the flashy techniques and the jittery camera moves too. But it jumps from one medium to another in a very smooth fashion that you feel included as an active member to the story. Blended perfectly with news footage, corporate promotional video and mockumentary styled filming, it presents the enormity of the entire plot and how people are affected by it. The entire environment is recreated to produce a parallel reality which comes so extremely close to being real.
2. No more America – its Johannesberg
District 9 tells the tale of modern day Johannesberg, 20 years after aliens made first contact. And here’s one of the major reasons I loved this. The canvas chosen for the tale is not Manhattan or the city of the Golden Gate neither has it monuments like the Eiffel Tower (Thank God! How many more times are they gonna bring down that tower!). It is set right in the heart of Johannesberg, a city which embraces skyscrapers as well as the slums.
A shady private global corporation which handles the relocation of the aliens from District 9 to a distant slum area called District 10. No more interference appreciated from FBI, CIA, Interpol, LAPD, NYPD, Jack Bauer et al. Thank you.
Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a self-satisfied manager working for the MNU, assigned with the task of the alien transfer. His transformation from the nervous and guileless office guy to prawn to action hero is absolutely believable and very sad too. He is not a lead role material. Yet he effortlessly makes us root for him. He initially delights in referring to the insectoid creatures as prawns, fooling them to sign eviction notices, cheerfully burning alien foetuses. But a mysterious fluid accident turns him into a prawn part by part. All of a sudden, he is the centre of attraction for MNU who want to use him as the sole survivor of the DNA balance between human and ‘prawns’. What follows next is the most relentless, spectacle-filled and blood-splattering chase of Wikus’ struggle to keep himself alive. He is badass brilliant and yes, even though he started as a silly lead, by the end of it, you do give a damn.
5. Effin Prawns.
Apart from the awesomely created exoskeleton which in every single frame captured my attention, the prawns were not as costly and glittering as the Transformers, but were absolutely Kickass. And yes, they’ve got the Guns which can only be triggered by them.
Some questions remained unanswered such as:
What is the connection between Cat-Food and the Prawns?
What is the language they speak, and how is Wikus conversant in it? (30 years is a long time though)
Out of 1.8 million prawns, were there only two [ the father and the son] who were intelligent enough to think of flying home?
6. Human Nature
District 9 displays human nature on various levels. The prawns are viewed contemptously and as a source of advanced weaponry. Corporates are greedy bastards who don’t even blink when it comes to profitmaking. And so, once Wikus starts transforming into a prawn, he is readily been agreed by his own father-in-law to be treated as a guinea pig. The apartheid metaphor conveyed by means of the alien situation is freakishly hard hitting. The question is – is it human? The whole Nigerian slum gang shows exactly how chaos rules where there is no order. From superstitious voodoo chants and sexual misbeliefs associated with the prawns, the dark and power-hungry side of human nature is unveiled.
7. In yo face Transformers
With a budget of just 30 million USD (compared to 200 million for Transformers 2), District 9 packs in 5 times [ statistically proven] more action and excitement and sheds off all unnecessary polygons. The guns are bad-ass and create sonic-boom-like explosions. The last time I saw something like this was in Minority Report, and it has been confirmed as the ultimate definition of uber-coolness.
8. All’s well that wraps up well
I did get a bit worried about where the movie was heading to. The fuel running out; Wikus running out of time; the 3 year limit etc. Of course, the annoying mercenary too who kept on well, annoying me. But yes, by the end, everything was sorted…kinda. I won’t reveal what happened, but yes it was a very satisfying finale indeed which involved, amongst other things – an Iron Man-esque control suit (see image above). And no points for guessing that director Blomkamp was intelligent enough to keep certain loose ends for a potential ‘District 10’. Perhaps, we are witnessing a new dawn for politically engaging sci-fi and horror.
I’d like to conclude by saying, Sharlto Copley surely deserves Oscar buzz for this one. And yes, District-9 could be absolutely a game changer. James Cameron’s year ending overhyped 3D saga “Avatar” has to hit all the notes correctly to overcome this. We are watching very closely. As for District 9, in the words of Master Yoda ” Awesome it was…very”.