MOVIE OF THE WEEK: District 9

In the big screen, aliens have two roles. One, they portray really brutal sleuths of their home planet and hi-tech invaders of Earth (as in Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator). Two, they depict really adorable and lovable creatures who intervene with children’s lives and help them to fix their juvenile problems (as in Planet 51, Mars Needs Moms and the classic E.T.). Aliens have been stuck in these cinematic stereotypes for years now, until the visual film connoisseur Peter Jackson came up with “District 9.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, “District 9” shows what our planet’s demographics would become 20 years from now. Well, nothing much has really changed, except for a stranded civilization of green-skinned, lizard-like aliens, or as the future people would call them, “prawns,” in a place dubbed as “District 9” in Johannesburg, that would cause civil unrest in South Africa.

The film, although employing the infamous documentary style, centers on Wikus (Sharlto Copley), the newly-elected head of Multinational United (aka MNU), an organization in charge of regulating “prawn” activities and life. Wikus meets Christopher, an intelligent “prawn” who finally succeeded collecting the special chemicals needed to repair their mother ship, while inspecting District 9, and accidentally exposes himself to the chemical. As a result, Wikus’ body slowly mutates into that of an alien, which is of great interest of MNU. To avoid the organization’s abusive experiments, Wikus needs Christopher’s help.

With a unique perspective towards alien life, “District 9” stands out among other movies in its genre. First, instead of telling a story of Man versus Aliens, Jackson tells an epic of Man plus Aliens. That is, instead of making a film about terrifying aliens and senseless bloodbaths, he crafted a film that juxtaposes humans and aliens and demonstrates the possible reactions and adjustments each species would do. Instead of giving the aliens large claws and pointed fangs,  he gave them sons  and poverty and unstable homes, kind of like savages in a third world country. He personified the aliens, and made the existence of alien life more believable and relatable.

How do they even understand each other?

Second the style – that is, the documentary style which is nowadays a common strategy among filmmakers – is just precious.  The film featured many clips of interviews of people In Johannesburg, a narration of the occurrences in District 9, and live footages of the aliens, which although artificial draws the audience nearer to the fictional reality it created. The actors’ acting was so normal that you cannot tell whether it is still fiction or not, and thus gives a poignant and thrilling feel to the film.

Also, unlike alien warfare movies, there are only minimal mutilations, decapitations and blood, which seems to be more elegant than terrifying because of that certain “blood splatter” style. Yet, there are still a lot of explosions in the movie, but here these explosions are not executed only for violent purposes, but for enhancing the visual impact of the film. When one witnesses these violent scenes, he does not even feel terrified; he feels empowered and justified, since these scenes suit the sequencing of the story perfectly. All in all, the film contains just the right amount of violence needed to maintain its intensity and appeal to the audience.

The most impressive aspect of “District 9” is that every aspect of it contributes to the essence of the film. The documentary style fits well with the original story, showing multiple perspectives of characters and giving it an unbiased and sincere feel. The sound compliments the cinematography just like hot chocolate and marshmallows. The editing exemplifies the otherwise boring writing. The film’s elements are really inseparable, and ultimately, “District 9” is one of the few films one cannot, and one should not dare to, criticize.

Being one of the few alien films to snag four Oscar nominations, people should really see “District 9.” This would get you into a touching thrill ride more enjoyable than a rollercoaster, and will give you a unique cinematic experience you have yet to have. Get the DVD, it is definitely worth the buck.

What do you guys think? Is “District 9” out of this world, or is it just as dull as an alien waiting for its mother ship? Tell me in the comments below.

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