It really has been quite a good summer for movies. Obviously much different to last year’s extreme quiet caused by the writers’ strike. I went to see District 9 yesterday and that was a rollicking good blood-and-guts action movie.
It opens with the introduction of Wikus, the main human character played by Sharlto Copley, and a little history of how aliens first came to Earth. Their city-sized ship had stalled in the sky above Johannesburg some twenty years ago and they can’t get it moving again. So down to Earth they drop, with governments and authorities suitably terrified. With the world afraid of these new illegal immigrants, who are known as ‘Prawns’, they are stored in a zone on the outskirts of the city. That is District 9.
It’s a horrible and slummy place and your sympathy quickly grows for the Prawns. I know mine did. They’re seen largely as nameless savages, and their eating habits to humans certainly make them seem that way. They root through rubbish and find nourishment in tyres. The aliens’ new addiction on this planet though is catfood. Sometimes they go wild with excitement over it, and generally trade any goods they have in exchange for a hundred tins mashed livers.
Now, Wikus is hired to take charge of the eviction of the Prawns as the government want them kind of imprisoned 200km away from human life. Whilst doing this, he messes with a canister he finds in one alien’s shack. It sprays his black sauce into his face causing Wikus to choke and splutter. He has been infected with Prawn DNA and is turning into one.
From that part on you’ve got Mikus joining forces with a scientific alien and being tested on in his father-in-law’s military lab. Wikus has a prawny hand now and his appetite can only be satisfied by tasty tins of Felix. The army are hunting him down and all other humans want nothing to do with him. It never really gets all that emotional though.
The effects in this film are brilliant. The Prawns rarely look unreal. And exploding body parts splatter on the camera lens expertly. I giggled madly when in a late-on gunfight Wikus fires a pig at a soldier too. Good horror film sort of stuff, with a comic edge. You can see in those bits why Peter Jackson wanted to be involved as a producer, having seen a six-minute version of the story in 2005. And Wikus’s mutation has a slight David Cronenberg feel to it. There’s a feeling throughout too of South Africa’s still recent history and the apartheid that the world was generally against in its later days. But that horror is only implied rather than directly mentioned.
Neill Blomkamp, the director, was a 3D animator for TV series like Smallville, and he was sort of well known for that dancing Transformesque car ad a few years ago. He’s clearly made his name here and might come back to blow up more heads and reinvigorate the action genre, which is a bit Michael Bay-ed up at the minute. I’m personally hoping for more Prawn. Top stuff.