Neill Blomkamp’s District 917 Apr 2020
For centuries, philosophers and theologists have pondered human nature and proposed Ash Tisdale justification for any acts that seem unfavorable as being “self-preserving.” Survival of the fittest comes to mind but then so does “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.”
One thing is for certain however, and that is that people as a whole are selfish arrogant asses who do not care about who they hurt or step on in order to propel themselves to wherever it is they decide they should be. And if you are someone or something that could help make that end happen that much quicker, then consider yourself a necessary casualty.
So why am I thinking such deep thoughts? Why is all this awareness of human nature so pressing on my mind? Well, because of the movie District 9.
District 9 is a science fiction yarn about alien life that ends up stranded on our planet. Initially we offer them refuge on our planet, but quickly begin to fear their presence resulting in their confinement to an area - District 9 - where they are forced to live in squalor and filth while being subjected to police and military brutality in order to keep them under control.
I found District 9 refreshing in that usually the aliens are portrayed as the aggressor and murderous type and this movie gave us just the opposite. But in doing so, it was so disturbing in that we as a human race would probably react in reality exactly as we do in this movie.
Synopsis Fearing growing gang activity in District 9 (mostly by the hands of humans and NOT aliens however that is not what the media projects) a private military contractor known as MNU (Multi-National United) is hired to relocate the aliens to District 10, a Guantanamo-type tent city on the outskirts of town where there will be less likelihood of human interaction.
Wikus Van Der Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) is the goofball lackey who has been placed in charge of the relocation effort (it helps that he just happens to be married to the boss’s daughter. Guess having “friends” in high places has its benefits.) In addition to relocating the prawns (the name given the aliens due to their lobster-like appearance) Van Der Merwe is responsible for finding alien weaponry believed to be hidden in District 9 (remember Iraq and our determined quest for WMD’s? It’s a lot like that.)
Much of District 9’s plot focuses on the obsession MNU has with alien weaponry, which we learn humans cannot operate. Oddly enough, the aliens do not use these weapons to protect themselves from the brutality they endure, rather they act beaten and accepting of their predicament even though we seem to be holding them prisoners. This should raise questions among the humans - the fact that we won’t let the prawns return home… but it doesn’t.
Ultimately Van Der Merwe’s naivety and disregard for caution due to his obsession with the camera results in his infection and subsequent transformation from human to alien. This of course kills his chances of advancement within his profession, as well as “alien”ating his wife (pun intended.) It does however gain him compassion from his alien counterpart (sort of) and he finds himself allying with a prawn called Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope) and his “son” (whom he needs proper documentation to “own”) as well as developing the ability to use all the really cool alien technology.
Conclusion I pretty much despised Van Der Merwe from the word go. He had that “I’ll screw anybody to get the to the top” look which was enhanced by his “me-me-me” attitude. So often in the first hour of District 9 - hell, practically throughout the entire movie - I wanted to drop kick him into next week…. but as the movie progressed and Van Der Merwe began to literally transform into the outcast he was ordered to remove, I witnessed his internal struggle between self promotion and human decency; hell, decency of any kind. It was then that I actually found myself hoping Van Der Merwe would find a cure and save the aliens from their life of earthly imprisonment, and ultimately save himself.
But does he? Typical for movies hinging on cliff hangers, we don’t find out. Instead we are set up for a potentially kickASS sequel that promises answers and redemption…
….Or at least a lot of revenge, and who wouldn’t want to see that??