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August 23, 2009 3:26 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp turns his sci-fi short "Alive in Joburg" into a full-length feature film - examining xenophobia in an allegory of Apartheid, set in a slum recalling District 6 of Cape Town in South Africa.
posted by crossoverman (135 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously and previouslier.
posted by effbot at 3:31 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


bang bang club
posted by infini at 3:44 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw it, I rate it highly and respect its message, but I really didn't like it. There wasn't one single human character in that whole film that I wouldn't have gladly burst apart with a lightning gun myself. The take-away message of District 9 is that Human Beings Truly Suck, and it will hold you down and carve that message on your forehead.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:48 AM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Alien Nation was too subtle, eh?
posted by fleacircus at 4:17 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mmmm... spoiled Milk....
posted by cavalier at 4:24 AM on August 23, 2009


Alien Nation was too subtle, eh?

I like Alien Nation, the film and the series, but that's a fairly clean, not terribly confronting take on a xenophobia with aliens story. This film is far bleaker; as aeschenkarnos says - the humans aren't terribly sympathetic at all.

Alien Nation, after all, was more of a buddy cop take on the situation more than an analysis on the tools we use to oppress those who are different than us.
posted by crossoverman at 4:53 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I liked the aliens in district 9, hated the humans - but really the movie beat you over the head so hard with apartheid that it was hard just to enjoy. And conveniently it's setup for a sequel in three years.
posted by bigmusic at 5:11 AM on August 23, 2009


I'm glad he was allowed to use the South African accents and colloquialisms in the movie. I think it helped with the documentary-ish feel.
posted by harriet vane at 5:14 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed in District 9. I thought it would go in a different direction and explore xenophobia more deeply. To me it just didn't really go anywhere - perhaps the inevitable sequel district 10 will.
posted by Bort at 5:15 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We were discussing this earlier on John Perry Barlow's Facebook -- he was surprised how sentimental / heartwarming it was -- where I said...

"The one thing though that ruined the illusion for my girlfriend is that in the middle of the final fight, armed with a wide variety of fancy, alien weaponry, he reaches out and throws a pig at the bad guys.

"Hurl a pig at it" would be a great expression for brute force kludges....

"Were you able to fix the software problem? Do you have the information I was looking for?"
"I couldn't fix it, but I hurled a pig at it, and got the data for you."

posted by markkraft at 5:36 AM on August 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


Add me to the disappointed list. Warning, spoiler alert... When it started out, I thought hmm, this looks interesting. Then it degenerated into another shoot em up action adventure. And there were plenty of things which didn't make sense to pull you right out of the movie, e.g., some sort of dual purpose juice that not only turns humans into aliens but also is a power source for the spaceship. Also, it took twenty seconds for the little alien to figure out how to make the mother ship come over and pick them up; a feat which grown up aliens couldn't accomplish in twenty years.
posted by digsrus at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Warning, more spoiler alert...
well, digsrus, to be fair, the movie showed that the alien tech all had a strong biological component, which is why humans couldn't fire alien weapons. So it's not unthinkable that the fuel might have side effects if ingested by humans.
Also, it took 20 years to collect enough material to make the fuel. After that, the picking up part was easy. How long would it take you to start a car with an empty tank, if you had to make the gasoline from scratch?
posted by bashos_frog at 6:05 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


That last point (grown up aliens not figuring it out in 20 yrs) was discussed at the end of the AV Club interview. His explanation for it was more or less what I'd decided for myself just after seeing it.

I really enjoyed it - it was a simple, original plot, performed well with good special effects. That's all I really need for a good night out at the movies, and sadly, it's not something I experience terribly often in the glut of sequels, reimaginings and remakes.
posted by harriet vane at 6:08 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It wasn't perfect but I like it for a few reasons: it wasn't a remake or sequel; I liked the South African setting which made even the normal everyday stuff seem a little alien; the effects were mostly very well done and felt like they obeyed real physics; I didn't quite know where it was going while I was watching it. For a pop-corn escape-into-air-conditioning-for-two-hours summer movie, that's good enough for me.
posted by octothorpe at 6:19 AM on August 23, 2009


I greatly enjoyed it. Though, one shouldn't address or examine it too deeply. It's a fantastic popcorn movie, as octothorpe noted, and sometimes that's all a good movie needs to be.
posted by Atreides at 6:33 AM on August 23, 2009


markkraft, I though the "hurl the pig" moment was a bit of a turnabout is fair play, given that MNU were testing the weapons on pig carcasses. It got a chuckle out of the theater I was in.

I quite enjoyed it, and frankly I'm stunned it only cost $30 million. The effects weren't quite on par with, say, your Transformers 2, but certainly close enough that I wonder where the extra $170 million went on that movie.

And I liked the fact that Vinkus wasn't a hero from the outset: he was just as willing to be an species-ist a-hole as everyone else. And his motivations were purely selfish until the very end, and even then I don't think you could say he was terribly enlightened in an "underneath it all we're all the same!" sort of way.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:34 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Spoiler alert:

I liked that I did not like the humans all the time. It made their behavior more unpredictable. I learned to not expect the moral choice to be made by them every time. Sure that was frustrating - just when I'm getting into the momentum of the action, getting to where I expected him to do the right thing and there the main guy goes again - doing something selfish or asinine and ruining the direction I want things to go in. But that makes the movie better when I can't guess what happens. I like struggling to like the protagonist despite his selfish faults. And then at the end of course - he's suffering ultimate loneliness from both species - I wouldn't wish that punishment of the evil father-in-law. Well maybe I would.

I liked this a lot. I knew nothing about it going in and that often helps. I had no built up expectations. It's given me lots of fun stuff to ponder over since as well which I also enjoy.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:35 AM on August 23, 2009


BTW, did I see a brief Tetra Vaal reference near the end of the film? The term sticks in my mind, but I can't recall where it showed up.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:37 AM on August 23, 2009


Again spoiler comment:

One question - why didn't the aliens not use their superior weapons on the Nigerians and really - any humans? Why do worker aliens have weapons they don't use but rather trade for cat food? Does the worker alien just want to follow someone and they accepted the Nigerian leadership in the district? Maybe the Nigerians were not really leaders - maybe they were just opportunists in the district? Is this a comment on the behavior of a repressed and lost group who has no direction or leadership and therefore no defense to the brutality put upon them by a larger more organized group?
posted by dog food sugar at 6:45 AM on August 23, 2009


You'd think that workers who could make such sweet weapons would be able to frame a house and put up sheet rock.
posted by digsrus at 6:52 AM on August 23, 2009


I enjoyed the film, and thought it was fascinating on many levels. But I had very serious reservations about its political implications. A friend and I talked about this extensively after the movie, and he summarized our conversation here.

Also, the portrayal of Nigerian gangsters in the movie is straight-up, uncritically xenophobic. This may be less obvious in an American/European context where the cultural stereotype of Nigerians often is more of a con-man type criminal, but, read any trashy SA daily and you will encounter the repeated image of Nigerians as dangerous, weapon-wielding, warlords - exactly as they are portrayed here.
posted by huffa at 7:07 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Expecting to absolutely love this movie, I was pretty disappointed. Nothing that happens in the second half of the film is as compelling as the first forty minutes, or even close, and by the end all pretense of higher thematic interest is lost in the usual mess of shouting and explosions.

"Alive in Joburg" is the first forty minutes without the wrong-turn second half, and I like it a lot.
posted by gerryblog at 7:10 AM on August 23, 2009


There wasn't one single human character in that whole film that I wouldn't have gladly burst apart with a lightning gun myself.

I found Wikus van der Merwe to be a very likeable character. Great to see a normal dweeb putzing through things rather than a superman for a change. This reviewer expresses my feelings well.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2009


dog food sugar, they explained in the film that the aliens were all from a worker caste based around a hive system, and without leadership from a higher caste they weren't capable of much of anything.
posted by billypilgrim at 7:41 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah - I guess I have difficulty grasping a caste behavior structure. What happened to the leaders for their caste? Did they all die in the month before humans entered the hovering ship? Was Christopher one of them? Were they not even on that ship, and instead led the caste remotely?

And the husband just pointed out to me that maybe the aliens noted their futile position they were in for waging war - outnumbered on an alien planet. This could be interesting for the sequel as their numbers are growing in district 10.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2009


also, whether or not there is a plot device that explains why the aliens were so incapable, disorganized, and confused, one has to ask why portray the oppressed group in this way in a film that is so obviously making analogies to contemporary situations of economic and racial oppression and violence? people living in poverty, in shacks, under racist regimes have produced some of the most important and vibrant political movements of the 20th and 21st century. but it is a common belief/fantasy on the part of the world's middle-class, that people living in these conditions are victims stripped of their ability to act, to form communities, to have a political life. this film is symptomatic of this fantasy.
posted by huffa at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Best SF movie since Children of Men. Suck it haters=you're better off watching the plot-less, mind-numbing GG that is Transformers2.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


GG=CG
posted by HyperBlue at 8:02 AM on August 23, 2009


As a big Halo fan, I'm both excited by and incredibly jealous of District 9. That was supposed to be our artful scifi masterpiece, dammit!

Ever since Blomkamp debuted Arms Race/Landfall (his series of live-action Halo shorts) I was absolutely raring to see his cinematic interpretation of my favorite game. The promise of Peter Jackson bringing his Weta Workshop SFX chops along for the ride only ratcheted up the anticipation.

But then it fell apart in excruciatingly slow-motion fashion, due to venal political bickering and disagreements over price. It seems like 20th Century Fox was the impetus of the fight -- it wanted more control over the project that Universal wasn't willing to give. Just chalk that one up along with the long list of other great things Fox has fucked up.

That was bad enough. But then the project had to get converted into this District 9, an achingly similar vision that was just different enough to remind one of what could have been. It certainly doesn't help that Blomkamp has given interview responses such as:
In Halo, I was most interested in the human society—humans 500 years from now, with different planets, and hardware, and the U.S. involvement, and how the Marines have been established in this colonial force, and the industrial military complex that gave birth to Master Chief.
...sentiments which make the Halo backstory lover in me cringe. He would have done this right. He would have treated a story I cherished with maturity and respect -- had the potential to make the first truly great video game film. But now rumor has it that if the movie gets made at all, it might get the writer of the G.I. Joe movie on board. Blech.

And naturally, while this decade-old blockbuster franchise rots in development hell, every other two-bit brand on the face of the Earth is set to grace the silver screen. A partial list, according to io9:
Dead Space, BioShock, Duke Nukem, Area 51, Mass Effect, inFAMOUS, Asteroids, World of Warcraft, Gears of War, The Sims
Hey, don't forget Battleship, Monopoly, Lego, and Stretch Armstrong!

Seriously... Stretch Armstrong? Kill me now, people.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:22 AM on August 23, 2009


Somehow, I had managed to avoid everything about this movie until I stepped into the theater to see it. I knew it was about aliens. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself crying at the end.
posted by MaritaCov at 8:30 AM on August 23, 2009


huffa: "it is a common belief/fantasy on the part of the world's middle-class, that people living in these conditions are victims stripped of their ability to act, to form communities, to have a political life. this film is symptomatic of this fantasy."

huffa, that you for your thoughts on this. I noticed the really uncritical use of the Nigerians as the old, bad-guy other and kept waiting for a postmodern wink or acknowledgement of the fundamental squickiness of the trope, but, nope. That set me to puzzling over what, exactly, the allegory was critiquing or celebrating. You have solved the puzzle for me, I think. Christopher Johnson is some sort of Mandela doppelganger, I guess.

I think it's interesting and worth noting - without scolding or fingerwaving or anything - that This film can be considered in the context of the mature-period films that Jackson has directed (The LoTR films, King Kong) as a film fundamentally concerned with the colonial experience of the Other in modern society. That is, although the film is Blomkamp's, the concerns and themes appeal directly to the central issues of Jackson's work.

Finally, the actor who portrays Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) appears very briefly in Alive in Joburg, but, more interestingly, is listed as a producer of the same film. His IMDB entry does not show him with a production credit on District 9, but intriguingly credits him as VFX producer on 2004's What the Bleep do We Know?, a woo-woo Ramtha handwaver which provoked local dissection.
posted by mwhybark at 8:40 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed it - it was a simple, original plot, performed well with good special effects.

That was part of the reason I enjoyed it on a meta- level; my absolute astonishment that a science fiction movie an original narrative reflecting on apartheid, set in Johannesburg, starring absolutely no one anybody outside the RSA film and theatre world has ever heard of, and made for about the craft services budget of a Michel Bay movie could wind up at the top of the North American box office. Seriously, when I first heard about it a month or three earlier, I wondered if it would even get released.

During my adolescence, Spielberg and Lucas set the template for summer blockbusters:in the course of about five years we had Star Wars and Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. and non-Lucasbergian pieces like Alien were all smashingly successful, and more or less ensured that from that day to this that genre films were the ones likeliest to wind up atop the box office ladder. (Not that genredom is a ticket to success, but my parents lived in a world as young adults where The Sound of Music or Love Story could be the box office smash of the year.) What Hollywood has missed, though, is that all of these late-70's/early-80's successful genre films were original stories: often they were drawing inspiration from things like Flash Gordon or The Perils of Pauline or somesuch, but there had not been a property called Star Wars for years or decades before the movie came out.

After I saw District 9, I had a look at boxofficemojo.com to see the top ten films for the last ten years. Of that hundred movies, maybe fifty or sixty are what we might call genre movies, and (not counting kids' movies) I think maybe three or four of them are not based on a TV series or a comic book or a novel or an older movie or a fucking amusement park ride.

I also liked that the director uses film grammar to set us up as feeling van der Merwe is the sympathetic character, and where Hollywood movie relentlessly foreground the main character, surrounding him with an assortment of dweebs, morons, and pricks to make sure we really like the protagonist, District 9 presents the central (human) character as equal part dweeb, moron, and prick. It leaves the audience floundering about for someone to connect with. The intent is for us to connect with Christopher, who is presented from his first appearance as having recognizable and largely understandable motivations. Christopher and his child are the only aliens with recognizably human body language and, if I am not mistaken, the only ones whose eyes we ever see clearly.

The movie has its shortfalls: van der Merwe experiences a too-sudden shift from greedy bastard to selfless martyr, the MNU is presented as a little too one-dimensionally evil, and whether or not it was intended , the ending suggests the filmmakers were planning for a sequel. Still, it came across as the most original piece of sf I have seen on screen in a while. Compared to paint-by-numbers stuff like Star Trek and Terminator:Salvation, it is unbelievably good.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:43 AM on August 23, 2009 [17 favorites]


5 Things You Didn't Know About District 9
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


From The Whelk's link (which has a bunch of interesting stuff in it):

Blomkamp, about the interviews seen in Alive in Joburg: "I was asking black South Africans about black Nigerians and Zimbabweans. That's actually where the idea came from was there are aliens living in South Africa, I asked 'What do you feel about Zimbabwean Africans living here?' And those answers — they weren't actors, those are real answers..."

Which reframes the Nigerians seen in D9, I think, as Blomkamp's direct interpretation of ZA's post-apartheid Other.
posted by mwhybark at 9:03 AM on August 23, 2009


I though the "hurl the pig" moment was a bit of a turnabout is fair play

biscotti and I thought the "hurl the pig" moment was a reference to Half-Life 2 and using the gravity gun to kill Civil Protection with whatever's handy.

I also really liked the splud gun. I'm not going to call it a lightning gun -- you point it at people and they go SPLUD!, so it's a splud gun.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:16 AM on August 23, 2009


When it started out, I thought hmm, this looks interesting. Then it degenerated into another shoot em up action adventure. And there were plenty of things which didn't make sense to pull you right out of the movie

That's exactly how I felt about The Matrix.
posted by Cyrano at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good job at mentioning District 6, most people dont get the connection and think the movie is a metaphor for muslims or something...
posted by carfilhiot at 9:31 AM on August 23, 2009


You'd think that workers who could make such sweet weapons would be able to frame a house and put up sheet rock.

digsrus, have yu seen the home-repair skills of the average auto worker? ( /snark )

Snark aside, it takes very little intelligence to assemble goods. Designing them is another story. Intelligence helps, at all stages of the process, but the process can be designed for "gammas" from Brave New World, with a few "betas" for oversight.

I didn't need the "worker bees without a queen" explanation. I just assumed the ship was a worker transport that got grounded, and the hero of the story was the lone surviving flight officer (and therefore, the lone surviving intellectual amongst pawns). It presumes a larger divide in education and ability than exists in our species, but that doesn't make it unbelievable for another species.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi-

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the test movie for Blomkamp to prove that he can make a movie on a budget, and that his style would make money. The Halo movie would easily cost around 100 million to get ramped up, just because of the digital effects and set design that would be required, and the more recent rumors the last time I heard was Microsoft / Bungie had taken their rights back, and were working on producing the film independent of a major studio (similar to Marvel), just to ensure they can control their property.

So D9 was a $30 million demo reel by Blomkamp and Jackson to show that they could make a successful and profitable special effects heavy alien space action movie that had some level of gravitas to it, and not it turn into some Terminator Salvation fiasco. And with Bungie Game Studios / Microsoft / Weta deciding to go it alone, they would probably save money going with no name actors with the idea that they have enough god damned draw just by the word HALO appearing on their poster, they don't need to pay for a Vin Diesel or The Rock to draw in the summer action movie goers.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


After I watched this movie with my friends, we were talking about it and I started mentioning a lot of the plot holes, and they both got really defensive.

To me, this was movie was okay, but I feel like it's going to be put on a pedestal by a lot of science fiction fans.
posted by kylej at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


After the downward spiral of the movie yanked me right out of South Africa back to my theatre in New Jersey, I started thinking thoughts along the lines of 'Wikus is a dead ringer for the offspring of Michael Scott from "The Office" mating with Robert Deniro from "The Deer Hunter" ,' and 'Boy, he was lucky he grew back the correct thumbless arm that you evidently need to operate the mech suit.'
posted by digsrus at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2009


I'm not surprised it may be getting pedestal treatment. How long has it been since there was a science fiction film which wasn't based on an existing property? It's a shame that creating something new is such a rare thing in movies anymore.
posted by hippybear at 10:20 AM on August 23, 2009


I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Yes, it had its problems. But it was very refreshing to see a new, original sci-fi film -- so many, lately, have been awful blockbusters based on crappy old franchises. (And, yeah, I say that as someone who also really liked the new Star Trek.) The last time I remember feeling that way about a sci-fi movie was when I was watching the fantastic Children of Men, which, sadly, doesn't seem to have even made back its $76 million budget.

It's unfortunate that bigger does so often mean better in Hollywood. Transformers 2, costing $200 million, has grossed over $825 million in less than 9 weeks. That makes me really, really, really sad. I bet the investors love it, though.

Spoilers ahead (sort of):

schoolgirl report: I'm pretty sure the Tetra Vaal reference towards the end was on one of the doors or a wall as Wikus and Christopher were entering (or exiting?) the lab where the tests had been performed.
posted by malthas at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2009


The movie it most reminded me of was Dead/Alive (Braindead) to be honest, at least in the way it was structured.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2009


> The last time I remember feeling that way about a sci-fi movie was when I was watching the fantastic Children of Men, which, sadly, doesn't seem to have even made back its $76 million budget.

If it's any condolences, D9 was made for $30 million, and made $73 million so far, and that is with it being in theaters for a week. If it makes more than 120 million in 9 weeks, it would have a higher return on investment than Transformers 2 did.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2009


I didn't know much about the movie before going in, other than it was supposed to be AMAZING, genre re-defining, thoughtful, intelligent sci-fi. I was somewhat disappointed. I'm an unabashed sci-fi fan in the big geeky way that The Onion parodied.( "Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable' ") I was glad sci-fi could be returning to what it does best, delivering "heavy handed morals". Sure District 9 did that but it honestly seems like it was toned down. The giant evil NGO seemed to replace the bad-guy, instead of humans and racism.

Also I'm going to pick nits, but I thought the story telling format was weak. Using a fake documentary style seems to be a crutch for this director, and it bugged me how inconstantly this style was applied. If the story was strong enough, it could have been told in a skillful way without the pretense. Even having this idea of someone sitting behind the camera asking questions adds another character into the movie, one that is both limited and omnipresent and we are supposed to believe, without motive or bias?

What could have been better was a documentarian with a mainline view point, that is anti-alien and anti- van der Merwe, but let the "human" qualities of Christopher and van der Merwe shine through creating complicated characters and further exploring the apartheid mindset while simultaneously attacking it.

At least, thats how I would have made the movie, if anyone wants to give me $30 million...
posted by fontophilic at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2009


If only aliens could fire the weapons, why didn't the humans use the aliens to fire them? They could have enticed the aliens with luxuries (e.g. cat food). "Fire at our enemies and we'll give you each ten cans of cat food." They could have tortured the aliens until they agreed to become soldiers, etc. I don't remember anyone even mentioning trying this. It really bothered me. It seemed like such an obvious thing for the humans to at least try.
posted by grumblebee at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Strangely for me, D9 reminded me the most of Evil Dead II, but with social commentary and a nebbishy, Steve Coogan-esque leading man.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2009


Also I'm going to pick nits, but I thought the story telling format was weak. Using a fake documentary style seems to be a crutch for this director, and it bugged me how inconstantly this style was applied.

The beginning made me think the whole film would be in documentary style. After the first five minutes, I was totally buying it. Then, when they suddenly cut to the aliens talking amongst themselves -- inside one of their shanties -- I was totally befuddled. I didn't understand how the documentary film crew could have stuck cameras and mics in there without the aliens knowing about it. I quickly figured out that the movie had switched styles, but the experience was deeply jarring.

I've seen a mix of documentary and standard-fiction style work in the past. The trick is to START with the standard style, not the documentary style. The "Citizen Kane" approach works well, too: explicitly end the documentary and then loudly switch styles. The D9 approach was too subtle. I didn't know what was going on.
posted by grumblebee at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I liked best about the movie was the leading actor. I thought his performance was phenomenal. It seemed to be a caricature at first, but it gradually become more and more layered.
posted by grumblebee at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if this is the test movie for Blomkamp to prove that he can make a movie on a budget

I agree, mrzarquon. It also makes me think that his next movie will end up being closer to a more formulaic blockbuster, since the movie studio will want to have more control over a much more expensive investment.
posted by orme at 11:16 AM on August 23, 2009


> If only aliens could fire the weapons, why didn't the humans use the aliens to fire them? They could have enticed the aliens with luxuries (e.g. cat food). "Fire at our enemies and we'll give you each ten cans of cat food." They could have tortured the aliens until they agreed to become soldiers, etc. I don't remember anyone even mentioning trying this. It really bothered me. It seemed like such an obvious thing for the humans to at least try.

But the aliens couldn't be trusted / enslaved / coerced. They believe them less than human, so why entrust such an advanced piece of weaponry to what were obviously the lowest caste of an inferior species? And for MNU's goals, they couldn't sell and transport the aliens as easy as they could the weapons, and what I am guessing they would be hoping for, a short acting alien enabler that would give soldiers a 4 week functional period where they could use the weapons. They weren't looking at a way to make an undefeatable army, they were looking for a way to make a profit.


> What I liked best about the movie was the leading actor. I thought his performance was phenomenal. It seemed to be a caricature at first, but it gradually become more and more layered.

The weapons testing scene was just brutal to watch, in a way forcing him through the microcosm of everything MNU had be doing for the last 20 years. Along with the last shot with the flower, just really good all around. I think it actually has a lot of depth to it, if you want to dig, but it has the veneer of a scifi alien action film for those who don't.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


> since the movie studio will want to have more control over a much more expensive investment.

I don't know about that. In fact, I believe part of the reason why the deals fell apart for the Halo movie was Microsoft / Bungie wouldn't let them their property be shaped into some sort of standard Blockbuster formula, and the bigger studios wouldn't spend the money needed to produce a movie that would be true to the Halo universe since it wouldn't fit their formula that a $200 million film needs to do X,Y,Z to in order to provide a profitable return on investment.

And D9 is making a ton of money for Wingnut and the associated production groups that bankrolled it, so those guys may end up with enough cash on hand to bankroll their own Halo movie, especially with some more money from Microsoft and Bungie, now that they've shown there is a market for the style of movie that Bungie and Neill and Jackson want to make out of Halo.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2009


*SPOILER*
I thought the apartheid angle was a ploy to setup the twist that Christopher was hoping to leave Earth, and, I imagine, take a bunch of workers, if not all of them, with him (rather than fight for humane conditions and integration). If the eviction plan had been delayed by just a day or so, they'd have left and everyone but MNU and their ilk would have been satisfied. So the prejudice of the general population and power lust of MNU prevented the most satisfactory resolution and in the end they are left with the same problem only without the mothership hovering overhead and no chance at all of getting rid of them (as far as the humans knew).
posted by effwerd at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2009


My feelings about the movie can be summed up in the comparison of the two trailers. When the teaser came out D9 looked to be a documentary-style sci-fi film that would explore apartheid, xenophobia, corporate control and so many other interesting things. I almost couldn't wait to see the film. And then the theatrical trailer came out. Gone was the subtle documentary feel. It was instead replaced by explosions and exoskeletons. Was this really the same movie? Could they keep the documentary style while still adding a few action sequences? Nope.

I knew the movie was in trouble when about 15 or 20 minutes in they shifted the style from documentary to standard movie. It happened when the camera appeared inside Christopher's shack. How did the documentary cameras get in there? Why were they allowed to film this totally secret meeting. Did they just cut from a master shot to an over the shoulder shot in the documentary? What's going on?

From then on it played out like a standard summer action movie. The evil corporate baddies wanted the weapons technology from the harmless alien race and a former member of the corporate baddies came to the realization that these alien people aren't so bad after all. But before that happens let's blow some people to bits.

It's as if Blomkamp was allowed to tell the story the way he wanted for the opening act and then Peter Jackson stepped in and changed the entire direction of the movie.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2009


On preview, what grumblebee said.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:14 PM on August 23, 2009


Also, the portrayal of Nigerian gangsters in the movie is straight-up, uncritically xenophobic.

You're underthinking this plate of beans. The Nigerians are the mirror image of MNU. The experiences of the aliens and van der Merwe's experience at their hands mirror one another; the differences are ones of detail; the biotech labs vs the religious rituals; collecting weapons for catfood vs taking them under the guise of paternalistic protection. MNU stands for the evils of white colonialism in Africa, while the Nigerians stand for black regimes that have failed Africa (Rwanda, Mugabe, et al).

If your problem with that is that you uncrtitically accept portraits of whites as evil psycopaths or sociopaths (the Colonel and the MNU directors and scientists), but get hinky about the same portraits applied to black Africans you should maybe think more about your own attitudes, rather than ascribing xenophobia to the film.

More broadly: my wife described it as "The Fly meets Die Hard", which is a pretty fair summary, which probably accounts for the gear grinding of a lot of folks who found the action sequences dissapointing. I'd compare it to Aliens, and suggest the same applies to people who love Alien but find Aliens a huge dissapointment.

One thing I did dislike heartily, though: women. It's pretty much all guys all the time. I don't know if that's deliberate, or just thoughtless.
posted by rodgerd at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2009 [18 favorites]


What I liked best about the movie was the leading actor. I thought his performance was phenomenal. It seemed to be a caricature at first, but it gradually become more and more layered.

I went in having avoided interviews and whatnot about it. I was blown away when I read he hadn't acted before, and that large chunks of his dialogue were improved. That's pretty incredible.
posted by rodgerd at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2009


Also, the worker caste being helpless without direction - that was pretty much spelled out in the film. The idea that Chris was an emergent intelligence from the hive, a la bees replacing their queen, was spelled out explicitly in the AV Club interview, but I thought that it was pretty much obvious that he must either be a surviving high-caste or somesuch from the expert interview segments.

I didn't like the shot of prawn van der Merwe making the rose at the end - I would far preferred if it had ended with the wife's comments about where her flower came from, rather than ramming it home that way.

Also, how dumb are humans that their response to the craft leaving isn't to start treating the aliens a damn sight better until we find out whether an invasion fleet is coming back or not? Which dovetails, I guess, with Bomkamf's generally negative view of human behaviour.
posted by rodgerd at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It had several interwoven themes but a primary one was about a man who does not discover his humanity until he stops being a human. I find it amazing how many people do not seem to understand that. My roomie came back and tole me that the movie had a sad ending. Me, I found it uplifting because the anti-protagonist , by the end of the movie had finally discovered his humanity and through it all , his love had survived.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:34 PM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


I greatly enjoyed it. Though, one shouldn't address or examine it too deeply. It's a fantastic popcorn movie, as octothorpe noted, and sometimes that's all a good movie needs to be.

Then what was all the apartheid stuff for? The movie set itself up as a serious exploration of ethnic conflicts and refugee issues, and then quickly descends into a mindless shoot 'em up. They were just teasing with the apartheid parallels?
posted by chrchr at 12:49 PM on August 23, 2009


In the middle of work unfortunately (actually writing about race, art and politics in SA coincidentally), but to quickly respond to rodgerd's points.

I absolutely do make a distinction between a caricature of corporations as evil, violent etc and an ethnocentric, xenophobic portrait of nigerians. And I don't think the movie prtrays whites in any kind of general sense as evil, the caricature is of corporations and their participants. It is perhaps a predictable one, but given the incredible power of corporate capital in the contemporary world - a pretty benign one as well. The prtrayal of the Nigerian warlord is point for point a xenophobic stereotype and at no point is it critiqued or ironized.

Second, like I said before, I don't care what the plot justification for the praun being directionless is - I agree there is one. The question is why did a film the is self-evidently trying to function as an analogy choose to portray those who are oppressed as directionless, without community, without politics. And like I said it is symptomatic of a certain understanding of impoverished, oppressed communities around the world.

(sorry for typos, iPhone)
posted by huffa at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2009


Also, the portrayal of Nigerian gangsters in the movie is straight-up, uncritically xenophobic.

I kept waiting for the Nigerians to send around a circular to the aliens: "Dear Sir: A man near Lagos, Nigeria recently died with vouchers worth 1,000,000 cans of cat food. We propose to put you forward as the legal heir, but require you to..."

If only aliens could fire the weapons, why didn't the humans use the aliens to fire them?

Because that seems like such a phenomenal recipe for disaster? In short because it was neither possible nor desirable. With the exception of Christopher and his offspring, it doesn't really seem like the humans have any capacity whatsoever for the command & control necessary to build an effective force of mercs wielding alien-tech. Controlling a relatively small army of aliens with advanced weapons also seems far less lucrative than being able to mass-produce human-usable models and selling them to both sides. War-profiteering is oh-so-much better than owning your own alien-backed Xe would be.
posted by Hylas at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I don't think the movie prtrays whites in any kind of general sense as evil, the caricature is of corporations and their participants.

...which happen to be every white character in the movie -- did you think that was an accident?

I thought they did a very good job of making it clear that all the whites (including the doctor in the hospital, the bystanders while Wikus is running away, all his "friends" in the party scene, everyone watching television, etc) were part of The System, here. That's reinforced when you get to the end and see that everybody has unquestioningly bought MNU's version of the story, despite the fact that it's kind of nonsensical. Even the people who knew Wikus personally bought it hook, line, and sinker. And if I remember correctly, the one guy at the end who was interested in looking further was black, right?

Second, like I said before, I don't care what the plot justification for the praun being directionless is - I agree there is one. The question is why did a film the is self-evidently trying to function as an analogy choose to portray those who are oppressed as directionless, without community, without politics. And like I said it is symptomatic of a certain understanding of impoverished, oppressed communities around the world.

Except that they did have direction, community, and politics in Christopher's movement. He and his friends were working quietly for 20 years to save their people, in the face of widespread apathy and hopelessness -- how is that a poor analogy for how "impoverished, oppressed communities around the world" actually work? Not everybody in communities like that is political. I'd say most people are just trying to survive, just like anywhere else... and that's where the prawns did have some direction and community (for instance, how long did they work to get that mech suit, and how many of them had to help? You really think they wanted "a hundred thousand cans of cat food" just for those two prawns? Or was that their attempt to get out from under their oppressors and break the monopoly -- "no more slaving, cat food for everybody"?)

At any rate, I thought it was a great movie. As the ship was taking off at the end, I had a very visceral reaction: good, that's good! Oh, I hope they come back someday... I hope they come back and nuke us all!

Any movie which can evoke that reaction is a good one, if you ask me.
posted by vorfeed at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well, I thought the light matching, practical light and compositing were the best I've ever seen.
posted by bz at 2:40 PM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


SPOILERS: I actually liked that Wikus didn't really become much of a good-guy in contrast to just about every other buddy-action movie out there in which the male bonding over the events of the movies lead to a change of heart and everyone becoming best friends. The next-to-last scene of him, broken and begging for his life struck me as a good moment of writing.

Another thing I liked about it was that it felt there was some thought put into actually looking at the biology of the Prawn and how that might play out, as opposed to Alien Nation which gave us that the Newcomers like soap and sour milk, and dissolve in salt water.

And I must admit that I don't agree with all of the politics as presented in the film. But I do have to give it credit for there being something to think about there. If anything, I think the film was muddled between two opposing needs: using the aliens as a metaphor for human poverty and exploitation, while keeping the aliens as alien in their social caste structure and nutritional needs.

The cat food thing struck me right off because canned catfood is heavily supplemented with taurine.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:10 PM on August 23, 2009


I was saw this film introduced by Peter Jackson in Wellington (where a lot of the interiors were filmed).

Finally, the actor who portrays Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) appears very briefly in Alive in Joburg, but, more interestingly, is listed as a producer of the same film.

Jackson explained that Copley isn't an actor but an old school-friend of Blomkamp's who has been his producer for a while. Blomkamp put him forward to play Wikus and ran it past the producers who saw his audition pieces and were really happy with his performance.

Bloody good on him, since his performance really anchors the film and is better than anything Shia the Beef could crank out.
posted by John Shaft at 3:25 PM on August 23, 2009


Meatbomb I found Wikus van der Merwe to be a very likeable character.

Then you're not granting the aliens their status as persons. The "popcorn abortion" scene, the "counts as a signature" when the alien strikes the clipboard, the "child services ... one-by-one metre box" speech, his violent reaction to "three years" ... he, like every other human in the movie, is a thoroughly horrible and sadistic monster who deserves to burn in cleansing fire. He manages to rise a little tiny way above selfishness at the end of the fight scene, but it's only after he's given up the hope of solving his own problem (and to hell with the aliens and their problems).

Hyperblue's comparison to "Children of Men" is a good one - there are only a few characters in that movie worth the air they breathe, but the rest are irredeemable savages who, presented with a ray of hope or an opportunity to rise above cruel stupidity, will laugh maniacally as they pull its legs off just to watch it wiggle.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Another thing I liked about it was that it felt there was some thought put into actually looking at the biology of the Prawn and how that might play out, as opposed to Alien Nation which gave us that the Newcomers like soap and sour milk, and dissolve in salt water.

Ironically, I thought the opposite was true, though, of course, I am mefi's resident Alien Nation nerd. In Alien Nation, we get all sorts of bits of interesting alien culture (which was not a monoculture, at least not religiously) and biology (particularly reproductive biology), even if visually they were more-or-less humans with spots. My biggest beef with District 9 was probably how poorly developed the aliens were beyond the visual--no culture to speak of (not even a monoculture) and a really unclear social structure. Interviews with Blomkamp where he discusses how the aliens were some sort of hive or collective mind or how maybe Christopher Johnson is the just-evolved new queen--which seems to contradict some of the content of the actual movie, like how CJ affirms that he's been hiding the command module for the past twenty years--really just confirmed for me that the background of the aliens wasn't terribly important to those behind the movie; instead, the aliens were supposed to be a typical Metaphor For Oppressed Minority #1, which is a shame because I think they could have done a lot more there. The alien development seemed pretty promising in the ARG material, too, but the actual movie was so focused on Wikus that I really thought an opportunity was lost.

The cat food thing struck me right off because canned catfood is heavily supplemented with taurine.

My thinking was along the same lines--that either because of taurine or the high amount of protein, catfood fulfilled some sort of biologically necessary food need of theirs. The moment Wikus' transformation starts, he begins pigging out. Most other viewers seemed to view the catfood as a simple drug, though, so I think, if that was intended, it was lost on most of the audience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:51 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then you're not granting the aliens their status as persons. The "popcorn abortion" scene, the "counts as a signature" when the alien strikes the clipboard, the "child services ... one-by-one metre box" speech, his violent reaction to "three years" ... he, like every other human in the movie, is a thoroughly horrible and sadistic monster who deserves to burn in cleansing fire. He manages to rise a little tiny way above selfishness at the end of the fight scene, but it's only after he's given up the hope of solving his own problem (and to hell with the aliens and their problems).

I found those scenes incredibly difficult to watch, particularly the abortion scene. I'm surprised that anyone could muster any empathy for Wikus after that--and especially after he later tries to abandon Christopher.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except that they did have direction, community, and politics in Christopher's movement. He and his friends were working quietly for 20 years to save their people, in the face of widespread apathy and hopelessness

That was really only true for Christopher and his son. His "friend" quickly showed himself to be just as helpless/hopeless as the rest of the aliens--I mean, look at his reaction to the suggestion that he "be polite" to the MNU guys.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:55 PM on August 23, 2009


I went on a "date" (well, not really a date) to see District 9 with a girl who I haven't really talked to since fifth grade.

During the movie, she asked me if this was real. I had to explain to her that yes, it does look like a documentary but no, there really were not aliens in Johannesburg. I did explain to her after the movie that this is very similar to what they did to blacks in South Africa during apartheid and she asked "You mean treat them like aliens?" and I said "Well, they segregated them and all that." She said "This must have happened in like, the Medieval times, right?" and I told her "No, only twenty years ago or so."

I really wish she was joking but given the fact that before we went to the movie, she told me how she seriously concerned about the world ending in 2012 (and she was expecting the world to end in 2000) and that vampires and werewolves do exist and are very real ("They have to be real, I mean, how can you can't make that stuff up?"), I don't think she was.

I don't plan on meeting up with her again.
posted by champthom at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2009 [12 favorites]


I was going to followup, but fundamentally what vorfeed said.

I'm surprised that anyone could muster any empathy for Wikus after that

Certainly Wikus' fate to spend a good 3 years as an alien seems pretty just in light of the things he did wrong. It's one of the things that saves the film from having the "benevolent white guy come in and fix things for the blacks^H^H^H^H^H^Haliens" trope that would (rightly) get backs up. He's actually the one responsible, in large part, for fucking up Chris' plans to save his people, and his intervention really amounts to nothing more than undoing the damage he's done, and he continues to be compromised throughout, especially by stealing the ship.

(A move which pretty much rams home how dumb and panicked he is - what, he's going to steal the ship and... figure out how to work the transformation tools?)

That said, a lot of his behaviour cited (the signature and the threat of child services) are more the "banality of evil". Threatening to take your kid away because you won't play ball with some dubious document? How often do you reckon that scene is played out all over the world; black, white, yellow, communist, capitalist, whatever. He's not a psychopath like the Colonel, or a monster like his father in law, he's just this guy doing his job without thinking about it hard enough.
posted by rodgerd at 4:37 PM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised that anyone could muster any empathy for Wikus after that

He's not a psychopath like the Colonel, or a monster like his father in law, he's just this guy doing his job without thinking about it hard enough.


See, that's why I found him so likable. He wasn't a bad man, he was just a very small and not very intelligent man, put into a very difficult situation that in the end he could not resolve. I would say it wasn't that he wasn't thinking enough, he seemed to small to be capable of the thought needed. You don't usually get an action hero like that.

Maybe better to say "I really enjoyed his character", because it was more sympathetic pathos than admiration.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


That said, a lot of his behaviour cited (the signature and the threat of child services) are more the "banality of evil". Threatening to take your kid away because you won't play ball with some dubious document?

No question, those two things are the banality of evil. But the abortion scene ("It sounds like popcorn") is something altogether much worse. It made the character completely unsympathetic.

Now that didn't mean I was applauding when he was later being tortured in MNU's underground labs; I felt physically ill when they were forcing him to test the alien weapons on pig carcasses and then a live alien.

But once you see a guy gleeful in the way exploding fetuses sound, he's certainly slipped more into evil than banal.
posted by crossoverman at 5:47 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Maybe better to say "I really enjoyed his character", because it was more sympathetic pathos than admiration.
I agree that the character was well-realized, and very well acted - a great performance, and it was a very, very worth-watching movie.

I would say it wasn't that he wasn't thinking enough, he seemed to small to be capable of the thought needed.
That's a very low bar to jump, though. I feel pain when X, if I do X to you it is reasonable to infer that you will feel pain. The threat of taking the child away, for instance, requires the capacity to infer that the adult will feel fear and distress at the prospect.

Whether Wikus is a bad man, and how bad a man he is, is a judgment that depends on what degree of prejudice one expects a human being neither good nor bad to display, and how that prejudice should motivate the person's behavior. IMO some prejudice is acceptable in a normal person, even in a good person. Some prejudices (for example, the narrative of the "white man's burden", the actions of many religious charities, or the prejudice of believers in permanent and everlasting affirmative action policies) will even motivate the holder of the prejudice to act more kindly towards those whom he/she feels are inferior; while the prejudice is still wrong, it's hard to justify the effort of arguing with it, and it could even be counterproductive to do so. By nature most people are quite prejudiced and will seek the company of those like themselves and avoid the company of those unlike themselves as long as it's not inconvenient to do so - that's an animal instinct.

But the point at which prejudice turns into an active desire to harm is where, to me, it becomes evil; and Wikus is well into that area. As the movie begins he is a hateful man, who has been given some power over the targets of his hate, and he exercises that power to harm them.

People like him are common, for sure. They flock to anywhere that they can exercise authority without oversight or worse, with approval of their actions by their overseers. They become prison guards, teachers, police officers, security guards, bureaucrats of various kinds. Generally they get away with their corruption because sadistic pleasure isn't as traceable as money or goods, but it is no less corruption for that.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:15 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then what was all the apartheid stuff for? The movie set itself up as a serious exploration of ethnic conflicts and refugee issues, and then quickly descends into a mindless shoot 'em up. They were just teasing with the apartheid parallels?

As the thread has shown, it seems a number of people have become dissatisfied with the movie after thinking too deeply about things.

More to the point, I think the apartheid parallels were in part to simply set the atmosphere and setting of the movie. Somewhat in how Wall-e had a polluted world and a human civilization based on over consumption and laziness. The movie wasn't specifically about those subjects, but they were blatantly part of the representation. The specific stories of District 9 was Wilkus, Christopher, and his Son.
posted by Atreides at 6:53 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't usually get an action hero like that.

I don't really see him as the hero - if anything, Chris is the hero, and we're seeing the film from the POV of the bumbling sidekick of the action movie.

As the thread has shown, it seems a number of people have become dissatisfied with the movie after thinking too deeply about things.

Most of the people who are dissatisfied don't seem to be thinking enough, in my opinion, but I suspect we'll differ there.

More to the point, I think the apartheid parallels were in part to simply set the atmosphere and setting of the movie.

You should probably read the AV Club interview with Bomkamp if you think that's the case.
posted by rodgerd at 7:11 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus, Champthom. That musta sucked. I hope you at least got a . . . little something for your time.
posted by John of Michigan at 7:23 PM on August 23, 2009


Read the interview. Not really sure where Bomkamp says anything that contradicts what I thought. I didn't say that the apartheid atmosphere was supposed to be completely relegated to the background, but it did serve as a background to an extent. The director states that he chose the city because he thought it was a good setting for the future. Please feel free to point out the quotations which state that apartheid was the crucial message of the movie.
posted by Atreides at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2009


On the subject of South African (human racial) apartheid, it's an interesting assumption that a variety of SF and alternate history authors have made, that the presence of a genuine external alien threat would cause us as humans to look to other humans of different races and think that in comparison to the New Other, we're not so different after all. In District 9 it seems reasonable to assume that the landing of the aliens in 1982 would have ended apartheid early, and certainly in the context of the movie black and white South Africans (though not Nigerians) are seen working and socializing as equals.

(Incidentally did it occur to anyone else that the alien "boat people" backstory in District 9 is pretty the same story as the arrival and history of Zoidberg's species on Earth in Futurama? :) )
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:09 PM on August 23, 2009


Futurama has three or four different meta histories for zoidberg's race, the decapodeans. But then I haven't seen the movies.

But I digress. I had a slightly different take on wikus, and the abortion scene in particular. Near the beginning of the movie you see Wikus trying to talk to the "cowboys" the paramilitary forces that MNU has. I see his reaction in the first third of the movie, including the abortion scene as him being a spineless worm who wants to seem macho to his assistant. I recall him saying, "You don't need a facemask, masks are for pussies," or something during the scene.

To me Wikus isn't evil. The culture is sick. Hell even the protesters outside District 9 had "we <3 prawns" signs, when prawns is treated as a racial slur.
posted by gryftir at 8:55 PM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the movie for simple reasons: originality and quality. But it does repay more complex thinking. How evil (or what type of evil) is Wikus? did he have a change of heart at the end, or did he merely give up hope for his own survival? what do the Nigerians have in common with MNU? what do MNU and the Nigerians have in common with us?

And this discussion has brought up another series of questions for me: how quick are we to look down upon people who aren't doing what we think they should in order to better themselves? why do we assume they've got the same resources/skills/support that we do? If we don't know someone's situation, as the movie restricts us from knowing with the prawns, how can we really judge their actions? And do we always ask that of people in trouble in our own lives?

And there's no indication that the aliens wouldn't have been equally horrible to us, if their ship hadn't stalled with a bunch of them stuck in the hold. The short at least indicates that they were going to suck the planet dry of water and electricity.

I think it's a deeply pessimistic movie.
posted by harriet vane at 8:58 PM on August 23, 2009


Most of the people who are dissatisfied don't seem to be thinking enough, in my opinion

Agreed!
posted by taliaferro at 9:16 PM on August 23, 2009


I read the abortion thing as just gallows humor. Also I think he thought of them as animals, by that point. If he had been making jokes about an omelette being a chicken abortion would that make him a bad person? What if the aliens were animal like and barely posessed higher brain function? If there was no Christopher among the aliens, would they have gotten your sympathy?
posted by empath at 9:53 PM on August 23, 2009


Hylas:I kept waiting for the Nigerians to send around a circular to the aliens: "Dear Sir: A man near Lagos, Nigeria recently died with vouchers worth 1,000,000 cans of cat food. We propose to put you forward as the legal heir, but require you to..."

OMG, I almost forgot! I got a CALL on my CELL yesterday which was literally a straight-up 419! Some dude was all, "I am calling you from Nigeria and I will tell you my name," and it was hard to understand because of a hinky connection and his accent. Once he repeated it a couple times, i understood what he was saying but was puzzled as hell. Then he started his spiel, about the missing money or whatever, and I BURST OUT LAUGHING! Inventiveness!

Anyway, and also: huffa, keep kickin' down!
posted by mwhybark at 10:03 PM on August 23, 2009


Oh, there's one other plot thing: The film makes it clear that the aliens in the ship were rescued from starvation by the government of South Africa. While the consequences of the act in the film are complicated and not pretty it undercuts the analysis of the film which posits that the viewpoint of the filmmakers is purely misanthropic.
posted by mwhybark at 10:10 PM on August 23, 2009


John Shaft: "Jackson explained that Copley isn't an actor but an old school-friend of Blomkamp's who has been his producer for a while. Blomkamp put him forward to play Wikus and ran it past the producers who saw his audition pieces and were really happy with his performance. "

As well he should have been, the guy was fucking great. I mean, really great. I was hoping he had point on the release since he did on the original. He might, even: Jackson has an earned rep for fair dealing. For all my wigshifting and pondering on the content of the film, I delighted at it's success precisely because it's got me reseating my DeKalb hat repeatedly.
posted by mwhybark at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2009


mrwhybark, your satire reminds me of the rather sad story of the guy who flew to Nigeria to sort out an email scammer and turned up dead, because he failed to understand that "Nigerian criminal gangs" are no more to be taken lightly than, say the Yakuza or Mafia.
posted by rodgerd at 10:21 PM on August 23, 2009


why did a film the is self-evidently trying to function as an analogy choose to portray those who are oppressed as directionless, without community, without politics

The prawns had managed to find the most awesome tech they could, and were trying to trade it for ten thousand cans of cat food - as mentioned earlier, that was an attempt to feed a large group using what they had available. But the oppressors kicked them while they were down, stole their tech, and shot the representative prawn for even trying. They weren't directionless, without community or without politics - it's that the oppressors are too racist to see those good qualities even when it's right in their faces, and we're seeing things solely from the oppressors point of view until we get to know Christopher better. Blomkamp invites us to see things as they really are, even as the documentary footage feeds us the corporate line.

Blomkamp is trying to show the ugliness and pervasiveness of institutionalised racism without tugging on the heartstrings in a cheesy way. He puts us in the oppressors shoes, and shows us that it's not that different from things we already know.

He could have gone the Hollywood route, and had Wikus and Christopher triumphantly rescue all the prawns, while Wikus gets returned to "normal" in 3 minutes inside the ship while making a speech about how awesome being different is, and the corporation gets exposed for it's evil ways and the gangs are arrested. But it wouldn't be a realistic analogy that way, and it would focus on the actions of individuals instead of how we're all complicit in maintaining these systems through weakness (Wikus and the other staff) and greed (MNU and the gang).
posted by harriet vane at 10:29 PM on August 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


rodgerd: "mwhybark, your satire..."

It's not a joke, dude. It really happened. The originating number was 2347034290558.
posted by mwhybark at 10:43 PM on August 23, 2009


I read the abortion thing as just gallows humor. Also I think he thought of them as animals, by that point. If he had been making jokes about an omelette being a chicken abortion would that make him a bad person?

Okay, so he thought of them as animals - does that make it right? There was clearly some subtext about how we treat animals in this film, since there is a lot of animal slaughter and animal carcasses throughout. Are we to think his gallows humour is okay because he's equating the aliens with, say, the pigs we see a lot of during the film?

What if the aliens were animal like and barely posessed higher brain function? If there was no Christopher among the aliens, would they have gotten your sympathy?

Well IF they were animal like and IF they barely possessed higher brain function, it would be a whole different movie. And, of course, Christopher is there for us to gain our sympathies. Although, to be honest, even before Christopher and his son appeared in the film, it was clear to see that no matter what the brain function of the aliens, the human population of South Africa was generally treating them pretty badly.

Had they been actually analogous to animals, the film would be more a criticism of factory farming. As it is, that subtext is still there in a lot of ways.
posted by crossoverman at 10:55 PM on August 23, 2009


a lot of interesting points about the film. i really agree with mwhybark's point about peter jackson productions in general being very much about a kind of colonial experience of the Other. of course, told from the perspective of the colonizer. district 9, king kong and lotr all do this to a degree. and they are fascinating, complex, thought-provoking films precisely because they occupy this standpoint so deeply. at the same time, they DO occupy the standpoint of the settler/colonial/firstworldmiddleclass, and they are told (often uncritically) from this standpoint. (in the case of lotr and king kong, they are adaptations of stories that are already symptomatic of a colonial worldview, that don't so much criticize this as take it on fully.)

there have been a few points raised about the actions taken by christopher in the film, and the trading a tech to feed a large group of people. as regards the first point, I don't see christopher's actions as indicative of the presence of a political community, but instead the presence of a few unique, exceptional individuals within a community that is by and large portrayed as dissolute and depoliticized. honestly, I would have to go back and watch the scene where there is a trade of tech for food - I don't clearly remember who is involved here - is this something else christopher does?

I certainly am not advocating a feel good ending, or any particular ending. and, moreover, I appreciate the portrayal of Merwe as a kind of Eichmann-via-Arendt, banality of evil type character who is never really redeemed even at the very end. And I appreciate that the world is not simply saved at the end of the film with the praun achieving some happy life on Earth or elsewhere. And, once again, I agree with all those who have said that it is an innovative, surprising, worthwhile film in many respects, one of the most interesting films of the year.

None of this makes me any less convinced that this film is symptomatic of a view of oppressed groups around the world as without community and politics. Here is one way to think about: There are two possible groups that this film could, in part, be equating the praun with. On the one hand, black Africans under apartheid. On the other hand, the contemporary poor of South Africa. In both cases, there are/were strong MASS movements that spanned the entire country of South Africa that were grounded in these groups. Under apartheid, as is well known, there were all the various anti-apartheid movements - UDF, ANC, PAC, SACP, etc, etc. - and innumerable community based organizations, smaller organizations, etc, etc. Associated with these movements were mass marches and political rallies of thousands upon thousands, nationwide boycotts, and general strikes. In the contemporary moment, there are movements like the Anti-Eviction Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo who have brought together shackdwellers across the country, marched on the city halls of every major city in the country, and brought cases to the constitutional court. There is not a single shot of an organized mass protest, not a single piece of evidence of a movement or an organization in the entirety of District 9. The community is portrayed in such a way as to make that almost unthinkable. Instead, we have shots of belligerent drunks, random violence, aliens swarming upon humans and food alike. At best, there are a few individuals who appear as a kind of underground insurgency building, literally, IED's. The tradition of mass politics so important to the resistance to apartheid and its legacy is simply erased in this film. From any perspective other than that of a distant middle-class observer such an erasure appears as not only politically suspect but actually stretching the limits of plausibility. It is simply bizarre to imagine the history of the past 20 years in SA without mass politics. Therefore, this film is told from just such a distant, middle-class perspective. It is deeply, complexly, invested in this perspective. This makes it a very, very interesting film - but still a film symptomatic of a kind of neo-colonialism.
posted by huffa at 11:11 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


> There is not a single shot of an organized mass protest, not a single piece of evidence of a movement or an organization in the entirety of District 9.

Actually, there was footage of the mass protests and efforts against the eviction process in the film, usually clips of newsreel footage leading up to the caravan scenes.

And I realize it must be bizarre for someone who has much more intimate knowledge about the political movements in SA to see an alternative history be placed there, but then it also has aliens and a gun that shoots pigs.

I think the distinction could in fact be intentional, that even in a place such as SA, where one would assume the populace would be the most adept and understanding at dealing with such systemic levels of prejudice and institutionalized racism, that these aliens are so radically non human and insect like that even there, they are segregated.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:45 PM on August 23, 2009


Actually, to add, I don't want to come off defensive about the film. I am very much one with the distant middle class perspective of the apartheid, being something I have not studied in depth, and I see your points in regards to colonialism and neo-colonialism. However I feel that is not the only lens available with which to view the movie.

And that is in part why I enjoy it so much, it does have many intentional, and unintentional, layers to it. Especially when considered with it's immediate relatives of the alien movie genre.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:52 PM on August 23, 2009


There are two possible groups that this film could, in part, be equating the praun with.

I took it less as the prawns being representative of a particular group, and more about how they could be *any* group that's different from the majority/rich. Maybe that's why it had to be aliens - if he picked blacks, Asians, gays, women, transgendered, nerds, old people, whatever, we'd only see that the Moral Of The Story is "straight white men with money should be nicer to [insert group here], they're people same as you". Aliens makes it about humans and our shitty behaviour in general, not about why a specific group should be allowed to join in the privilege this time.

Humans all over the world are currently happy to demonise the Other - we don't want to admit the intelligence, agency, emotions or culture of anyone not like us. I think District 9 is Blomkamp's fear of what the future will be like if we can't get over that, rather than a definite commentary on a specific political situation.

I'm not really disagreeing with you, as such, more just saying where I was coming from when I saw the movie. I've got a bit more time on my hands than usual today. It's nice to have an accessible movie about a complex subject to discuss with MeFi.
posted by harriet vane at 12:58 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


You all must have seen a different movie than I did.

I went in looking for a subtle science fiction flick with truly alien aliens and an overarching subtext of apartheid in a novel context.

Instead I got Signs 2: Prawn Boogaloo

The inconsistent documentary style, the complete absence of culture (or thought or novelty or intelligence or...) in the aliens, the caricatured evil of the MMU and the Nigerians (squick), the utter failure of Wikus' wife, friends and family to notice that he was profoundly ill at his party, the again profoundly cliché'd Machiavellianism of the father in law and the 0-dimensional gun-toting rambo/Blackwater dude. All while the background screamed "SEE THE VIOLENCE INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM!" over and over. And over.

Wikus' performance was stellar, I agree but the surrounding universe was so unbelievable I couldn't enjoy it at all.
posted by Skorgu at 6:41 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


More to the point, I think the apartheid parallels were in part to simply set the atmosphere and setting of the movie.

I chalk some of this up to the fact that this is a movie steeped in South African culture, and there are resonances lost on a North American audience. I have travelled a fair bit in my life and probably know a teensy bit more about South Africa than the average guy in the street here. I almost certainly know more South Africans personally. Even so, I knew I was watching allusions that a South African audience would get that would pass me by totally. I gather District 9 is an allusion to the historical District 6 in Cape Town; I know that van der Merwe is the stock name for a doofus character in jokes; and I know that Wikus is an Afrikaans South African and his wife and in-laws are more English culture South Africans with all the tensions that implies, but the nuances are lost on me (and I suspect, almost everyone reading this). And I suspect that for every reference I got, I missed ten. (What would a Johannesburg audience make of Bon Cop, Bad Cop?)

I enjoyed the unfamiliarity of the idiom. As the movie admits in a sort of po-mo moment early on, you expect that the ship would wind up over New York or Washington; likewise, we have come to expect the same tired-ass Noo Yawk characters (the cranky Brooklyn cabbie, the sassy no-nonsense black woman, the simpering and corrupt guy in a tie). It was nice to give those folks the week off.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:53 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Nigerians are the mirror image of MNU. The experiences of the aliens and van der Merwe's experience at their hands mirror one another; the differences are ones of detail; the biotech labs vs the religious rituals

The portrayal of the biotech industry in D-9 is pure, unadulterated horseshit.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nothing that happens in the second half of the film is as compelling as the first forty minutes, or even close, and by the end all pretense of higher thematic interest is lost in the usual mess of shouting and explosions.

People complained about Shaun of the Dead for the same reason. And while I can empathize, I don't sympathize. At some point the director *has* to make the switch to a more classic narrative style or they'll end up with a strictly arthouse flick. Even Memento, which kept the backwards structure throughout the whole movie, felt fairly traditional in the second and third acts.
posted by bpm140 at 8:31 AM on August 24, 2009


District 419
posted by RakDaddy at 8:37 AM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


You all must have seen a different movie than I did.

Such is the triumph and tragedy of subjective literary interpretation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:09 AM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really appreciated the lack of gender markers for the prawns. Usually when a film features non-human characters, the females (female animals, aliens, rocks, whatever) get fuller pink lips and fuller heaving bosoms than do the males. As if male bears are attracted to lipstick and cleavage. D9 had none of this.

The lack of gender markers combined with the constant use of male pronouns and names left my partner and I wondering if there are two sexes in the Prawn species but females were conveniently left out of the plot, or if maybe Prawns don't have sexes, but since English relies on gendered pronouns the translation relied on the universal "him" and "he." Chris described as the child's father, and the child as his son, but there was no mention of a missing or dead wife (a movie staple), or of females at all, really.

The lack of female prawns was conspicuous enough to seem intentional, which led me to wonder if this is a non sex-differentiated species whose words, when translated into English, are replaced with the universal male versions. I hope so, because I really liked the movie, and the alternative explanation (females just aren't important enough to warrant mention in the movie except for as a male's love interest) is awful.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, there's lots of speculation above and elsewhere that what we are looking at is a stranded ship full of low-caste labourers. What is true for this group may not be true for the species. That would seem to hold to the hive/drone analogy, too.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2009


I hated how cartoonishly evil the big corporation was. "Yes, we wont even bother exploring them as a species, just try to fire those weapons." Where's the international outrage, humantarian groups, research scientists, etc? Its all seemed so "good guy vs bad guy" that I couldnt get into it. Then it became a Transformers-like action movie.

The premise was purposely oblique. Did they need fuel? If they did then why were they able to get some from debris? Why are some smart and others dumb? Is this a hive mind? Instead, they side-step the interesting questions and basic context to bring us "guy in mech suit throwing pig at guy with m60."

Still well-done, but its a comic-book melodrama at best.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


To me, it seems that some of that obliqueness was intentional. It felt to me that the prawn were set up to be viscerally disgusting to human beings, and therefore, no one really bothered to figure out what was wrong with them or how their culture and biology really worked. The narrative breaks away from the view of Wikers only to make key transitions, and perhaps it should have explored the alien point of view more clearly.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:03 PM on August 24, 2009


arcticwoman - the aliens a hermaphrodites, and carry both male and female organs for reproduction. As seen in this lovely PSA.

They didn't portray females because they're aren't any.
posted by daq at 2:43 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The lack of female prawns was conspicuous enough to seem intentional

The "prawns" are also supposed to be an insectoid hive collective with a queen, and on Earth, the workers and drones in these societies are typically female.

So maybe all of the prawns are female.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems like a lot of the criticisms are about stuff that was left out of the movie - but you can't have an exploration of alien culture and biology, plus an analogy about racism and the future of humanity, plus taking the time to make the characters three-dimensional, plus a nuanced view of big corporations, plus a critique of current SA politics, plus some action so that people don't complain that "it's too talky, when are they going to put this knowledge to use?", in just a couple of hours. Unless you want to make a Lord of the Rings length feature.

Sometimes a movie can only cover one aspect of a story. Charles Dickens wasn't famous for his well-rounded character development, yet people still read his books because they enjoy the plot. Alien wasn't an analogy for anything at all, but it's a classic sci-fi/horror film. 2001 didn't tell you jack about the Starchild, but it's considered a masterful artistic achievement.
posted by harriet vane at 6:45 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still working my way through this idea: maybe showing us how awesome the prawns really are in great detail would detract from the racism analogy? We should treat all creatures and people with dignity, not because they're nice or cool or have stuff in common with us, but because it's just the right thing to do.

We keep saying "oh, that group over there are savages, you can't trust them" - then we're proved wrong, and so we include them in the new, expanded group of people worthy of being treated properly. And then we see a new group, decide they're savages, are proven wrong, include them in the group... etc etc. It's a cycle repeated through history, and if Blomkamp's right, into the future as well.

We shouldn't be waiting for evidence that people deserve dignity. We should just see that the prawns are living beings with capacity for pain, for love, for culture in general, and treat them right even if we think they're squicky.
posted by harriet vane at 6:53 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe I'm overthinking a plate of prawns beans.
posted by harriet vane at 6:57 PM on August 24, 2009


mrzarquon - just wanted to reply to your comment. first, as I recall the, and as you suggest, the shots of protest are shots of humans protesting on behalf of the aliens - a very different thing than the aliens protesting themselves. second, my problem with the presentation of the aliens in the film isn't inaccuracy but rather the political implications of the fiction it spins. when I say that this portrayal stretches the limits of plausibility - I am trying to make clear how stark the erasure of political action is within the film given that it is explicitly situated within the history of South Africa. however, the film could have fictionalized that history and changed it in all sorts of ways - in principle there's nothing wrong with that. however, the particular way it did chose to fictionalize this history - produced an alternative in which the central oppressed group had no real politics. (it's interesting too, btw, that the aliens land in the 80's at what was the height of apartheid of violence in the 'real' SA. going into the film, was sure they would have them land after 1994, and postulate a kind of second apartheid. instead, they sort of substitute the late apartheid era for the landing of the aliens. i'm not criticizing this choice - but i find it interesting.)

harriet vane - I don't disagree with the idea that Blomkamp could be talking more generally about the oppressed, exiled, dislplaced, impoverished of the world. in fact, I think you are right that that is part of the analogy being made. so in that sense, I probably overstated my point about the possible groups that the praun could be standing in for. however, I do maintain that the film is, at least, in part, making reference to both of those groups - contemporary poor South Africans and non-white or black South Africans under apartheid. also, even if it is a more general analogy to oppressed peoples worldwide, I still have just as much a problem with its denial of political organization on the part of the oppressed. and it is, in this way, still just as symptomatic of a view of third world populations as objects of assistance and aid, not political subjects in their own right.
posted by huffa at 7:52 PM on August 24, 2009


I think the movie had a lot of flaws, but think the portrayal of Wilkus alone was enough to save it and make it an interesting movie. I don't think I've seen such a fascinating film protagonist recently.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:35 PM on August 24, 2009


huffa - fair enough. I still wouldn't say that the movie itself denies them political agency, but that it portrays characters who have a denial/wilful ignorance of same - which is a fine distinction to draw for sure.

I wish I had your background knowledge of the specific situation in South Africa, it's not something that gets a lot of coverage in the mainstream news. I'd be fascinated by an FPP about it if you wanted to pull one together sometime.
posted by harriet vane at 10:11 PM on August 24, 2009


Alien wasn't an analogy for anything at all,

Um what? Helllllloooooooooo pregnancy fears!

We keep saying "oh, that group over there are savages, you can't trust them" - then we're proved wrong, and so we include them in the new, expanded group of people worthy of being treated properly. And then we see a new group, decide they're savages, are proven wrong, include them in the group... etc etc. It's a cycle repeated through history, and if Blomkamp's right, into the future as well.

That's where he's drawing on the status of e.g. Zimbabweans in modern South Africa, for example.
posted by rodgerd at 11:32 PM on August 24, 2009


Someone suggested that Blomkamp got much of his dialog for the "candid" interviews about the aliens by interviewing people on the street about immigrant groups. And parts of District 9 were filmed on location in an immigrant slum, which puts the arguments about exaggerated rhetoric and the absence of sheetrock in a different context.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:51 AM on August 25, 2009


arcticwoman - the aliens a hermaphrodites, and carry both male and female organs for reproduction. As seen in this lovely PSA.

Man, why couldn't they include this information in the actual movie? Without it, it seems either like all of the prawns are apparently male due to either bad film-making (not bothering to include alien female characters) or bad sci-fi species building. I hate that film makers assume that audiences will be bored by details that create a richer, more holistic universe--and assume that the only people who would be interested are, say, the nerds who are into ARGs.

(I am a nerd who is into ARGs, so no offense intended there!)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:57 AM on August 25, 2009


My main complaint with the premise of District 9 was that in the case of apartheid, the oppressors came to the oppressed, not the other way around.

I thought the talk of a sequel was a joke, until I read the AV Club interview. Then it was like "Ha ha ha ha ha ha... oh wait, he's serious." What would a District 10 look like? Blomkamp seems smart enough to avoid an "aliens return and wage war" shoot-em-up (though I wouldn't put any money on it), so hopefully we'd get another allegory. But a different one. The return of Christopher has obvious parallels with the second coming of Jesus (starting with his 'name,' for one). Three years have come and gone, and there is no return. The hive once again starts selecting a queen from the herd, who attempts to organize the poleepkwa in a scenario that mirrors the formation of the early Christian church. In this case, the humans become the Roman Empire. This is just the first scenario that comes to mind. Blomkamp, my e-mail's in my profile.
posted by Eideteker at 8:52 AM on August 25, 2009


My main complaint with the premise of District 9 was that in the case of apartheid, the oppressors came to the oppressed, not the other way around.

So? I'm not sure the point of the movie was to create a point for point allegory for apartheid. If you're going to do that, why not just make a movie about apartheid?
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, "they came to us and now we have to take care of them" is a different situation than "we took everything they had and now they're dependent on us to take care of them." And that was my impression going into the movie; it didn't have as much of an effect on the picture as I'd thought.
posted by Eideteker at 9:47 AM on August 25, 2009


My idea for a sequel has the prawns worshiping Wikus as some kind of prophet, which he finds completely appalling and wants no part of. He does, however accidentally begin spouting off a completely hackneyed 'philosophy' which is just a mish-mash of christianity, new age pablum and corporate slogans that the Aliens take as their gospel.

By the time that Christopher returns, the prawns have begun to express a yearning for individuality and 'freedom' and decide that they don't actually want to go back to become slaves to the hive mind again.

At the same time, there's a sub-plot of a Sinn-Fein/IRA-esque group of prawns that are running terrorist operations, and kind of pretend to pay fealty to Wikus while really plotting to have him killed and make him a martyr.

And of course MNU is still around, etc...
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on August 25, 2009


Man, why couldn't they include this information in the actual movie? Without it, it seems either like all of the prawns are apparently male due to either bad film-making (not bothering to include alien female characters) or bad sci-fi species building.

Well, intentionally or otherwise, it's awfully telling about us, is it not, that we translate the prawn non-gendered terms for parent and child as father and son in the movie, no?
posted by rodgerd at 2:07 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, since the character of the "father" was named Christopher, is it really surprising we refer to him as father? And since his "son" was CJ - Christopher Junior, why would we call him anything but son?
posted by crossoverman at 3:13 AM on August 26, 2009


Well, since the character of the "father" was named Christopher, is it really surprising we refer to him as father? And since his "son" was CJ - Christopher Junior, why would we call him anything but son?

Not to mention that they're referred to as "father" and "son" in the movie.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:46 AM on August 26, 2009


Sorry, shouldn't comment as soon as I wake up. I see what you're saying, rogerd, but non-gendered pronouns (and names) do exist in English. I think most of the audience is going to take names and gendered referrants as fact rather than as example of the bone-headedness of humans, particularly if the movie doesn't give us any reason to read it that way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:50 AM on August 26, 2009


Well, since the character of the "father" was named Christopher, is it really surprising we refer to him as father? And since his "son" was CJ - Christopher Junior, why would we call him anything but son?

I somehow think the name Christopher was not self-applied. Did you not detect at least some of the theme of humans being clueless with regard to the aliens?

And the little one is not named anywhere in the movie, but is in fact adressed as "little one" the first time he is seen on screen.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:39 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I somehow think the name Christopher was not self-applied. Did you not detect at least some of the theme of humans being clueless with regard to the aliens?

Well, there's nothing to indicate these aliens didn't give themselves human names just as some Asian people give themselves Anglo names when they emigrate to English-speaking countries. Regardless, the reason we are discussing the father and son was because the film indicated that, not because the people in this thread have some kind of instant bias for male characters. That said, the film clearly does.
posted by crossoverman at 4:32 PM on August 26, 2009


thanks harriet vane. i did a post on xenophobic violence a while back, maybe i'll try to get another together.
posted by huffa at 7:16 PM on August 26, 2009


Cool, I'll go back and check your previous post out (I was going to say "yay!" but then realised how weird that sounds: "xenophobic violence? yay!").
posted by harriet vane at 4:07 AM on August 27, 2009


That said, a lot of his behaviour cited (the signature and the threat of child services) are more the "banality of evil". Threatening to take your kid away because you won't play ball with some dubious document? How often do you reckon that scene is played out all over the world; black, white, yellow, communist, capitalist, whatever. He's not a psychopath like the Colonel, or a monster like his father in law, he's just this guy doing his job without thinking about it hard enough.


JUST saw it and this as the most appealing part D9 for me.
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on August 27, 2009


I haven't seen this movie yet, so I didn't read the thread.

Since when do aliens speak in iPod?
posted by at the crossroads at 11:42 AM on August 28, 2009


I really liked the Nigerians. I thought their presence was really useful and made things more complex. Maybe I'm giving the filmmakers too much credit, but I thought it was great that everyone in the theater was all like "Aww, poor aliens; mistreated so simply because of a personal characteristic" and then were like "Boo! Evil Nigerians!" To me it was a statement that people are always capable of finding at least one group to hate and fear -- heck, more than one, even! -- and a reminder that we shouldn't get all up on our high horse about the mistreatment of one highly visible group when we accept the same attitudes about less visible/popular groups.
posted by staggering termagant at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the cannibalism of the Nigerians was meant to be a reflection of what MNU was doing with their genetic research. Same thing, functionally.
posted by empath at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2009


Yeah, that's another useful comparison. Sure, the big evil white corporate guys were overblown and caricatured, as were the small evil black renegade guys. But maybe the movie was trying to illustrate that the two groups, because of their lust for power, were pretty much the same.
posted by staggering termagant at 11:04 AM on September 1, 2009


nuts - I am way late to this discussion, but I only saw it yesterday, so I waited to read this thread until just now

As the thread has shown, it seems a number of people have become dissatisfied with the movie after thinking too deeply about things.

Most of the people who are dissatisfied don't seem to be thinking enough


I think you could probably predict whether a person enjoys this film or not by asking "do you find fight scenes entertaining?" There's a lot of interesting ideas started off in the beginning of the film, but then it gets lost in showers of gunfire. While that is happening, the plot grinds to a halt until the fight is resolved and we see who wins. Personally I found the last half dull - I was wanting to know more about the aliens, more about the way they had been rescued, how did communications develop between the species... but what I was getting was "hey that guy in the robot suit shot a guy with a pig" I know that there are lots of people who will have fun watching that, but for me it just raises more unanswered questions, so it's unsatisfying. How the hell did he fit in to the robot suit without it breaking his legs? his joints are in the wrong place. How does he know how to operate it? grrr
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:21 PM on September 7, 2009


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