District 9

District 9

No Aliens

Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 deals with an accidental alien landing in Johannesburg. It uses this premise to deliver a surprisingly effective meditation on the nature of xenophobia.

The narrative is delivered in part using documentary conventions. The subject of the documentary is Wikus, a middle manager at the company charged with evicting the aliens to a ‘township’ (aka slum). The narrative itself follows in classical style his change from amoral underling to reluctant ‘hero’ of a sort, and the film becomes considerably more interesting as it goes on and we watch his life (and his body) change irrevocably. It’s also a very gory movie in parts; Peter Jackson was heavily involved, and in his pre-Lord of the Rings days, he was certainly prone to guts and gunplay of all sorts.

I agree entirely with Dan North that the interest of the film is in its portrayal of how humanity would actually respond to alien invasion; not with the terror suggested in golden-era sci-fi, nor with the wide-eyed wonder of ET, but rather with alternating hostility and boredom and, in the case of big business, as a chance to profit. The best sci-fi uses the conventions of the genre to comment on the fears and concerns of its own era; in a post- 9/11, post-financial meltdown world where hostility to the ‘other’ is often the norm, and suspicion of multinational companies is everywhere, District 9 certainly does that.

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