I don’t like sci-fi. However, RM convinced me to see District 9 after selling it to me as ‘not your typical sci-fi movie’ but an allegory on the treatment, discrimination and segregation of immigrants and refugees in First World countries.
Someone in my book club once argued that sci-fi shouldn’t just be dismissed as a genre for geeky teenage boys. Beyond the aliens and the droids, a sci-fi world can be used by an author to make deep social and/or political statements without being burdened by the prejudices and conventions of reality or known science and technology. So at first I was quite impressed with the film – the real-time documentary feel made it plausible that aliens had been forced to live in a segregated slum (District 9) in Johannesburg for the past twenty years. In the interviews with Johannesburg residents about their impressions of aliens, you could have easily replaced the references to ‘aliens’ with ‘blacks’, ‘Jews’ or ‘immigrants’ and it would have been a tabloid voxpop.
But then it just got ridiculous and, well, typical sci-fi [spoiler alert]. Wikus, a human, is responsible for evicting the aliens (who are similar to prawns) and clearing the slum. In the process he accidentally sprays prawn juice on himself and to his horror begins to transform into a prawn. With his prawn hand he’s now able to operate prawn weapons and thus the hunter becomes the hunted as the other humans want to capture his DNA for their own nefarious purposes. Whilst hiding in District 9, Wikus befriends a prawn (Christopher) who tries to help him but in order to do so they must fly a vehicle to the mothership using the remaining prawn juice which is now in the humans’ laboratory. After a very satisfying gunfight involving the liberal splattering of evil human mercenaries with crew cuts and clenched accents, Wikus and Christopher get the prawn juice but on their return to District 9 Christopher is captured by more humans. So Christopher’s young prawn son (a shrimp?) must fly the vehicle on his own while Wikus dons a Transformers get-up to attack the humans in order to provide Christopher with an escape route to reunite with his shrimp.
If you like sci-fi, you’ll love this movie. The CGI effects are amazing and there’s lots of exhilarating shots of people being blasted into smithereens. As for me, it wasn’t a terrible film, just not my bag.