August 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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This film takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa and the location gives it much of its driving force and meaning.

A huge spaceship parks itself over the city and the residents wait for an attack which never comes. After three months they mange to enter the craft that looms motionless over them. Inside they find a million starving aliens who are human sized and resemble prawns with anthropomorphic qualities, some more than others.

This would be another action, thriller bug film, better than most, but what gives it bite and meaning is the fact of the many parallels between the plight of the aliens and the blacks under Apartheid.


Thirty years after their arrival the aliens are confined to District 9. A lawless shanty town with out water and electricity much like Soweto and other shanty towns under

Apartheid. The aliens, who are seen as un-employable and unassimulatable by the human population, exist by scavaging and petty thievery.

They are under the control of a private company called Multi National United (MNU). MNU’s main motivations are commercial and the discovery of alien technology, particularly in weapons brought by the aliens but never used against the humans. They apparently came in peace escaping a calamity that happened on their home planet. MNU is also secretly conducting vivisection and medical experiments on the aliens.

The humans have decided to move the aliens to a new camp farther away and less visible. The aliens who have made accommodations and fashioned a crude existence in District 9 are suspicions of MNU’s motivations and resist on an individual basis. A simpleminded bigot, Wikus van der Merwe, has been put in charge of the removal operation by his father in law, a high level official in the MNU. Sharlto Copley plays Wikus.Wikus’s transformation is a driving theme of the film and Copley does an execellent job in the role and is the linchpin of the film. All the other actors are also unknown in the United States.

However this doesn’t detract from the film and even adds to the credibility of the story as the film is shot as a documentary where Wikus is leading the documentary crew on a tour of District 9 to justify the actions of the MNU in relocating the aliens. This evacuation is given a semblance of legality by requiring the aliens to acknowledge a 24 hour notice of the plan. The aliens, who lack under standing of the legalities but know any changes will not be for their benefit, resist.

Another key element of the story is when the ship arrived it became disabled when a strange object dropped from the ship to Earth. This object has never been found.

The aliens who voluntarily allowed themselves to be disarmed of their own weapons are illegally caching human weapons apparently for their own defense. There is a black market run by a Nigerian criminal gang furnishing food, prostitutes, guns and necessities to the aliens including cat food which they consider a delicacy. However the Nigerians are also eating the body parts of the aliens as an attempt to acquire the ability to use the aliens superior weaponry which only can be operated by someone with alien DNA.

Wikus in conducting the notice aspect of the evacuation comes to the shack of an alien given the human name of Christopher Johnson. He is apparently a scientist and his intelligence appears vastly superior to his alien counterparts. Johnson is sitting on the power and command module buried beneath his shack which is the unidentified object that fell from the ship so many years ago. It is missing a mysterious capsule that activates the command module and in turn the mother ship. Christopher has recently located the capsule and is putting the final touches on activating the module and escaping when Wikus shows up at the door. He sends his precocious young son out to distract Wikus. Wikus becomes suspicious and invades the shack and finds the capsule which he opens an exposes himself to the contents and then closes.

This is a turning point of the story as the exposure has the consequence of slowly turning Wikus into an alien. The first sign is the development of a prawn like claw. The MNU discover the changes slowly taking place in Wikus. They test and discover that he is now able to operate the alien weaponry. They decide to vivisect him to discover the reason for his new ability. Wikus escapes and ends up with Christopher who tells him there are medical machines that can make him totally human again on the mother ship and that all they need is the seized capsule to activate the command module to get there.

The rest of the film is on the quest for the capsule and the slow metamorphosis of Wikus into an alien and how his view point changes.

This is the element making this film more than just another thriller-action, sci-fi bug film although an excellent one it is. Wikus comes to understand what it means to become an oppressed and outcast member of a despised minority. This film is a white knuckled one with philosophical and sociological implications which make it well worth seeing. I also smell a sequel with Shia Leboeuf , Megan Fox and Alan Rickman as Chis Johnson.