2009-08-17 : District 9

District 9 is, oh, 80% the movie that Children of Men is.

You'll understand that this is high, high praise. It's as good as WALL-E, for instance.

Spoilers allowed. Don't click into this thread to read the comments if you haven't seen the flick!

1. On 2009-08-17, Bret said:

That is a really good way of describing it.

And now I need to watch Children of Men again.


2. On 2009-08-17, Matt Wilson said:

I thought of Children of Men, too. It had the same effect where afterward I just wanted to go plant some flowers or something. Pet my dog.

That scene where they're shocking Wikus to make him fire the guns. All I could think was, man, I wish this weren't believable.


3. On 2009-08-17, Vincent said:

Wikus may have been the most repulsive protagonist I've ever seen in a movie. In his way, as repulsive as Vic Mackey.

This means that I loved him, of course.


4. On 2009-08-17, Lukas said:

Yes!  Every time someone was about to kill or dismember Wikus, my brain would say, "No, he has to get out of this!  He's the hero... well, hero isn't really accurate, but he's at least a decent... no, wait, he's not even really that decent... actually, he's a total bastard when it comes down to it, but I still want him to live!"


5. On 2009-08-17, John Harper said:

Man, Wikus was an amazing character. So weak! So human.

He goes through the whole 3:16 arc of play in one movie. From "popping like popcorn" to "Hatred for Home."


6. On 2009-08-17, Matt Wilson said:

I have to say Wikus grows more as a person than Vic ever does (which, as far as I've gotten in the Shield, is zero). But he sure is an asshole when the movie begins.

Sometimes, though, I just wanted him to live because he seemed to be the only person who could help dad and his son.

Also, that fucker Jackson really drew out that last scene with the command module being pulled up. I was all, come on already, be safe! One being be safe in this movie.


7. On 2009-08-17, Brand Robins said:

So I'm reading my Google reader and this review pops up. I've been hearing all weekend long that District 9 is "THE BEST MOVIE EVEAR!" and was like whatever.

Then I read that it's 80% of the movie Children of Men was and I'm all going upstairs and saying to Mo "Want to see District 9 tonight?"


8. On 2009-08-17, Joshua A.C. Newman said:



9. On 2009-08-17, Robert Bohl said:

Joshua, I want to re-see this with you.

I loved this movie.

Yes, it could've been more tightly edited.

Matt: The editing in the command module scene is Jackson's fault? He's not the director....


10. On 2009-08-18, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

Carrie and I ran out the door when we suddenly realized we could "make" the 7:30 showing. We missed the first couple of minutes, coming in as Wikus is showing the pic of his wife.

It messed with some clich??s pretty hard, which was great. The "minority" guy doesn't die to save the honkey, the aliens aren't necessarily good people, the hero really only understand oppression when he's feeling it.

I was kind of hoping he was going to die at a certain point to finish turning the clich?? on its head, but the ending was really satisfying anyway.

Matt, Jackson was the producer, not the director. Neill Blomkamp was the director. Jackson reportedly kept his hands off and let Blomkamp expand Alive in Joburg the way he saw fit.


11. On 2009-08-19, Brand Robins said:

Having just watched it, I liked it. But I think the action movie formula kept it from being all it could be. It did transcend it at some points, but had its legs taken right out from under it at others.

So, all in all, I'd say it was about 65% of the movie Children of Men was. However, there are some ways in which it may have aimed for an even higher target, in terms of sheer difficulty of material, than Children of Men did, and I have to give it props on that. Even when it failed.


12. On 2009-08-19, cc said:

A riff on District Six, the resonance is inescapable.,_Cape_Town

Doesn't seem to be on the UK release list though, which is annoying.


13. On 2009-08-19, VMR said:

I think the comparison to Children of Men is apt.  In the same way it made me wonder about a lot of things, like were the majority of the aliens actually a semi-mindless worker class or was that all propaganda.  We only saw a few intelligent aliens working towards a solution while the rest seemed to be engaged in pretty mindless activity, of course looking at humanity in the same light might not give any better impression.


14. On 2009-08-20, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

Yeah, Brand, my problem were the action movie cliches, too. I liked how much it messed with them, but I'd rather it did its own thing.


15. On 2009-08-20, valamir said:

what would "its own thing" have looked like.

If you edited out the action scenes, what would you have replaced them with (a different sort of action scene, something else entirely)...what would have been less disappointing?


16. On 2009-08-21, Joel said:

Just saw it with my wife.

OhmyGOD, that was a hard movie to take. It's hard to process that many people being that wretched to each other, for that long. Good movie, though. Excruciating scenes, terribly human protagonist. I put it at 70% Children of Men The faults were, aside from being a little, yes, action film-y, were that the bad guys were a little TOO bad, and the "here's" character progression a little TOO abrupt. But then it IS a crisis situation, so, hey.

the hero really only understand oppression when he's feeling it.

Perfect way to put it.

About the Aliens' intelligence and such: propaganda for SURE. or rather, just a profound unwillingness to understand and empathize. it's the age-old self-confirming cycle of putting people in horrid, animalistic conditions, seeing them behave desperately and badly, then pointing a finger and saying "see, look! they're animals!"

I mean, you give them nothing but garbage to dig in, then rag on them for digging in garbage! Sheesh, right?

Good thing it's just a crazy movie about aliens, huh?



17. On 2009-08-21, valamir said:

What was really impactful for me was that they were fucking bug aliens.  I have a total hate on for giant buggy things.  Which made watching the movie an especially interesting reflective experience for me.


18. On 2009-08-21, Joel said:

Yeah, I see what you mean, Ralph. It was really hard to NOT see the aliens as repulsive—everything about their biology, their behavior, and their environment was calibrated to disgust the viewer.


19. On 2009-08-21, Emily said:

They almost lost me when Wikus hit Christopher on the head and left him for the MNU. Though that re-affirmed that Wikus was still just out for himself even then.  That movie made me cry and want to rail at the screen many times. Yeah, they did a great job.

Sharlto kept reminding me of Peter Sellers. Shades of Dr. Strangelove.


20. On 2009-08-21, VMR said:

I found that level of self interest compellingly realistic.  Of course he was pissed when the alien said he would have to wait for 3 years, the fucking prawn is backing out of his deal or else lied to him in the first place.  But when the chips were down Wikus came through and did the right thing, I think that's about the most you can hope for with humanity.


21. On 2009-08-21, Joel said:

They almost lost me when Wikus hit Christopher on the head and left him for the MNU.

Oh, I know! I sat bolt-upright with my teary eyes glued to the screen, convinced that this was the last ten minutes of the movie and everything was fucked. It definitely helped that this seemed like a perfectly plausible ending based on the story so far.


22. On 2009-08-24, Julie, aka jrs said:

I just saw it and have to say that I liked it much more than I expected.

I really liked how this movie referenced moments in other movies especially where these moments were previously played up for humor and here are done in a completely sobering fashion. I am thinking specifically of the Fly remake with the shedding of finger nails and teeth, and the Evil Dead with the removal of (or in this case the inability to remove) the alien hand.


23. On 2009-08-25, Christian Griffen said:

"Like popcorn." Ugh.

Good movie. I don't actually think that too many cliches were put on their head; they seemed pretty typical. Reluctant anti-hero, finds his heart (admittedly later than expected), offers to sacrifice himself so the innocent could escape.  The main innocent has a kid, for audience sympathy (works every time).

Pretty standard fare.  But I think that was done to make the social commentary digestible for a mainstream audience.  And that commentary is powerful and relevant.

Now, out of curiosity: Why do we use Children of Men as a yard stick?  That was a good movie, too, but nothing I'd consider the measure of all sci fi movies.  Maybe I missed something?


24. On 2009-08-25, Vincent said:


Well, I'd say that Children of Men is currently the measure, not of all sci fi movies, but of all pointedly socially-critical action sci fi movies. District 9 is clearly the same sort of sci fi as Children of Men, so it makes sense to me to hold them up together to compare and contrast. So is WALL-E, funny as that is.

I don't know if they make very many sci fi movies that aren't pointedly socially-critical action sci fi. Off the top of my head, Sunshine isn't, it's like psychological horror sci fi (and fun, but not great). I haven't seen Moon yet so I don't know about it.


25. On 2009-08-25, Christian Griffen said:

Moon has little to no action; but yes, socially-critical. Very good movie, albeit with a bit of a false promise during the beginning (it initially feels like a scary-spooky sci-fi movie, but really isn't).


26. On 2009-09-05, Alex F said:

District 9 hit the UK this weekend.

I also found the braining of Christopher, and his subequent abandonment at the hands of the mercenaries, pretty stomach turning. It felt like a massively regressive step for the Wikus; after the inferno he had come through, you wanted him to know better. After I left the cinema, though, I reflected just what I would feel if my body was transforming, I was literally losing my own physicality and having another enforced on me, with who knows what further erosion (thought? emotion? Not only to lose my wife, but to start to view her perhaps as a predator, or foodstuff)? This is Metamorphosis, it's pretty unimaginable. In the face of that ongoing experience, I'd like to think that I would still be able to reevaluate my relationship with another species, starkly see the MNU labrooms as the Mengelian nightmare that it is, and calmly sacrifice myself to allow it to be challenged. Luckily, I won't ever be put to that test.

Contrasting that Wikus, making selfish, desperation-propelled wrong choices, with the one in the start of the film, quoting bureaucratic chapter and verse to break up a family with the deck stacked against them (litter in a refugee camp constituting dangerous surroundings? For shame.), it's the latter that still makes me shudder. That's also the one countlessly reflected in situations of power inequality over the world.

I thought it was a good film. (If Children of Men was a mango, this was a punnet of greengages.) It did feel like a film of two halves, though, with the first half of the film containing the substantive critique, such as the banality of evil of Wikus & co., and the second being playpen for all the toys that were wound up and primed in part one.

I did like the piece in the closing moments with the talking head struggling to acknowledge that one response of Christopher and the mother ship might conceivably be to wage war. You think? Perhaps not only war, but a causus belli for a just war...


27. On 2009-09-09, Mike said:

Just seen it (UK) and was bowled over. I'm a little surprised by the consistency of relative rankings in this thread; I thought this was a far better movie than Children of Men, particularly in terms of characterization and motivation. Part of that may be the Clive Owen effect - he always plays the same character, so there's never any suspense about what kind of arc it's going to be. Mind you, I thought Wall-E was vastly overrated as well.

Like valamir, I was struck by the success with with repulsive aliens were made sympathetic and even heroic, though the eyes were a notable concession to anthropomorphism. It's made me think about Vernor Vinge's classic SF novel A Deepness in the Sky, a book whose protagonists are giant hairy carnivorous alien spiders and which I once considered the epitome of "unfilmable".


28. On 2009-09-17, GB Steve said:

Pretty much what Alex said. It was a good movie but suffered a bit from Chekhov's Gun, space ship check, guns check, ooh mech, check.

And what was with the Nigerians? Was it to remind us what proper racism was about?


29. On 2009-09-23, Larry L said:

Saw this over the weekend. This is some fucking engaging storytelling! Its goodness might be lost on hardened scifi geeks. The viral marketing campaign actually had me set up for a disappointment.

I didn't actually see this as a social-critical movie at all.


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