I had a work-sponsored trip to see District 9. The short version of the review is that I hadn’t seen any of the previews or anything, and had just heard a little bit about it, so I was expecting a political allegory involving aliens. What I got was a B-movie in Peter Jackson style (no, it wasn’t written or directed by him, but you can see why he wanted to produce it). Taken in that light it was fine but the plot still made no damn sense, so I am going to spend the rest of the post griping about it. Needless to say this is spoilers.
Ok, so first off, the aliens have been on earth twenty years and there are (literally) a million of them and nobody’s been able to get back to the mothership? Really? It’s not like it’s that far up — it’s high, but not in space or anything. Even if they couldn’t find enough fuel (though since the guy sprayed half of it on his face, obviously they had actually had enough for a while), they should have been able to jury-rig something with conventional propellants.
Now, one logical explanation is that most of the aliens are stupid. This is seriously proposed at one point, that they’re all drones and kind of listless, but then how do you explain the hero alien? It seems pretty clear that the alien intelligence fluctuates in direct accordance with the needs of plot — they can build a crazy giant robot exoskeleton, but can’t set up any kind of society in the ghetto they’re stuck in. Or, for that matter, they can build a big ship that’ll fly themselves through space. Though it seems conceivable this is sort of a B Ark setup; maybe these aliens seem dumb because they actually are all the dumb ones, plus a few random normal aliens who got stuck in by mistake.
And speaking of the hero alien, when is it established that his name is Christopher Johnson? It seemed like people just started calling him that — did I miss a bit or was it cut? Obviously it’s not his real name; is the implication that the aliens all got assigned human names when they arrived? I wonder what the logistics of assigning a million names would be. It would be awesome if they just, say, took every human name in Johannesburg and assigned them randomly to an alien. Then you could be name buddies with an alien and help them fit in on earth, it’d be great.
Anyway, the main issue I had with the movie isn’t a plot one, it’s a character one. Namely, the protagonist is a horrible, horrible person and really doesn’t redeem himself. His credentials as a terrible person are established early on, when we see his job is cheating aliens out of their homes, but his hobby is burning alien babies alive. Nevertheless, he’s perfectly willing to come running to the aliens when he needs help, willing to ally with one when it seems to be to his benefit, and just as willing to backstab his ally when that in turn benefits him more. And yet at the end there’s a tearful scene where the alien refuses to go on without him, and he nobly refuses and saves the day. What these people need is a honky! Though speaking of racial slurs, I did like that the aliens were called ‘prawns’. It sounds like an ethnic slur and you can say it in a sneering way or a more casual racism way.
Anyway, yeah. Some of this stuff could have been fixed with another ten or fifteen minutes of footage, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it was cut. But the characterization couldn’t really get fixed without a bigger rewrite, and I dunno what to do about that. But I guess most people who watch this film won’t care, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.