Monday, 22 February 2010

Prawns vs. monkeys

District 9 starts off with some big, meaty themes. Aliens being segregated from humans. Treated like savages but having more intelligence than their oppressors. Through the eyes of the 'documentary' camera the aliens are the enemy, the audience is given a narrow view. These are dangerous, viscous 'prawns'. But if the film is telling us that humans are basically bad, then we can't trust what the documentary crew are showing us. Humans are bad and the aliens are victims. Probably. And all this is happening in South Africa, so somebody could write a clever essay about it. I was just interested to see that, given the chance to be the oppressors rather than the suppressed, humans don't do a better job than evil aliens would. This is what would happen if aliens turned up.

Then the film changes. The idiotic, comedy character of the first twenty minutes turns into a action hero. Everyone is after him. His first scenes seem completely disconnected from his real character. But then getting sprayed with alien DNA fluid would make anyone a bit moody. And the action's good too. With the weight of the situation behind it, every laser-splattered guard is more entertaining. It was interesting to think that, as the protagonist jumps inside a huge mecha-suit, how different it was to Transformers. There's a big robot with guns but there's a real character inside it. Turns out that robots can be fun.

The style is confusing though. It starts as a 'documentary' but then changes, without anyone noticing, into a proper 'film' film. Occasionally the documentary will pop back up, with shady executives talking straight to the camera, but it's mainly just done conventionally. Surely it has to be one or the other. I thought they were going to run with the 'can we trust what the camera is showing us' angle, but it moved away from that. Admittedly a lot of the film wouldn't have worked as a 'documentary', and it is almost seamless. It's just confusing, that's all. But apart from that - good film.


  1. I liked its elegant subversion. Of course, the lead actor really makes the film - it could have been just CGI porn. I believe the director left it open for a sequel.

  2. The leader prawn said he's coming back in three years. Which seems long enough to make the sequel. I can see it already - aliens coming back in force to punish the humans.