District 9 is a complex and complicated movie, with hidden meanings and deep metaphors. The movie wants to say something to the audience. How would we really treat helpless aliens if they land on Earth? How do we treat the weak, the helpless, people who don’t look like us or talk like us? What rights do we have as a majority? What can we do to keep us safe? Do we have the responsibility to take care of everyone in the Universe, or take care of ourselves? Or, the movie is an action flick complete with people having sex with bug-aliens, insane Nigerians hell bent to traffic alien weapons, and a government conspiracy to steal alien technology and use it for nefarious means. District 9 is a weird Science Fiction flick, and that’s what makes it so, so good.
District 9 is about a million or so insect-like aliens that crash? Wreck? Something is wrong with their spaceship and they can’t leave Earth. Worse. These aliens are stuck over Johannesburg, South Africa, home of Apartheid and all that stuff down there. The Aliens become a bit unruly and, oddly, adjust pretty quickly to human life. They steal stuff. They root through trash. The South African Government decides to move the aliens to another part of the country, out of the shanty town that was created in haste. And, because that’s illegal, humans have to go in and get the aliens to agree to leave. We see the aliens get pissed, a human gets sprayed by a strange liquid, he slowly turns into a bug and all the crazy just flows right out. And in the middle of people exploding like watermelons getting hit by fifty caliber bullets, a man growing talons and losing fingernails, and mechs, yes, MECHS, there is a moral story and a real, touchable emotional connection is shown between father-bug and son-bug. Seriously. I haven’t been moved like that in while.
The movie has a few real problems. Some are plot wise. Some are budget wise. And the two go hand in hand. If millions of aliens have to be relocated, then there should be a huge, huge army to do it. But we don’t see it on the screen. If an alien spacecraft stops over a major city, that city would be evacuated. At the very least, there would be major changes to the society. But it just looked like everyone did their regular thing, not worried that these huge bugs are rooting through the trash next to them. The movie had a tiny budget, so there was only so much it could do. Plus, the movie couldn’t really deal with all these issues and keep the plot nice and simple.
Even with all this, District 9 is probably the best science fiction movie I’ve seen in years. It is original, smart, funny, dangerously topical and violent. It makes you think while, in the next moment, you are laughing because a grenade smashed into a guys head and then exploded him to bits. It was the best way to end the summer. It also makes me sad that this really, truly could have been the Halo movie. But let’s not get into all that.