District 9: A Rave Recovery Review

by The Discovering Alcoholic on August 16, 2009

It seems a little bit odd to me that one of the best films of the year with its brutal yet honest portrayal of the human condition at its extremes is actually a sci-fi thriller featuring a race of slum-dwelling alien decapodians. District 9 has been pegged by reviewers as an apartheid parable, but there is much more to this movie produced by the highly talented Peter Jackson and directed by newcomer Neill Blomkamp with almost every series of scenes begging for a different interpretation.

The story is presented in a documentary style, though it thankfully breaks from this during action scenes, is about a race of aliens that becomes stranded in Johannesburg of all places. They are placed in an internment camp that over the next 20 years degrades into a walled slum with appalling conditions. Not picked up by the reviewers concentrating on themes of racism and segregation, is that the alien’s environment and social status are exasperated by their addiction to catfood. Yep, I said cat food!

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So great is the alien craving for cat vittles that they will trade their most valuable technology and weaponry for just a small supply of cans…and of course there is no shortage of bottom dwelling humans there to take advantage of this situation. Already lacking for manners and hygiene (but Dr. Zoidberg would be proud)- it is this abasement, the willingness to do anything for a couple cans of cat food, that reinforces the sub-human status of the aliens which are called the descriptive but derisive name prawns.

In reality one need not look to Johannesburg, almost any urban center of size will do having a population of addicts and alcoholics that are routinely tossed, robbed, raped, and even burned in the street as so much rubbish. Like the prawns of District 9, the homeless alcoholics and addicts of our cities are often considered subhuman… and unfortunately the nature of their disease almost insures they will do nothing to change this situation.

Back to the movie though, as with most of my reviews I don’t like to give away too much of the story so I will leave you with the two reasons this one stands out as great. This movie doesn’t rely on CGI effects and spectacular gore in place of a moving story, instead in Peter Jackson-fashion uses them to enhance and elevate the message and the movie-going experience. It’s downright fun. The second reason is more of an observation; I was cheering for the non-human side by the end of this flick because they were the ones exhibiting love for family, fellow man, and loyalty to those that earn it- testament to a well told story that I began to relate more with the extraterrestrial crustaceans than my own race. The movie ends and sets the stage for a sequel with a human recovery storyline; where the lead character learns how to be a better man even as he loses his humanity, but I’m unable to tell you more without letting the cat out of the bag (and the prawns took his food).

District 9 earns rave recovery review and a strong TDA recommendation.

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