District 9: Alien as a mirror of the human being

    05 Jun 2021

    On February 26, 2021, a South African-Canadian film director, Neill Blomkamp revealed on his official Twitter that development of “10 District” was moving ahead on a script for a sequel, with Sharlto Copley and Terri Tatchell co-writing the screenplay with him.


    His first work, “District 9”, was named one of the top 10 independent films of 2009 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 

    Why was the first movie of the saga so important? Let’s check.

    “District 9″ made an unexpected impression. By all indications, this film was to become another Hollywood pop art, given the previous experience of shooting of the film’s producer – Peter Jackson. The latter managed to make a spectacle far from the classic fantasy from an epic saga about a brave goblin and his friends. However, I’ll not talk about insulting the bright memory of the Professor, but about the debut work of the director from South Africa, Neil Blomkamp.

    After all the attempts of the Americans to combine action and sci-fi, which ended in mountains of corpses on the screen and rivers of blood without any sense (numerous “Resident Evil”, a sequels to “Starship Troopers”, unsuccessful hybrids of “Alien” with “Predator” etc), this movie surprises and delights with its powerful humanistic idea. Yes, both human and alien blood is shed by protagonists willingly, the life and physiology of aliens are depicted with too much naturalism… However, the picture on the screen is not disgusting. While watching it becomes clear why the director resorts to such physiological details.

    The video sequence is generally well-done, the details of the interior are carefully tailored to the plot. And the “found footage” format and “music clip-alike” frame slicing gives the film additional originality.

    There are things in the movie that are impressive – and this is not bloody horrors, but social connotations. For example, the willingness of prostitutes from the Johannesburg ghettos to sleep with anyone, even with fearsome alien insects. At the same time, the “public” turns a blind eye to this, and when necessary – condemns the protagonist, who allegedly had sex with aliens. Isn’t it the analogy with the illegal industry of rape and child pornography? People are going for such things now, this is a shame for the human race. And this idea is one of the leading in the film.

    It’s also striking that the Earthlings have not shown any interest in the 20 described years after arrival in the “peaceful” alien technology that literally hangs over them in the air, as well as in the culture of aliens. The “hosts” managed to learn only the language of the “guests” – in order to more effectively drive refugees from one concentration camp to another.

    The protagonist is a naive and aggressive official Wikus van de Merwe, who represents the corporation “Multinational United” (MNU), which organizes a large-scale action to evict alien intelligent beings from their homes. The action turns into bloody chaos through the efforts of mercenaries. 

    Wikus, having no doubts, destroys alien eggs, calls this “bringing legitimacy” and calls murder “abortion”, and even catches a buzz from it. The same buzz, but from the destruction of adult intelligent beings, catches the antagonist of the movie, the colonel. Both characters act almost with the same emotions and intentions at the beginning. Van de Merve’s contemptuous attitude towards his black colleague, who has to “do without” a bulletproof vest in combat, is also striking. 

    Everyone is cruel: corporations, the mafia, ordinary people. “Away from my eyes” is the main slogan of the commoner, who is next to the aliens. The newcomers are also not angels, the savagery of the “workers” is eloquently shown at the beginning of the tape. However, ordinary human refugees can become the same.

    Everyone is wrong in this situation – like the dreadful refugees who fell from the sky on Johannesburg society (“A million of them!”), and the corporation that tortures the unfortunate “”Prawns“. The same are locals, some of whom profit from aliens, and others kill them for motives of revenge and hatred for everything “not-like-human”. The analogy with the times of apartheid in South Africa arises immediately.

    The author’s allusions are harsh and cynical. Director clearly shows how the once lagging blacks are ready to oppress at the first opportunity anyone who is even more disenfranchised than them. The director makes it clear that this shameful trait is inherent in all human beings, regardless of skin color. And the Soviet-style monument at the entrance to the slums, depicting a human and alien holding hands, looks cruel and ironic.

    The film contains many other subtexts that testify to the author’s awareness of both the classics of science fiction (Ray Bradbury – “The Concrete Mixer”, Clifford Simak – “What could be easier than time”, “Mirage. Seven Came Back”, the works of Isaac Azimov), and with the works of director colleagues. Direct analogies are suggested with the plot moves of the first “Matrix”: the characters of the Wachowski brothers also decide, contrary to fate, to enter the super-guarded building and get the desired artifact. In “Matrix”, Morpheus was captured as an “artifact,” and in “District 9”, a test tube with alien DNA became so. However, hopeless situations are almost a favorite topic of Hollywood action movies.

    It’s worth noting, however, Blomkamp’s talent, who manifested himself in a combination of dynamic action and depiction of purely moral dilemmas, which are constantly faced by the hero. The characters of “Starship Troopers”, “Fifth Element” and other SF action movies have never thought about the issues of humane treatment of “strangers”.

    In “District 9”, the naive cinematic world of Americans is gradually becoming “black and white” rather than “color.”

    The film also contains an analogy with the classic horror film “Alien” and its sequels. The alien look is a mixture of all possible movie cliches of what aliens should look like, and the scenes of their children’s birth from eggs are entirely borrowed from the works of Ridley Scott and Cameron. At the same time, the “Ninth District” actually denies the basic idea of ​​”Aliens” and numerous “Independence Days”– the collision of the “enemy” alien mind with the “peaceful” earthly.

    Paul Verhoeven never explained after “Starship Troopers” presentation why monster insects are so desperate to conquer the Earth, having a completely livable world. Instead, in “Independence Day”, Roland Emerich clearly put everything on the shelves – it turns out that there are parasitic civilizations that travel from star to star and pump out all the resources from the inhabited planets. Practically, this idea is a self-parody of the ideology of Western civilization “After me, the flood!“, as well as the embodiment of the hidden fear of the West for the last hundred years. This is a fear of attacking something incomprehensible and aggressive, the fear of extinction. Americans experience a kind of catharsis only after watching disaster movies (with the thought “Thank God, it’s happened not with me!”) and films about the heroic victory of “good guys” over aliens.

    Not to mention the cult for environmentalists “The Speech of Chief Seattle“, recorded in 1855 and literary adapted in the 70’s of theXX century, which sharply criticizes the American approach to consumption – “destroy everything, pump out all resources, catch all fish, and then move somewhere to a better place… ». Or the words of Weston, the protagonist of Clive Staples Lewis’s novel “Out of the Silent Planet”: “It is in her right, or, if you will, the might of Life herself, that I am prepared without flinching to march on, step by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet, system after system, till our posterity—whatever strange form and yet unguessed mentality they have assumed—dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable.”

    In Neil Blomkamp’s film, this classic paradigm of “extensive development” is replaced by another: aliens blindly seek salvation from an unknown calamity, not seeking to take away resources from earthlings by force.

    The idea of ​​”Independence Day ” about a giant mothership, inside which the “aliens” are waiting to conquer the Earth, successfully brought by Neil Blomkamp to absurdity. Almighty and armed aliens have become… weak and unfortunate individuals, deprived of guidance and basic technical knowledge.

    Another interesting “borrowing from the classics”: throughout the four-part epic about “Aliens” found on the planet LV-426, evil businessmen from the corporation “Weiland-Yutani” cynically deceive and kill the main characters, trying to get an alien creature and turn it into ideal weapons. In the “District 9”, this movie cliche was embodied literally. However, in an unusual entourage: this times the aliens, although monsters, but do not drip poisoned saliva when they see a human. Humans become bigger monsters, bringing aliens to their knees, torturing and shooting them. In general, doing the usual things for human beings. In this case, the aliens, possessing powerful weapons, do not reciprocate.

    There are allusions to the classic philosophical work of Franz Kafka “The Metamorphosis” in the movie. Actually, we see the same story – the transformation of man into an insect, but not sudden, as in the classics, but gradual and painful. Aliens are also much more like humans than the Kafkaesque  “monstrous vermin” – which is worth carefully drawn eyes of “strangers” filled with pain and reason.

    The eloquent nuance of the film: the mafia corporation “MNU” controls the entire media space and the courts, and the publications, ironically called “independent”, publish outright misinformation. And the only honest hacker who exposed MNU’s criminal medical experiments with aliens is condemned at the end of the movie. Actually, the protagonist, who became a humanistic person, turned outwardly into a monster, and remained misperceived – because the media controlled by corporations called him a traitor to humanity.

    The strongest social allusion in the film is refugees. Under the guise of disgusting monsters, we see ghettos all over the world – in Palestine, Africa, Latin America. A world where there are no culprits, because everyone is guilty. Millions of people have become “alien” to the First World (the “golden billion”), and only by force, as do Somali pirates, are they able to assert themselves. Therefore, this film is not so much about what can happen (“first contact” and other rosy dreams), but about what is a visual reality (poverty, inequality and humiliation).

    Social disasters have taken over the planet for a long time, and just like in the movie, it’s hard to say who became their cause. “It happened historically”, someone may explain.

    The main idea of the film lies in the meticulous depiction of anyone who differs from the usual stereotype. And who is more “human” in such a situation – van de Merve, who gave hope for salvation to intelligent beings who do not look like humans, or the soulless leaders of a transnational corporation? The answer, I guess, is clear.

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