Friday, February 19, 2010

Remember: a smile is cheaper than a bullet

No Non-Humans Allowed

When I found out it was almost my turn to get a copy of District 9 from the library, I asked my Twitter people if it was niece-appropriate. I was met with a resounding, “NO!” I trust my peeps, so I didn’t question it.

Then when it finally came time to pick it up, niece was with me, and asked if I’d seen it yet. I said no, and she informed me how GREAT it is. And I sighed and asked how she’d seen it. Apparently my mother’s boyfriend had it, and they watched it. Now that I’ve seen it, I am EXTREMELY irritated that she’s seen this. While she’s a child that fell head over heels in love with the Lord of the Rings movies when she was about 4 or 5, and can handle most forms of fantasy violence, she is not comfortable with curse words, either in movies or real life. The violence and obscenity in this movie is SO overwhelming, and I’m really annoyed that she watched this at age 10.

That being said, now for my 27-year old thoughts on District 9.

As with most newer movies, I knew nothing going in. This came out after my time of not having cable. I am rather pop culture stupid without cable or internet at home, so my knowledge is restricted to whatever I hear from other people. And while I’d heard that the movie was incredible, including a recommendation from Emma Caulfield on Twitter, I didn’t understand what it was. From that, and from magazine articles, I slowly I started piecing together it was a new spin on Aliens vs Humans, and it took place in the slums of Africa. This really caught my attention, and I was excited to see it.

Just one little limb, that's all I ask

The main character in this, Wikus Van Der Merwe, got on my everloving nerves from the beginning. I wanted to believe he was a good person, but the first scene of him with the Prawns got me so irritated that I couldn’t feel any sympathy through the entire movie until the very, very, very end. In any movie I tend to root for the underdog, unless the underdog is a complete douchecanoe. Combine that knowledge with the fact that I will always side with non-humans, whether that be animal, mineral, or vegetable, and my heart just burned for these Aliens.

Wikus’ glee at evicting the creatures was so irritating. His enjoyment of hearing the eggs ‘pop’, and talking about the babies popping out of the eggs to burn to death. Seriously, how do you like a character after that? And threatening to take Christopher’s son away because he’s arguing intelligently about being evicted. God, I wanted to see him ripped from limb to limb. Even just one limb, maybe? Couldn’t have thrown me a bone?

The telling of the story is wonderful. The sympathy I felt for these aliens was so complete and painful, and my hatred for the humans made watching it all the more consuming. I didn’t care for the extraneous violence, though. I realize with a movie like this there has to be violence, because there is so much fighting and hatred and, really, war going on in this town. But it just felt so overly. And the cursing. I mean, I curse like a drunk, stoned, formerly mute sailor, and the obscenity was too much for me. So that’s saying something. They could’ve taken 439 “fuck”s out, and there would still be too many.

In the beginning, the appearance of the Prawns creeped me out. I don’t like insects, as a rule, and those little wiggly tentacles at their mouths wigged the shit out of me. However, after the introduction of Christopher Johnson and his son, it grew on me to a point where when you see Christopher scared for his son halfway through, I saw it on the face, and I found it easier to look at them than the humans, truth be told. The eviction serving scenes just broke my heart. It’s so obvious they just want to live their life and get the hell off of this planet, and everyone hates them. I was amused by the civil rights groups. Every movie about oppression seems to have a SPEW group.

I could have fixed you

Let’s discuss Christopher Johnson. I would’ve liked to have heard something about his real name. Obviously this was a name assigned at some point, because I don’t believe on whatever planet has 7 moons they use names like Johnson. He is such a lovable character, for a Prawn-look-alike with weird wiggly things for a mouth. And the little boy (whose name we never got?) just tugged every string on my heart. I was so worried something would happen to the son.

I’m currently watching the movie again with Director’s commentary. I like that the director has a slight accent to his voice. But I’m hoping to learn something I didn’t catch the first time around. All I’ve learned so far is that aliens like bras.

The ending scenes, with Wikus-as-robot and Christopher finally cracked my cold black heart for Wikus. A little. More at the end when he opened the bot up and told Christopher to run. Watching Christopher with his son on his lap rising towards the ship, and worrying they would shoot him down. Oh, my heart. I got so happy when they made it. But then I got upset again because don’t the other Prawns think he just ABANDONED them? He took their ship and left them in this HELL that they’ve been stuck in for over 20 years! I would be furious! Yes, I'm choosing to ignore the "fact" about all of them being mindless "workers" who can't think for themselves.

My very favorite ass-kicking scene is when the robot comes to life in the Nigerian gang’s hideout, when they’re trying to hack off Wikus’ arm. The image of all of their bullets being magnetized into a ball*, then shot straight back at all the gang members? I can’t lie, I was impressed as hell at that scene. Bad ass. I don’t understand why that couldn’t keep happening, unless it was just because Wikus didn’t know how to make this happen.

Per the "making of" segments, they didn't set out to make a "political" movie. But considering the director based it on his own personal experience with Apartheid, it's hard to avoid. It's heartbreaking to realize all of the shacks used during filming are the actual shacks where people lived. I want to know, all this filming they did, did anyone think to maybe improve this area? I mean, they were there. I'm sure they had resources. If not then, most definitely now. Is that an option in this area?

I mean, seriously. The dead animals seen in the background of this movie were real. They weren't props dragged in from a butcher shop, these things actually existed in the area they were filming, and just lay on the ground as a normal part of life. I...I am a priveledged white girl (at least, in comparison to people who suffered through apartheid), and I don't understand why good things can't come from such a major motion picture being filmed in such desolate areas. I just don't get it. I don't know.

Final note: one of my all-time favorite books, Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon, featured a character named Van Der Merwe. I have always pronounced it Van Der Mew, because I really had absolutely no idea how you would pronounce that. It’s referred to as Dutch in the book, but I am Cajun and Italian, so telling me that means diddly. So hearing it pronounced here was actually a treat for me. Now I can re-read the book and hear the name pronounced correctly in my head.

* I don’t actually understand WTF exactly happened with the bullets in that scene. I saw them gathering in a little group, and couldn’t tell if he was catching them or not. So I’m telling myself that he magnetized them into a little ball. Because I can.

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