Wandering Thoughts

September 13, 2009

District 9 – a really short review

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 10:30 am

For a couple of years I was stalked by the movie Independence Day. People would suggest we go see it at the cinema, I’d stop round to visit friends and they would have just got it on video, I’d get on a plane and it would be in-flight entertainment. Arrgghh. It was insufferable. A long series of cliches and improbabilities held together something a generous observer might mistake for a plot. People called it escapism. Me, stuck watching it again, I just wanted to escape.

Possibly the most grueling element of the movie were the implausibly evil aliens and the flag wavingly fantastic American heroes. On about the third watch, as an antidote I day-dreamed what I figured a more realistic alien encounter movie would look like. For a start we’d be the baddies; the history of human conquest and colonialism makes that pretty likely. And we’d be convincing ourselves we weren’t bad all along, like we’ve always done.

In my day dream movie we, the humans, would be the ones venturing into outer space, made more dangerous than ever with superior technology and interstellar travel. I’d never thought about bringing the aliens here…

…and so I was pretty chuffed by District 9, with it’s alien refugees and realistically detestable humans. It’s an achievement when a movie takes you out of your own collective identity and has you cheering for another race or nationality. It’s an even bigger achievement, I think,  when by the end of District 9 you’re cheering as the lobster-like aliens vaporise human villan after human villan.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect, the plot bulldozed over a quite a few holes. And the portrayal of the Nigerians made me queasy. Surely, a movie set in opposition to xenophobia and simplistic depictions of the Other, could have avoided basing one of its groups of villans on a bunch of stereotypes of Nigerian refugees? Still, the Nigerians are far from the greatest villans in the tale, that title is awarded fairly and squarely to Us, which makes a pleasant change, poor old Them having been tarred with it for so long.

[Update: Here’s a Nigerian who thinks District 9 isn’t racist against Nigerians.]


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