While Hollywood’s early venture into science fiction predominantly pandered to public panic related to the Red Scare, the postmodern sci-fi paranoia of choice, if District 9 is any indication, seems to be the color black. In utter disregard of the loathsome racist history of apartheid in their country creating the dismal reality of poverty and pending chaos today, a team of white South African filmmakers has concocted a racially coded alien invasion mockumentary in the guise of entertainment.
Relentlessly clunky and grating in the extreme, District 9 takes its cue from Cloverfield’s contrived artsy vertigo to situate the futuristic tall tale combining premeditated pseudo-disorganized camera and surveillance video footage, as supposedly hyper-real journalistic racial profiling panic in the here and now. Sharlto Copley is Wilkus van der Merwe, the public face of private mercenaries contracted by the South African government to evict and relocate to a concentration camp, the surging population of Johannesburg District 9 aliens from outer space. Those refusing to be ordered out of the teeming slum as Merwe cheerfully hands them notices to vacate on camera, are summarily shot dead to the delight of black viewers of the evening news.
But in the course of Merwe’s elated pursuit of his fifteen minutes of photo op small screen fame, he contracts an alien virus which to his initial dismay, harvests the host creature and his superpowers within which, well, turns him into a pregnant man. And while Merwe spends the rest of the future as now thriller fleeing mercenaries and hiding out among his new odd couple alien allies in District 9, real South African blacks express relief on camera about alien removal and extinction. The distasteful joke here being perpetrated by director Neill Blomkamp, is that he fooled his subjects into talking about their aversion to the swelling immigrant population from other African countries, particularly Nigeria, and then, so to speak, photo-shopped them into his politically odious victims-as-villains movie. Clever.
At the same time, the Nigerians are depicted as despicable when not depraved bottom feeder hustlers and homicidal gangs financially exploiting the aliens, when not forcing the females into cross-species sex for sale. This, while the white dominated government is simply perplexed.
Rarely have such raucous, hyperactive high alert proceedings in a movie managed to be so relentlessly dull. And while Merwe resists coming to terms with his inner alien but eventually gets turned on to his newfound notoriety wilding with the enemy, but in no way having creature sex with them as the tabloids have been charging, the oppressed metal-screeching monsters become simply oppressive. Pass the earplugs.
Note that Kam Williams liked this movie: District 9 Film Review