District 9

Home for a Prawn


14 August 2009| No Comments on District 9     by Sean Chavel


Oh please, really, get a grip already. You liked District 9, huh, well good for you. This review is for everyone else who has an aversion to jerky handi-cam, superficial metaphors and overblown pyrotechnics. The aliens, called Prawns, are not new to the planet. They have been situated in Johannesburg, South Africa for twenty years. But the country is fed up and now they want to relocate 1.1 million aliens (they’re like slimy lobster men crossed with a Stan Winston design) to a smaller, more tidy, and more out of the way living quarters. One problem right there is that the film never gives you the sense that there are anywhere near 1.1 million Prawns. At best we only see a few dozen at a time.

The camera crew in this mockumentary follows Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a bureaucrat from Multi-National United (MNU) in charge of leading the transport of this alien race to a new camp that will be “worse like a concentration camp.” Wikus is a British numbskull, sort of a halfway meet between Mr. Bean, a Simon Pegg character and perhaps a Dutch comedian although I don’t know any names of any Dutch comedians.

Wikus contracts an alien virus which mutates his human flesh into Prawn flesh. He becomes a mortal target of MNU, is fired at by mercenaries and commandos, and allies with sympathetic Prawns. Concurrently, MNU looks in self-interest to profit off of Prawn weapon technology which is advanced to our own.

The core problem with the movie is that we are being asked to cheer for a hero who is little more than a cliché, in fact, there are no human characters of any depth in this movie.  Even the bug-hunt flick “Starship Troopers”had characters with, uh, layers. The Prawns are perhaps a diverse group, some are more uncooperative and belligerent than others, with varying degrees of intelligence, but we never know what they aspired to before they crash-landed on Earth. What sums them up is that they eat rubber and cat food, and are occasionally gullible with warlord extortionists.

If there is a strong point, it is the shrewdly drawn exploitative relationship between South African warlords and the Prawns who get habitually swindled on transactions. But that’s a short-lived interest, and the metaphors on relocated and disposable refugees are shallow attempts at substance (in addition, any allusions to Apartheid are out of place). What the film is mainly interested is into flaring up into a Michael Bay-style action flick. Yawn.

What is good sci-fi, you ask of me? “Blade Runner”is a sci-fi milestone with rich metaphorical volumes on the maltreatment of minorities and the globalization economy in futuristic Los Angeles. “Dark City” is sci-fi spectacle with immense philosophical implications. “eXistenZ” is a look at the dehumanization of technology. All of these movies wrap around ideas in a powerful extracting way. I could also use enthusiastic words to describe “The Matrix,” “12 Monkeys,” “Minority Report,” “The Cell,” “A.I.,” “Sunshine” and “Gattaca”that I list in no particular order but nonetheless receive my highest endorsement. “District 9” has got nothing on these titles.

112 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Blade Runner” (1982); “Gattaca” (1997); “Starship Troopers” (1997); “Dark City” (1998).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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