Saturday, August 15, 2009

Satire begins to Resemble Stenography

I went to see District 9 last night and went in with kind of a bad attitude, but came out having seen a movie I liked. I was prepared for the worst after the first twenty minutes of dull, earnest satire. There was no way I could sit through two hours of that with the volume set at 11. Somehow, Daniel Engber of Slate was disappointed that the political agenda of the movie never went anywhere, but even after reading his entire article, and especially after seeing the movie, I have no idea why. After the overly-political setup, the movie completely veers off into a narrative about a dude stuck behind enemy lines. Every review's comparison of Wikus Van der Merwe to Michael Scott is perfect.

Wikus is ambitious, desperate for everyone to love him, and basically a pretty nice guy. But he's incompetent. There's a really strong George W. vibe with Wikus. He seems to think he should go ahead and try to do this humanitarian intervention thing, since he really wants things to work out and to be a part of that, and maybe he'll make a few friends along the way. As he bungles his way through evicting the residents of the District 9 slum, he accidentally steals a key piece of alien technology that infects him and begins a process that begins metamorphosizing his biology into that of the "prawn." The process is revolting, painful, and scary.

Between prawn and man Wikus loses some of his illusions about his mission at MNU, and allies with an alien named Christopher Johnson that may be able to a) get the prawns off of this godawful planet and b) reverse Wikus' prawnification process.

This isn't because Wikus is a good person. He's basically acting out of self-interest, and giving a hand up to the prawns in the process is a lucky coincidence. If his life didn't depend on working with Christopher, there's no indication that he'd be able to pull off the crazy moves it took to further the cause of the prawn. Essentially, The Man is what's keeping the prawn down, and people and prawn alike needed this coincidence to save them all. If the prawn technology had been completely lost, MNU would have gone merrily on its way to genocide, and the prawns would have missed their chance at fixing this whole disaster.

If you go, be aware that it's incredibly gory and long. Plus, the prawn language sounds to me a lot like burping or vomiting.

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