District 9, a look at what it is to be human

District 9

District 9

2010 was a big year for science fiction. District 9, Avatar, and Star Trek were all nominated for Oscars. They were also all some of the best work of the year. District 9 and Avatar were even singled out for Oscar nominations for the Best Picture of the Year. Those two films shared some very similar subject matter, although the way the films were handled couldn’t have been more different.

The protagonists in District 9 and Avatar both grapple with the question of what defines humanity. The answer of course is that divergent species are more tied together than the protagonists realize. Hollywood has been preaching this message almost since its inception. For years Westerns taught that the differences in culture that separated the settlers from the Native Americans was insignificant. These science fiction films are an extension of that same idea. We find that humanity does not only apply to humans.

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Out of the two films, I think that District 9 is the better film. Avatar may have more jaw-dropping special effects but it doesn’t have performances that are nearly as captivating. Sharlto Copley plays Wikus in District 9. He comes across as a bit of an odd duck, but this actually helped me feel more for him more later on. Wikus seems somewhat innocent despite his actions to the contrary. I would like to discuss this more thoroughly; however, it is hard to do so without giving too much of the plot away. After seeing District 9, its trailer became my favorite this year. The trailer gave just enough away to hook me into wanting to see the film without spoiling specific plot points. The Hurt Locker’s trailer had the opposite impact on me. One of the biggest moments in the film was in the trailer. The reveal in that film would have had a greater impact, if the film had a chance to build suspense without having the endpoint ruined. A film should work even when viewed multiple times, but there is still something special about the first time you see a film. It is an experience that cannot be duplicated. For this reason, I feel a trailer can greatly impact the viewing of a film, and it should not be discounted. Trailers take clips and place them out of context. This inevitably impacts a viewer’s bias for better or worse. My experience-watching District 9 was made better by my lack of knowledge.

Peter Jackson produced the District 9 and Neil Blomkamp directed it. It is the first feature film that Blomkamp has written and directed. The film was born from failure. Blomkamp and Jackson originally set out to make Halo, based on the popular video game. When that project fell apart they switched gears and decided to make District 9 instead. Peter Jackson’s special effects company, Weta Digital, worked on the effects for both Avatar and District 9, and has obviously shown itself to be one of the very best in the industry. Jackson’s connection to the project was a huge advantage to Blomkamp while creating his first feature film. Even though Blomkamp had experience in commercials, there is no doubt that he benefited from Jackson’s experience in special-effects-heavy films.

The design of the of aliens in District 9, as well as in Avatar, acts as one of the films’ defining features. The aliens in District 9 are insect-like, with people in the film referring to them as prawns in a derogatory fashion. Avatar goes an entirely different direction. The aliens in Avatar were created to be as human as possible. Avatar’s protagonist, Jake Sully, even falls in love with one of the N’avi woman. When creating District 9, Blomkamp set out to have the audience feel for the “prawns” despite their appearance. In a different year, District 9 might have been the leading contender for best special effects, but this is not a normal year. 2009 was the year of Avatar. It was the year that James Cameron released his opus. District 9 is the type of film I hope will always have a chance to be made in Hollywood. It is a science fiction film that is impressive in its scope, although definitely not for everyone, and certainly not for children. It uses its genre to explore issues that can be simplified when viewed in the context of science fiction. Halo might have been a summer blockbuster, but District 9’s was a surprisingly astute investigation of humanity.

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David Kirkeby, “District 9, a look at what it is to be human.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom. 6 March 2017, 13:27 UTC. . 20 Jun 2018 <http://pointofviewreviews.com/district-9-an-look-at-humanity/>.
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David Kirkeby, “District 9, a look at what it is to be human.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom, http://pointofviewreviews.com/district-9-an-look-at-humanity/ [accessed June 20, 2018].

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