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DVD Shopping Bag: District 9 Blu-ray
Why District 9 worked on so many levels
By Robert T. Trate
December 21, 2009
© Sony Pictures/Bob Trate
The summer might have started with a bang with the revamped, more accessible Star Trek but all true Maniacs know that the best movie of the summer landed on August 14th. August is a tricky month and one that usually harbors Hollywood’s failures. On occasion there is surprise or two and this year Hollywood gave us District 9 (and Inglourious Basterds see column). It is probably best to use the term Hollywood lightly considering Hollywood did nothing for this movie. A guy called Peter Jackson had every intention of making a movie based on the popular video game Halo. Neill Blomkamp was his chosen director but the project fell through. Jackson decided to give Blomkamp 30 million dollars and make what ever film he wanted. What? Who does that? Certainly not Hollywood. After watching District 9 for the second time on Blu-ray, old PJ certainly knew what he was doing.
I had the chance to watch District 9 in the theater with a big crowd that was clearly there for the film. It was also incredibly relaxing to just watch the film with out having to analyze and dissect it, a rare treat for this film critic. Now comes that time where I dissect it like an M.N.U. research scientist. Initially I thought District 9 was just a great allegory for Apartheid. Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell’s screenplay was in the same vein as many of the Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek TV scripts. They were getting a broader audience to see the problems with the world under the guise of a science fiction movie. Is Apartheid a part of my everyday life? No. Did I have an understanding of it before I saw District 9? No. Now I can see just a glimpse of the problems the South Africans had as the prawns and humans represent the two different societies. However District 9 is more than just that lesson wrapped in spaceships, aliens and cool ray guns.
District 9 is also a mystery on several levels. Who are the prawns? Where do they come from? What has their presence done to the world? All of these things keep the audience hooked for the duration of the film. All fans of science fiction love to see how writers and directors interpret our world’s first contact. Though outside of the science fiction fan base many movie goers will flock to this premise as well. Another mystery that is incredibly appealing is what is actually happening to Wikus (Sharlto Copley). Many people won’t admit to this but who doesn’t love to watch a car crash? Here we see Wikus change throughout the film and it only gets more gruesome as it goes on. Sure it is creepy and weird but we want to see what happens regardless of the outcome all the way to the end.
This is also a chase movie. There are two deadlines that have to be met. Each are unobtainable but both must be sought after. Once Wikus learns that Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope) can cure him, Wikus is willing to help him in trade for the cure. Christopher clearly has a bigger race against time as his people are all suffering under the humans. Wikus’ is more immediate and on the surface yet somewhere these two very different men must find some common ground and work together to save on another. This evokes yet another aspect to District 9, probably the most unexpected one, the buddy flick. No one would have thought that Wikus and Christopher would have made such a likely dynamic duo. It is an uneasy understanding and not without its flaws but in the end Sharlto Copley’s performance makes you believe in the remorse he has for this computer generated bug.
There is this old adage in Hollywood, the place where this movie was clearly not made, that you have to have a love story for the ladies in the audience. More often than not this leads to disaster. Look at Superman Returns. Clearly Superman reuniting with Lois Lane and discovering he has a son could have been missed for a more thrilling story involving a real threat to the world, say Brainiac? District 9 supplies this love story for the ladies and makes it the very heart of what Wikus is fighting for, his marriage to Tania (Vanessa Haywood). There are no big plans discussed just getting back to one another’s arms. She wants this as much as Wikus, they want nothing more than to feel safe. Without a doubt they completely win you over with the other love story in the film too, Christopher’s love for his son. After all hope is lost to return home, Christopher tells his son of their new home in District 10 and shows him the pamphlet. We all know it is nothing more than a concentration camp but his love says that everything will be okay as long as we are together. Just like Wikus and Tania.
One has to wonder; as good as this movie was what would have the failed Halo movie been like under Blomkamp’s direction? Amazingly enough, or perhaps not, a failed video game movie got a director and producer out of Hollywood to tell a very deep and meaningful story. If you look deeper into District 9, as I have just done, you’ll see how exactly how many layers there truly are. In the trailer a voice says “There are a lot of secrets in District 9”. Perhaps Hollywood should pay attention. One of those secrets is how to make a good movie.
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
Baian the Assassin: Complete (4pc) (Sub) ~ Ken Watanabe
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt [Blu-ray] ~ Michael Douglas, Jesse Metcalfe, Amber Tamblyn, and Dave Jensen
Captive ~ Catherine Colvey, Erika Eleniak, and Michael Ironside
Finding Providence ~ Jayson Argento, Eric Ronis, and Logan Howe
Flowers in the Attic ~ Jeb Stuart Adams, Marshall Colt, Nathan Davis, and Louise Fletcher
Loser ~ Peta Wilson, Jonathan Chaus, Kirk Harris, and Jack Rubio
No Right Turn ~ Sira Stampe, Laura Bach, Tao Hildebrand, and Lars Lippert
Staten Island ~ Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Seymour Cassel, and Julianne Nicholson
Staten Island [Blu-ray]
Torso ~ Brenda Fricker, Victor Garber, Kathleen Robertson, and Callum Keith Rennie
Ah My Buddha Volume 6 (Ws Dub Sub) ~ Chihiro Suzuki
Gakuen Heaven: Complete (4pc) (Ws Dub Sub) ~ Jun Fukuyama
Guyver: The Complete Series (Viridian Collection) ~ Andrew Love
Ichi [Blu-ray] ~ Takao Osawa, Shido Nakamura, and Haruka Ayase
ICHI: The Movie
Spice and Wolf: Season One ~ Jamie Marchi, Brina Palencia, and J. Michael Tatum
Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side ~ Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, and Mila Kunis
Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side [Blu-ray]
Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Darkside/Blue Harvest
COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style
All About Steve [Blu-ray] ~ Sandra Bullock
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love ~ Dustin Diamond, C. Thomas Howell, Christopher Knight, and Tim Matheson
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love [Blu-ray]
(500) Days of Summer ~ Zooey Deschanel
(500) Days of Summer [Blu-ray] with Digital Copy
Extract ~ Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Beth Grant, and Jenny O'Hara
A Four Course Meal ~ Haley Ramm, Laura Bailey, Ilram Choi, and Grant James
The Devil's Music ~ Victoria Hopkins, James Fisher, and Jess-Luisa Flynn
Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theatre: Complete (3pc) ~ Hidetoshi Nishijima
Shattered Lives ~ Skyler Caleb
SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY
District 9 [Blu-ray] ~ Norman Anstey, Anthony Bishop, Anthony Fridjhon, and William Allen Young
District 9 (Single-Disc Edition)
District 9 (Two-Disc Edition)
District 9 [UMD for PSP]
Ghost Machine ~ Luke Ford, Sean Faris, and Rachel Taylor
Maid-Droid ~ Akiho Yoshizawa, Anri Suzuki, and Masayoshi Nogami
The Philadelphia Experiment ~ Nancy Allen, Vaughn Armstrong, Ed Bakey, and Jay Bernard
Kyle XY: The Complete Third And Final Season ~ Matt Dallas, Bruce Thomas, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, and Chris Olivero
Taxi: The Final Season ~ Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, and Tony Danza
Taxi: The Complete Series ~ Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, and Tony Danza
Audrey Hepburn Couture Muse Collection ~ Audrey Hepburn
I hope you get everything you want on your wish list for the holidays. Personally I cannot wait for Moon and Kingdom of the Spiders coming in January! Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Robert also participates in a pod cast that reviews movies, comics and celebrates all things geek. Check it out at You’ve Got Geek on You.com.