Upon the recent news that Neill Blomkamp will be directing the next film in the Alien franchise, I decided to check out his highly acclaimed début feature, District 9 (dir. Blomkamp, 2009). Based on the short film Alive in Joburg (dir. Blomkamp, 2006), its opening is shot in a similar documentary style. It then descends into a derivative and vulgar body-horror, followed by an overlong computer game shoot-em-up, featuring an extremely unlikeable and selfish protagonist, who at the conclusion, we’re supposed to feel sorry for (I think) because he makes flowers out of junk for his unlikeable wife.
The much praised allusions to the apartheid are actually quite exploitative, seeing that the (again derivative) plot about an evil corporation wanting to exploit a minority for militaristic benefit has very little to do with apartheid, and that the overall animalistic depiction of the prawns, the violent voodoo practising Nigerians, and Thomas – the big silent black guy who takes orders from the white man with a subservient, “yes, boss” – are actually incredibly racist.
Alive in Joburg is actually a far superior film, but even that contains pointless filler included purely to show off special effects. Its aliens are presented as civilised and able to capably communicate their ‘rightful’ grievances, and many of the racist statements about the aliens are taken from actual interviews with real Johannesburg residents, in which they’d been asked about Zimbabwean refugees. The interviews in District 9 are all staged, so they lack the satirical bite. Alive in Joburg is approximately six minutes long; District 9 fails to justify exceeding its forebear’s minimal running time.
More Neill Blomkamp!