I finally saw District 9 over the weekend. I enjoyed it immensely and I think I was well timed in seeing it right after Avatar. After all, they both cover similar themes (humans disregard for “others”, corporate greed, and the inherent corruption of a private military) but they couldn’t be more different in their approaches. In the end, I think District 9 is the movie I’ll be watching more in the future. There are a few reasons for it:
1. The Prawns are more interesting than the Navi. Now, granted, they’re physically repulsive but that’s the point. By not being idealized beings, you share some of the feelings of the humans in the movie. While the Navi are pure and right in everything they do, the Prawns are more believable as a race.
2. Let’s hear it for a non-clichéd, interesting main character. Wikus is a half wit “yes man” who doesn’t think much beyond what he’s told to do until he’s contaminated. In the last act of the film, he finds his backbone and humanity in a realistic, unforced way. His “going native” is unwanted and creates tension in the story, as opposed to becoming a perfect blue warrior.
3. The politics feel more genuine. District 9 is set in South Africa and deals with the very issues that inform life there. It’s ideas are natural outgrowths of real situations. Avatar has an environmentalist/pacifist political bent which gets thrown aside the second it’s time to go to war. I don’t know that either film presents a deep exploration of the origins of corporate greed, but District 9 personalizes the message better through Wikus’ own father in law being the face of it.
I’m a fan of both large, well done blockbusters and “little films that could.” Both films are masterfully told, as I mentioned about Avatar in my last post. Both directors know how to weave tense sequences that manage to surprise you. But only one of the films has a script with originality and a strong sense of character. That’s why I think District 9 will probably be the better regarded film twenty years from now.