I love stories that take real people and put them in impossible, outlandish situations. Basically, if you’re going to make things up, you might as well really go to town on it … but the story still needs to be populated by characters that feel, well, real. This is why I like Battlestar Galactica - and it’s why I like District 9, which I’ve just seen.
Apart from being visually stunning (albeit a tad too gory for my taste, but that’s easily overlooked) and having a heart-wrenching central theme of xenophobia, corrupt bureaucracy and greed, the movie really touched me simply because the main character Wikus is such an unlikely hero.
Yeah I know, we’ve seen that before. Since Tolkien did it everyone has to. But most Unlikely Hero-type characters are easily identified as heroes early on. I didn’t get that feeling from Wikus. In the beginning of the film he struck me as a bumbling fool at best, and a fairly unpleasant xenophobic bureaucrat at worst. A human like the rest of us, very sweet on his gorgeous wife, and generally nothing special. Then the script forces him through unimaginable circumstances to become a hero.
And that transformation took plenty of time and a lot of failures on the way. Right up until the very end he was driven by his own natural desire to solve his own problems before anyone else’s. He didn’t magically turn into a champion of good halfway through the film as is usually the case. On top of that, it’s not even clear that he IS a hero - it really depends on which perspective you choose.
So, all in all, District 9 proved to be a marvellously entertaining sci-fi flick which - unusually - actually managed to touch me deeply and get me thinking about a lot of stuff.