DISTRICT 9 showcases (un?)likely hero

district_9_big_gunAs mentioned in my commentary on the Oscars and Cinemagogue’s Top 10 for 2010, the surprising gem District 9 ranked high on the list; although it didn’t make number 1, it DID boast the most unexpected story with the most intriguing character development I’ve seen in film for quite some time. The transformation of Wikus van de Merwe is handled superbly by Sharlto Copley, creating an engrossing protagonist who I loathed in the opening scene, and still didn’t like for over two-thirds of the film.

In the majority of science fiction and genre movies, Act 1 typically chronicles the character’s “awakening”: a physical, emotional and/or spiritual transformation of the character. They realize the world is not as they believed, or perhaps they learn that “with great power comes great responsibility”, etc. Although District 9 deals with racism, xenophobia, social segregation, and more, the most invigorating element for me was that – well into Act 3 – Wikus is still only in the earliest stages of transformation on ALL these levels. I got to expound on this in a 30-minute presentation at a Film & Theology event for Mars Hill, and the recorded review is available.


This narrative peculiarity led me to consider that, although most would refer to Wikus as an “unlikely hero”, I wonder if he’s more of a likely hero than we’d like to admit. The confident, cocksure, transformed savior that often swaggers into Act 2 of blockbuster movies is what we’ve come to expect, but when I look at most people in real life following 74 hours… after their eyes have been opened to a mind-blowing truth… they’re still blissfully ignorant of MOST ramifications, and/or still kicking or screaming about accepting it. It could be, in a world where I believe that there is only ONE true, honest hero and savior, the rest of us participate in a way that looks far more Wikus than Wolverine, much more District 9 than Dark Knight. We’re all scrabbling sinners, scrambling in varied stages of sanctification, looking up in wonder for the return of our own world’s Christopher Johnson, and wondering with mixed hopes and fears regarding what that return is going to look like…

  1. Alex Davidson

    interesting review. this was a movie i didnt enjoy much, but i think you still had some very interesting ideas. i didnt see the connection between the aliens coming back in three years and the coming back of our God. i also found it interesting to think of the alien transformation as a christians transformation. although its much more disgusting.

    good stuff James, keep it coming.

  2. CMrok93

    District 9 has some very obvious plot holes, but is brings up many good points, and will leave you emotionally distraught with enough action to keep you on your seat amazed at how real it looks.

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