District 9

Posted: August 19, 2009 in Threat Quality

District 9District 9 is pretty rad, but you definitely don’t need me to tell you that.  Strong direction and performances, really spectacular visual effects, interesting social commentary.  The script’s a little weak in places, but this is a comparative measure; every moment of the script is superior to G. I. Joe, for instance; it’s just not as strong as all the other stuff in the picture.

So, I’m not going to review the movie; there are plenty of reviews available, and I doubt I’d say anything they won’t.  Instead, I’m going to engage in one of my favorite activities, for which I’m not sure there’s a word.  Geek-hypothesizing?  It’s when, as a nerd, you sit down and analyze a movie in order to extrapolate a consistent set of rules for the universe depicted therein.

SPOILERS FOLLOW, obviously.

Okay, so, what the hell happened here?  The alien ship comes to earth, a control module detaches, and suddenly the aliens can’t fly their ship anymore, they can’t explain how to turn the ship on, they can’t find their control module.  How did this occur?

In the first place, we have to posit that the prawns are a caste-species, like insects (one of the documentary experts mentions something like this).  The regular prawns probably have no idea how to operate any of their equipment beyond pointing and shooting their insane lightning guns.  They lack anything that resembles organization, because they have no internal direction, and they’re all malnourished, which is why they don’t just up and blast their way out of the District 9 slum (or, alternately, eat their way out.  Those prawns were fucking serious.)

What must have happened is that something went wrong on the ship (maybe there was an infection scare, or something, I don’t know); the prawns engaged in evavise action and jettisoned all of the thinker-caste prawns in the escape pod.  The pod crashed, everyone except for the smart prawn we see in the movie (I think his name is Christopher?) dies.  Christopher is very young, he can’t fly the pod back up himself, or explain what’s going on, or prevent the ghettoization of the rest of his species.

Importantly, the goop that he needs to power the command module is lost.  There is a leak, maybe, or else it was corrupted somehow–possibly by the same contaminant that the prawns had been trying to protect it from.

The goop is important.  What is that shit?  Obviously, it’s something organic.  The experts in the documentary describe the prawn weapons as being “organically derived,” suggesting an evolution of their insane weaponry up from personally, biologically produced instruments.  That is, the prawn extrude the substance, which is then made into more and more advanced weapons, in a munitions paradigm completely different from humanity’s.

(So, why can’t the prawns just make more themselves?  Well, who fucking knows.  Maybe this was a feature that predates the caste system, and as the prawns specialized, the goo-producers were separated out from the thinkers and the workers.  Queens making royal jelly, right?  Maybe the queen from the mothership is dead.  Maybe they’ve only got one queen available on the planet, and she spends all her time extruding goop.)

Now, the goop presents itself as a kind of biological-mechanical interface.  If the weapons and equipment started out as organic “add-ons” to the prawns’ biology, add-ons which got more and more complicated and mechanical, the goop would be a necessary facilitating agent between the prawn and the device.  Like any similar interface, it burns up the more you use it (potentially even more than our regular mechanical interfaces), and the more things you need to do with it, the faster it burns.  When Christopher is originally helping Wikus, he may think that he has enough of the remaining bio-interface to help the man and eventually get back to Yuggoth or wherever the fuck they’re from–but when he discovers he has to travel quickly, he realizes that he’ll need to engage a large number of supplementary processes to ensure success, and he won’t be able to use up the goop.

Okay, but the goop I think is really interesting for this reason:  when Wikus is exposed to it, he turns (eventually) into a prawn.  A prawn that is basically indistinguishable from any of the other prawns.  So what is the goop?  Obviously, an aggressive bio-agent, probably a slime-mould or something–fluid, but with an internal structure that allows for cross communication.  But it’s also capable of infecting across species lines (tacitly supporting an interstellar panspermia theory)–meaning that there’s no reason to assume that the prawns, as we know them, were the species that produced the goop.  Rather, the goop is an infectious agent that produced the prawns.

It is actually the goop that is the alien in District 9, while the prawns themselves are a byproduct of its infection–presumably from the planet that the goop first evolved on.

I guess I was only half-joking earlier, when I suggested that the prawns were from Yuggoth.  Insectoid aliens that are really the product of an aggressive fungus is familiar.

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Comments
  1. RixiM MixiR says:

    yep. I was thinking about this too… The goop is not only bio-active and mechanical it also works on DNA at the genomic level. It also doesn’t seem to have much of a will or an ability to think. It seems more plausible to me that there was some “third’ species that created/evolved into the prawn/goop/all of their machines triumvirate. Also, it’s worth mentioning that it looks like they are collecting the goop from weapons. which have very little of it. Also Wikus was sprayed with very little of it. (I think the colors of the different prawn had some meaning but maybe they weren’t entirely consistent with it. Wikus ends up the same color as Christopher.) The goop didn’t power the ship and it needed to be extracted from found objects. It seems as the goop functions primarily as a control interface. Or maybe it identifies one as a member of that vessel’s crew. Maybe, the only reason Wikus was changed by it was so he could interact with the ship/crew. either way when I watched the movie i felt as though the goop was engineered not evolved. (Maybe the goop also allowed Christopher to co-op human electronics!)

  2. Sam says:

    The director has his answer to the question of why Christopher was so different near the end of this interview. It’s actually pretty much what I figured while watching it.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/district-9-director-neill-blomkamp,31606/

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    Dang, I saw the sci-fi movie that had clones, not aliens.

    Coming soon: A review of “Moon”!

  4. Hsiang says:

    Clones?! Piffle, seen one ya’ seen ’em all.

  5. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Hahaha…very nice, Hsiang…

  6. […] now I understand Chris’s post from August. And, now that I think of it, yeah, I’m with him. This was…ah, shit, […]

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