1 hour, 52 minutes
See It, Take a Friend, Buy the DVD!
In this altered version of reality, a huge alien ship entered Earth's atmosphere and came to a hovering halt above the city of Johannesburg about twenty years ago. With the aliens having made no contact after several months, the military cut their way into the ship, discovering nearly a million bug-like aliens sick with starvation. The aliens were evacuated to a quarantine area to treat any possible sickness. Over the years this area, District 9, evolved into a slum and the aliens, derogatorily referred to as "prawns," outgrew their welcome.
The government with the help of a private company, Multi-National United (MNU), have decided to relocate the aliens to District 10, an area far away from the city limits. Energetic field agent Wickus Van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) has been promoted to the high profile position of leader of the extraterrestrial eviction force. During his first day, Wickus uncovers a bit of alien technology that lands him in the secret research labs of MNU. Panicked and alone, Wickus must rely on the alien "Christopher Johnson" to help him out of his predicament.
Have you heard how awesome District 9 is? If you haven't, you're hearing it now. Well, it is awesome from an audience perspective. From an alien perspective, the actual District 9 is shit. It's a junkyard of ramshackle homes. Aliens sift through garbage and attack humans for food, goods and money, which they trade on a human-run black market for weapons and cans of Pudi (a high-inducing cat food). Though the humans' actions created the district, it's the humans who want this blight removed. On this level, District 9 is a dismal and disturbing commentary on social behavior. The story creates a general unease about the blatant mistreatment and biggotry of the aliens.
The technical aspects are interesting. Writer-director Neil Blomkamp tells the stories of the aliens and Wickus's dilemma in a documentary style. Interviews with coworkers and friends of Wickus, newsreels, captured video footage and random security camera clips comprise much of the first-act exposition. This transitions to traditional storytelling as Wickus and Christopher fight to satisfy both their goals.
Blomkamp and first-time writer Terri Tatchell leave the explanations sparse. There is no explanation (as far as I could tell) as to how the humans and aliens communicate though neither speaks the other's language. Given this mockumentary assumes the audience is part of this alternate reality, such an explanation would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, the creators don't always stick to that decision and overexplain in some areas.
The actors must have worked for peanuts because it had to take the bulk of the $30 million budget to make the aliens look so freaking awesome! The attention to detail; the way they moved and reacted was jaw-dropping. The alien weaponry kicked ass. Watching humans explode like overripe melons is not for weak stomachs. My favorite part was watching a pig used as a projectile to disable the enemy. Seriously badass.
The Money Shot
Watching District 9, I couldn't help but think back to my formative film years watching futuristic tales like Robocop, Total Recall and Alien Nation. Aside from being awesome sci-fi action films, there was a concerted effort by the writers to craft a believable, albeit bleak, look at the future from a sociological perspective. Peering through that looking glass wasn't pretty, and neither is humanity's reflection in District 9. Like those films, there may be some dubious details, but the compelling story and unforgiving action will generate enough fuel to drive a franchise for years.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009