DISTRICT 9 is nothing like I expected. Not that I had much to expect, the film had flown under the radar and other than being produced by Peter Jackson the previews were pretty vague. I personally love going into a film knowing as little as possible and the filmmakers definitely achieved that here.
Aliens have inhabited earth for the last 20 years. The ship had mysteriously taken hover mode over Johannesburg, South Africa. When the ship is opened up we find the creatures helpless and dying. Earths humanity sets in and we take them in. Not knowing what do with them, the alien slums of District 9 is created. The people and government get impatient with how to handle them and attempt to relocate. Smart and intuitive but bumbling and careless Wikus Van Der Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley, is appointed the responsibility of this dangerous task. During the evacuation, in an attempt to confiscate weaponry and technology, he is contaminated by a substance, which slowly begins to turn him into one of these creatures. Wikus is forced to hide and team with an alien named Christopher Johnson in order for both of their survivals.
DISTRICT 9 opens up with a documentary style story telling. Presenting all the information through interviews and news coverage. This was a smart choice; not having any major stars and adding a little humorous satire. It also delivered much-needed back-story in a quick fashion and got directly to the story they wanted to tell. The aliens are nicknamed “prawns” which is a derogatory reference to the sea creatures they resemble. I think they resemble a form of cockroach in appearance, which translates to their social behavior and acceptance. This may seem why it is so easy to destroy or exterminate them without remorse.
The special effects were top notch and in my opinion should definitely be recognized during award season. Unlike other effect driven movies, which are so crisp and clean over the top, that you are reminded what you are watching, DISTRICT 9 interacts the CGI with reality seamlessly. It wasn’t until after the film where it occurred to me that a lot of those scenes could not have happened without special effects. The setting is very dark and beat down with a very gritty raw realism, which helps the audience immerse themselves into the film and believe this is a world with aliens cohabiting.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is there really is no hero. Most everyone is bad and the one that emerges is a very unlikely one. Credit to newcomer director, Neil Blomkamp, who along with Terri Tatchell wrote the script, for eventually creating sympathy for the alien race. I found myself rooting in different directions throughout the film.
DISTRICT 9 is far more than a cool sci fi flick. It puts a new spin on a lot of major issues including but not limited to human nature, racism, immigration and politics. It may appear heavy handed and I immediately saw that coming, but when it was all said and done, I was surprised at my own reaction. I think this is a film that will spark discussion and hopefully show different views to whatever your opinion may be about world issues. I truly believe DISTRICT 9 is a film a little ahead of its time and I hope audiences’ get on board.