District 9 tells the story about an extraterrestrial race whose ship came to settle over Johannesburg, South Africa 28 years ago. The worker class aliens on the ship are malnourished, weak, and are forced to live in a slum like, gang ridden area called District 9. Strict rules about where aliens are allowed and do are in place due to the xenophobia of the Johannesburg populace. After 20 years of the aliens presence the locals have grown tired of the aliens actions, behavior, and cost of keeping them around.
Enter Multi-National United (MNU) the world’s largest weapons manufacturer. With the aid of private military contractors MNU makes a push into District 9. They do so to serve eviction notice to the prawns, a derogatory term given to the aliens as they are viewed as bottom feeders, thus relocating the aliens further away from the city’s center. MNU’s true intention is to adapt the aliens weapon technology as their own, thus ensuring their competitive future as the worlds top weapons supplier. The aliens soon find an unlikely, unwilling and unwitting ally who learns that some of the aliens want many of the same things they want, to live in peace and return home to those they love.
District 9 is the first feature length film from writer and director Neil Blomkamp. Based on elements of his short film ‘Alive in Joburg’. Blomkamp was given the opportunity to write and direct District 9 after development on a film adaptation of the popular video game franchise Halo were put on hold. Oscar winning director Peter Jackson whom brought Blomkamp on board Halo’s production felt that Neil showed lots of potential and wanted to give him the chance to direct a feature length film and produces.
District 9’s stars are names that American audiences will not find familiar. Every one involved gives a solid believable performance. The mix of prosthetics and motion capture computer generated aliens is handled well by Jackson’s Weta studios. It never looks cheesy or fake. I was especially impressed with the amount of emotion they were able to convey with the aliens body language and their eyes.
Stylistically, the film uses a couple of different styles relying most heavily on a first person documentary style interspersed with archival and live news footage in the early goings. As the film gets going into the second act it uses a more traditional narrative style.
It’s difficult to discuss District 9 without giving away too much about it. That’s not to say that there’s a major twist, but it’s one of those rare films that hasn’t given away it’s best material in the promotional content and is best discovered going into it with less knowledge rather than more, which is difficult in the modern spoiler filled internet age.
This is one of two, the excellent ‘Moon,’ being the other, intelligent Sci-Fi films that makes you think in a summer filled with dumbed down fare. District 9 is easily one of few original standout films to be released during the lackluster summer of 2009. It’s a stunning and auspicious debut from young director and writer Neil Blomkamp (29). I am excited to see what he does next.
In a summer dominated by toys (Transformers 2, G.I. Joe), comics (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and needless sequels (Terminator Salvation) District 9 is a breath of fresh air. If you have grown tired of the common summer theater fair, this should be at the top of your list as you head to the multiplex for one last escape from the summer heat.
I give District 9 4 cans of cat food out of 5
Written by John Coovert