Anthony's Film Review
District 9 (2009)
An engrossing science-fiction movie with a refreshingly original premise...
District 9 is one of those movies that I saw with little knowledge of what it's about. The only things I noticed before seeing the movie were the various advertisements designed like anti-alien warning signs and a picture of a spaceship in the sky. They certainly caught my attention and made me curious. Later, I learned one very interesting fact. This is a film made in the country of South Africa, which is quite refreshing considering how many works of cinematic sci-fi seem to come out of the United States or the United Kingdom. All of this was enough for me to check out District 9.
If you are a bit curious about the premise, here's the setup. Twenty years ago, an alien ship descended towards Johannesberg, South Africa. The ship has since hovered silently over the city with no signs of activity. One day, an expedition team flies up to the spaceship, enters it, and finds a crowd of crustacean-like alien creatures that appear malnourished. As a humanitarian effort, these aliens, whom the humans call "prawns," are brought down to the ground and gathered in a camp below the ship. This refugee camp gradually evolves into a compound guarded by the military. Today, this slum colony, called District 9, is a nuisance to the humans living nearby.
The story from beginning to end is told in the style of a fictional documentary. There are shots of various people, such as a sociology professor, talking about these aliens. The main character is Wikus Van De Merwe (played by newcomer actor Sharlto Copley), an alien affairs agent for a firm called Multinational United (MNU). As the movie begins, we see footage of MNU officials handing out eviction notices to the prawns in District 9 in order to move the colony to another location. Sadly, there is some hostile treatment of the prawns, an allusion to white people mistreating black people during the era of Apartheid. In many ways, District 9 is a new Apartheid with black and white people prejudiced against extraterrestrials.
After this interesting sequence, the rest of the movie becomes a fast-paced suspense thriller. Wikus soon finds himself an ally for the prawns, which makes him a fugitive in the eyes of his own race. This is accompanied by some explosive and bloody action scenes, all of which I found thrilling. Although I liked this part of the movie as much as the beginning, it felt like I was watching two different movies. If it were up to me, I would keep the plot as is but add more emphasis on character development and the themes of prejudice and the like. As for the ending, there isn't full closure, but I didn't have too much of a problem with it.
Nevertheless, District 9 is quite enjoyable for what it is. I especially like how it's a departure from what I usually see in science-fiction movies. Instead of aliens invading an American city, we have aliens being the victims of human cruelty in Africa. First-time writer and director Neill Blomkamp deserves credit for providing a new take on the alien invasion story. It's no wonder that Peter Jackson, who directed the brilliant live-action Lord of the Rings trilogy and the 2005 remake of King Kong, appears in the opening credits as presenter and is one of the producers of District 9. It's a notable endorsement and one that reminds us how creativity and originality can truly capture an audience.
For more information about District 9, visit the Internet Movie Database.