August 15, 2009
Review - " District 9 " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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the film’s main intention as trying to be a complete message filled commentary - it isn't. This is ultimately a sci-fi action film
that happens to contain genuine well thought-out ideas and a few questions on human nature.
Shot and set in Blomkamp's native South Africa, "District 9" imagines a present-day scenario in which humans and aliens are
forced into an uneasy co-existence and, predictably, bring out the violent worst in each other. As scripted by Blomkamp and
Terri Tatchell, the result represents a remarkably cohesive hybrid of creature feature and satirical mockumentary.
The events of the film takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa where it has been twenty years since a spaceship
miraculously appeared above the city and for some reason has remained immobile there ever since. Once the government
made contact with the ship they discovered millions of starving aliens aboard — who they now refer to as “prawns”— four-
legged insectoid beings that walk upright, secrete black goo and speak in subtitled grunts and gurgles. Soon after they
isolated them into a guarded reservation dubbed 'District 9' , which soon becomes more or less a slum in which the prawns
are subject to dangerous thugs looking to take advantage of and exploit them. The agency who handles these aliens is
named MNU (Multi-National United). After years of rioting and complaints, MNU decides to relocate the prawns further from
the city. Spearheading this operation is Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley). Wikus is a happily married and genuinely
kind, and somewhat dimwitted desk jockey who is given command of the operation. Wilkus, after raiding one of the houses,
becomes infected by an unfamiliar device he discovered and it slowly starts to transform him into an alien. As such Wikus is
soon quarantined and violently experimented on by the MNU. After breaking out of their facilities, his main goal becomes to
find a cure for his infection so he can be reunited with his wife.
In the script's most ingenious gambit, the contaminated Wikus is suddenly coveted by MNU, as well as by a gang of Nigerian
thugs and witch doctors who won't win the filmmakers any prizes for ethnic sensitivity. Forced into hiding, Wikus teams up
with an intelligent, green-skinned prawn, Christopher Johnson (voiced by Jason Cope), and his kid, Little CJ, who's kinda
cute in a hideous sort of way; together, they seek a way to reverse Wikus' alien metamorphosis and help the refugees return
to their planet.
Rather than plunge the viewer immediately into unrelieved carnage and chaos, the film opens on a note of anxious
uncertainty and tense humor as it probes the varying degrees of hostility in human-prawn relations. Though compelling
throughout, "District 9" never becomes outright terrifying, largely because Blomkamp is less interested in exploiting his aliens
for cheap scares than in holding up a mirror to our own bloodthirsty, xenophobic species. It's a film that, to a large degree,
hasn't been seen before. When it does shift into standard movie formula about two-thirds of the way through, you're already
hooked, rooting for Wikus and the prawns, hating the greedy contractors, their gun-happy henchmen and their equally evil
"District 9" is very fast paced and has a constant feeling of immediacy. Blomkamp uses extensive use of the faux
documentary style of filmmaking where mock footage from security tapes and news reports are seamlessly integrated into
the action. The world of the film is further fleshed out due to the amazing visual effects used to so vividly create the aliens,
their spaceship and other pieces of hardware. This is a rare case in modern cinema where the effects actually look real
rather than something designed by committee on a computer during postproduction.
The final key to the why "District 9" works so effectively is that it has been written intelligently. As the lead character, Wikus is
an unlikely hero as he is selfish,
cowardly and prejudiced.
However, he is nevertheless
identifiable and not beyond
redemption. The alien characters
are also rendered as fully fleshed
out characters and Blomkamp
generates an enormous amount
of sympathy for them. There is
nothing clean-cut or contrived in
"District 9" and it doesn't even
resolve traditionally. The lack of
complete closure naturally leaves
open the potential for a sequel
but it also feels true in the sense
of that the racial conflict at the
heart of the film is not something
that can be neatly resolved.
"District 9" is the most original,
innovative and entertaining
science-fiction film in years and
contains the best mix of politics
and spectacle I can recall.
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Louis Minnaar,
Mandla Gaduka, Vanessa Haywood, David
"District 9" is the definition of smart science
fiction. "District 9" is the brainchild of a first-
time director who displays real talent. Neil
Blomkamp (assisted as producer by The
Lord of the Rings‘ mastermind Peter
Jackson) has crafted an astonishing debut.
In many ways this story is an anecdote to
apartheid, but the message is never
pandering nor ineffective. Many will proclaim