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District 9 (2009)


Alien Nation without the condom heads
Alien Nation without the condom heads

Genre: Sci-Fi Action (South Africa, New Zealand)

Starring: Sharlto Copley

Directed By: Neill Blomkamp (Alive in Joburg)

Overview: Almost two decades ago, an alien mothership descended over South Africa. Instead of glorious first contact with a technologically superior race, humans discovered malnourished refugees who needed a place to stay. District 9 is now a dangerous ghetto slum that houses these near two million aliens.

Today they are getting their eviction notice.

So here I am sitting in front of my TV, minding my own business when I see this trailer for a film called District 9. Half way through I asked myself two questions:

1.) Did someone steal Neill Blomkamp's amazingly poignant short film Alive in Joburg?

2.) Is it actually possible that the message in that short film was kept in the full length feature, or better yet, directed by the same man?

Imagine my relief when I learned that the director of District 9 was none other than the very same Neill Blomkamp, and to top it off, produced by Peter Jackson. I knew to expect a sure blockbuster, and set up my starter's block, poised for opening night.

What District 9 isn't, sadly, is Alive in Joburg. That short film was shot in a documentary style, one that showed how an alien race was (barely) surviving in a South African ghetto. Political problems were never discussed per se, though it is painfully obvious that the problem facing this race is intrinsically political. Alive in Joburg has a perfectly implied back-story of insurmountable poverty, but it also strays from the social commentary with beautiful special effects of aliens in their power suits and the havoc they wreak, which enhances the experience and complexity of the refugee situation all the more. Indeed District 9 is not Alive in Joburg, and although it is more formulaic than an open-ended investigative report that can't offer solutions to the problems documented, we do have a powerhouse of a feature.

What District 9 isn't, luckily, is Alien Nation. You won't see 80s-calibre anti-communist xenophobia allegories in a buddy cop movie, though the themes of apartheid, racism and 'value of life on a sliding scale' are primary.

What District 9 is, happily, is a film with enough commentary behind the impressive special effects to keep all fans entertained, whether philosophers or thrill-seekers. Those special effects are seamless and the originality of the technology the alien 'Prawns' use is absolutely stunning.  What District 9 lacks in in-depth political inquiry and other meta/big-picture plots, it more than makes up in creating a thrilling story of survival in a perfectly original setting. What makes District 9 so impressive is how believable the alien 'Prawns' situation is, while still having enough out-there twists to keep up the adrenaline.

"So why are holding me? And what's with all the melted butter?"
"So why are holding me? And what's with all the melted butter?"

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 84% (Don't Deny Yourself Access)

Look at that, already #26 on IMDb's top 250, as well as #1 at the box office this week. yeah. District 9's not going to be one of the summer's forgettable, not by a long shot.

 Haven't seen Alive In Joburg yet? It's 6 minutes, seriously. Check it out.




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So happy you gave this a positive review. I also saw Alive in Joburg a few years ago and was so excited when I saw District 9 was being made. Still haven't gone to the theatre, but I'll definitely go, especially now that it's squish-approved.

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