Editors note: This review is spoiler free!
In 1982, they arrived. The world wondered who, or what, was inside this giant spaceship now hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. When the government of Johannesburg ordered the military to enter the ship, the world found out that what was in this craft was not a “godsend,” but rather sick, disgusting, sleazy aliens. Not soon after that, the South Africans called for these beings to be sectioned off into a slum full of shacks and garbage, known as District 9. Decades later, MultiNational United (MNU) wants to relocate the “prawns” of District 9. They turn to Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copely), a pencil-pushing bureaucrat, to serve the non-humans with the eviction notices. The events that follow change Wikus in every way.
Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut reiterates what “Cloverfield” taught us in 2008, that you don’t need a huge budget to make an exciting, action-packed, science fiction movie. District 9 (which was made with only $30-million) outdoes this years high costing films like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Terminator Salvation” in almost every way possible. It has a stronger script (much of which was improvised), more action, better performances and stunning visual effects.
The film blends professionally shot sci-fi action with a mock-documentary, creating one hell of a ride. And the first 20 minutes of the film are as if you’re watching a History special. District 9 is a great alternative to present day science-fiction flicks, which, for the most part, have slowly moved away from their glorious past.
One thing is for sure, District 9 wasn’t made for the feint of heart. It includes dozens of scenes full of gore, that will surely please the hardcore sci-fi nuts. But if you’re afraid to watch shows like “House” and “ER” because of their up-close shots of blood and needles, don’t see this movie. Otherwise, you’ll be fine.
Unlike some movies, which hide their “second meanings,” District 9 displays its social message through the entire film. It’s well documented that this film is an allegory to the apartheid-era in South Africa, and the xenophobia happening in Africa to this day. Neill Blomkamp told Wired.com,
“It’s not just the whites and blacks, you have coloreds, you have the Nigerians and Zimbabweans coming in as refugees, you have tribal fractions within that. It’s massively broken up and stratified. It’s an incredibly tense environment, so then to add aliens is almost just like one more layer, and they happen to go right in at the bottom.”
Like any good film, though, District 9 has it’s downsides. There are a few spots in the film where I was bored, mainly in the first half-hour. And after a while, the mock-documentary interviews become white noise, and almost annoying. It may have been a bit longer than it needed to be, but the action scenes really helped me forget about that. In the beginning, I thought that Wikus’ accent was going to be a problem, but as the film played out I grew to enjoy it. Overall, the pros outweigh the cons one hundred to one.
This fresh and exciting flick combines stunning visual effects with a fantastic script. District 9 is a mix of action, drama and comedy, it’s a must see for any sci-fi fan and it will be sure to please. I will even go one step further and call it the best movie of the summer, and quite possibly the year. Neill Blomkamp has proven himself as a top-notch director and did so on a low budget, so we’ll all be watching his next move.