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District 9 Review

Neil Blomkamp. That’s a name that you probably can’t spell right but you will most likely hear a lot of. From humble beginnings directing commercials and short films in South Africa, he caught the eye of all around Hobbit lover Peter Jackson and was tied to the ill-fated Halo project for a while. After that fell through, Jackson must’ve planned on helping him realize his most interesting piece “Alive in Joburg” and turned it into a full length feature film. I say that because I just saw it on screen. It’s a rare case when a film delivers on every cinematic front in its own unique way. It’s also a rare case where I use the introduction “it’s a rare case.” Time to pull out all the stops when it comes to talking about an awesome movie. This one is so hot it should be quarantined.

A common sight for the people of District 9.

Imagine you found a lost little alien on your back porch. It was scared, sick and far from home. You nurtured it and cared for it and bonded with it. You shared a heartwarming adventure as you and your friends cleared a troop of squad cars and flew past the silhouette of the moon! Well, that’d be great. That’s not what happened here at all. E.T. got the shit knocked out of him because he wandered into South Africa instead of your little quaint and tranquil suburb. He’s real pissed off and he’ll kick your ass as soon as look at you, and you’re kinda tired of the sight of his ugly face.

Thirty years ago, a race of vastly advanced alien insects arrived on earth, badly damaged and on the brink of death. We were their only hope of survival and we welcomed them in with open arms. Then we got bored of them. Set in the present, the film centers mainly on pencil pushing bureaucrat Wikus van der Merwe as he prepares to go from his “save the nice aliens with hugs and kisses” job to leading the a task force in Operation “kick the smelly ugly aliens out of the slums and into some place where we can watch them take a shower.” He is an employee of Multi-National United (MNU) who up until now has harbored the aliens in District 9, a slum inside of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is given the task of collecting signatures of residing aliens, which is in itself just a cover up for their own bureaucratic off the books dealings.

"What? What do you want? The Good Times marathon is on TV Land. Hurry."

Wilkus is a nice guy and a very likable protagonist. He’s the kindest, friendliest guy I’ve seen in a movie since Forrest Gump or Radio. Seeing as I quoted “those” movies, you can surmise that I don’t really think poor Wilkus is much of a bright guy. Sure he’s smart and all, but he makes some dumb choices. Granted none of them are too far from what you’d expect anyone to make who was charged with getting a bunch of feral, dangerous insectoid creatures to agree to leave the only home they’ve known since landing. First day on the job and Mr. Mewre is finding things are twice as weird as he imagined.

These creatures, ungraciously referred to as “prawns,” manage to carve out a bleak existence in the beleaguered village slum that they inhabit. They are only allowed to breed with special permission by the MNU with their young being aborted in pupa stages, and the best food they seem to have been taking a liking to is cat food. You can see why anyone would be upset. Not mention the Nigerian gangs who had inhabited the region long before they’d arrived. Some of the creatures are even being used for witchcraft in the modern day voodoo rituals. Needless to say good old Wilkus has his work cut out for him.

Wilkus goes from Edward Norton to Brad Pitt in 90mins.

This movie allows Blomkamp’s style to shine brilliantly. We’ve seen shaky camera, documentary style stuff before, but until now I’d never really felt it been used in a non misleading way. In Cloverfield it was used to cheapen the affect of what was going on (and to cheapen the effects budget). But you can hardly tell the difference between this and film with a larger budget. It doesn’t really seem like someone working within boundaries or constraints of their medium. It’s a simple expression of one’s ideas on screen. It shows well through the story, the action, and the execution. In the economic condition we’re in Hollywood needs people who can deliver high quality content under budget, not people who can throw money at a wall and get people to yap at it.

District 9 is  a deep action film with a core political message laced with science fiction elements and coated in believability. It conveys deep emotions that transcend borders and nationalities while still delivering a solid action adventure ride. As the protagonist himself you feel as if you’re an outsider at the beginning but so much more invested by the time the credits roll. I’m very much looking forward to a ‘District 10′ if they ever decide to make one. It seems like one of those movies where you’ve gotten a glimpse at it but haven’t seen the curtains pulled back. The film has been a critically acclaimed success but its performance at the box office isn’t necessarily wowing anyone. I hope that changes as it really is a film that deserves all the best. Needless to say someone should tell Speilberg to put Halo back in Blomkamp’s hands. They had it right the first time.

This is one movie that features a character that's more than meets the eye.
6 comments
Sean Weatherby
Sean Weatherby

District 9 was genuinely original and all around high quality as far as cinematography goes; that new no name lead actor did a great job

Phaethon
Phaethon

They didn't want to bomb anything. If you'd paid attention you would understand that the entire situation was a complete diplomatic nightmare. Hence they didn't just rush in and start rounding up the aliens. Wilkus alluded that the MNU must have understood their dialect due to the fact that he mentioned during a pivotal scene that he felt he must have misunderstood Christopher because something he said didn't make sense. As far as your dislike of documentary style it's a personal preference, but it managed to blend them together more usefully than any previous film I've seen with the technique. Nothing about the story was completely unpredictable, but its execution and believability were superb. A lot of movies have decent stories but either they expand on the boring details or just fall flat in the pacing. This was a movie that excelled at both.

Mike
Mike

Unfortunately I found the movie kinda bad. The way the MNU understands the aliens language (aliens also understand human language) is never explained is I felt that was a bit stupid. You could argue they deciphered it over 20 years though it does not make a lot of sense. Also, the MNU has a lot of stuff around (armored trucks, intel, labs, etc.) but NO FUCKING F-15? I mean they have helicopters to screw around and all it would have taken is ONE f-15 to bring down most of the resistance. I also didn't like the "documentary" style of District 9. This new trend really sucks. I'm one of the few who didn't enjoy Cloverfield and Quanrantine for this reason. Disctrict 9 story didn't surprise me, I saw the events coming pretty easily.

Phaethon
Phaethon

Definitely a movie you'll be glad you went to see. Maybe you can convince everyone on set to play hooky with you :P?

The Pit
The Pit

Great review. I wanna see this, I just can't find an extra 2 hours to actually go see it :-/

deftangel
deftangel

Review fail. You didn't give us a synopsis of what happened in the first 8 films :P On a more serious note, I thought the shorts that Neil made for Halo 3 were excellent, much to the chagrin of many Halo fans who didn't like them. Just because the world Bungie originally painted is pretty and colourful does not mean someone else can't take a darker more saturated aesthetic and make it work.