Film Review: District 9

District 9 is darkhorse of this year  summer’s movies, an unknown director to many people but thanks to a fantastically written and directed movie which is an entertaining and gripping step up Neil Blomkamp to the bigger picture.

District 9 starts of as a documentary/travelogue style with a number of people explaining how/or there the version of how an Alien mothership suddenly appeared over Johannesburg and stalled, not over Manhattan/NYC but Joburg. That happened 20 years previous and through the serious of interviews, excellently constructed news clips (built around real news clips), interviews and of the travelogue of Wikus Van Der Merwe (Sharlto copley) a trainspotter-esque son-in-law of MNU Boss. The Story follows Wikus into the walled off District 9 Ghetto as he’s hired  by the evil mega corporate MNU to relocate the 1.8 million ‘Prawns’ (the nickname given to the aliens due to their crustacean-like appearance) by force with eviction notices and collecting signatures.

The Prawns new location is to be District 10 and during a search of one the prawn’s shacks he comes across some alien object and becomes affected and it just goes all down hill for Wikus, who now must turn for help from the aliens he is evicting and helps from one alien and his son Christopher Johnson.

This a fantastic movie that has lived up to I would say 99% the perfect science fiction movie, that 1% is that feeling you know it isn’t totally perfect but you don’t know why. What makes this  a great movie was first off  all the script which touched on some sensitive subjects to South Africa  such as Racism, segregation and Apartheid. Blomkamp delivered a gritty, grubby realist piece of moviemaking with a mixture of comedy from Copley who in the start of the movie delivers a David Brent from the office comedy performance (at times waiting for copley to belt out “Do you really Wanna See it?” and do a funny dance) molding into a second half into a more serious performance that you actually feel sorry for him. He is also backed up with a good support from David James as the nasty couldn’t give a shit about the prawn’s soldier you could see in a previous life he would have been one of the white supremacist soldiers during the human bad days of south Africa and apartheid.

So we know there’s a great lead character, a excellent script full of realism of what real south Africa used to be like through the eyes of the aliens and the first half of the movie builds the momentum for the second introducing the characters that transit’s perfectly into thrilling and exciting action packed 2nd half.  Bring in Peter Jackson and his magical WETA special effects team who show in spectacular fashion the real reason why MNU want, the aliens weapons and they do one hell of the job-making then genuinely scary and realistic. Weta also does a real good professional job in making the actual aliens looking very convincing and at a time you ask yourself are the prawn’s people in big rubber suits or brilliant CGI.

The movie  is helped a lot with Peter Jackson’s involvement as the producer and it’s obvious Jackson knew the talent Blomkamp possess and was so eager to do something original and fresh like D-9 after the collapse of Halo movie. It also helped to get the movie a lot more promotion and coverage and with the man who brought Lord of the rings to the big screen it was a big plus.

In District 9 you do see a few influences of other movie creeping into the movie including a few of Jackson’s old cult movies like Bad Taste, Braindead which brought the gore into action, There’s also a little Alien Nation when the aliens in that movie where obsessed with milk, in D-9 its cat food, then there’s the big armoured robot which is straight out of Robocop.

Blomkamp handles the aliens well by not portraying the aliens as nice peoples who late reveal themselves as something invading and evil. He also doesn’t give much away as in why the aliens are here in the first place and why Johannesburg, giving little flashes into the aliens life and how they’ve been simply persecuted since day one. When you see a human team going into the mothership and finding all the aliens either dead, sick or poorly you wonder is the ship a slave ship, reminiscent of the old slave master ships of America. He has left the door open for a possible sequel and District 10.

District 9 is the stepping stone for Neil Blomkamp into bigger things and with a little help from Jackson he has taken those first glorious steps. The movie is an intriguing, inventive original piece of work that its radical in the sense its shows as the social documentary but also a comedy and an all round exciting action movie with a fresh approach on aliens coming to earth. No longer will Neil Blomkamp be remembered as the director of the robot dancing fiat car advert director but the director that brought us one of the best science -fiction movies in a very, very, very long time.

★★★★ |Paul Devine

Sci-fi, Action, Thriller | South Africa, 2009 |15 | 4th September 2009 (UK)| Sony Entertaintment | Dir:Neil Blomkamp |Sharlto Copely, Jason Cope, William Allen Young,

Originally posted at The Peoples Movies | 17th September 2009

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