REVIEW: ‘District 9’

Director:
Neill Blomkamp
Cast:
Sharlto Copley
Jason Cope
Nathalie Boltt
Sylvaine Strike
Rated: R

A new director on the scene might have just delivered the best movie of the summer.

Neill Blomkamp’s film begins 28 years after a large alien ship came to Earth in an alternate reality, eventually settling over Johannesburg, South Africa. Eventually, humans went inside and discovered aliens, which they called Prawns living there. As a response, a corporation called Multi National United set up a relief camp for the prawns, but it eventually went into bad shape, becoming more of a slum.

The film picks up with a relocation effort by MNU to move the Prawns to a worse camp. One of the teams sent to do this is led by Wikus Van De Merwe (Copley), an MNU worker. However, while working in the area, he is sprayed with a substance that begins to change his DNA, making him very valuable to MNU for his new ability to use alien tech.

“District 9” is a brilliantly told sci-fi film, first starting in a mockumentary format and then evolving into a more traditional film style. This allows for the movie’s backstory to be told in a coherent, interesting manner without feeling like simple exposition or relying on generic tropes like scrolling text.

As the film goes on, the movie transitions from being a mockumentary about this alternate Earth and becomes a very emotional, human story as Wikus is left to go on the run from MNU. This transition is handled very smoothly, and doesn’t feel jarring at all, since the documentary-style elements are still placed here and there.

What the film does best, though, is build Wikus’, and the audience’s, sympathy for the Prawn aliens. At first, the film introduces them as being an uncivilized race, but this changes as the movie goes on, creating an emotional core for the film’s climax.

Speaking of which, the movie’s grand finale features some of the best action in a while. The special effects, all done with a relatively small budget, look really good, especially the designs of the alien technology used. The movie’s action scenes are wonderfully intense and can keep a person on the edge of their seat.

Another positive aspect to “District 9” was the character Wikus, who goes through many changes as the movie goes along, since he doesn’t know where to fully put his allegience and he is ripped away from his comfortable life. For this reason, his character arc is interesting and compelling to watch. Helping this be possible was Copley’s performance, since he brought the perfect level of tragedy and frustration that his character was going through.

Another fantastic character in the picture was Christopher Johnson, a Prawn that Wikus meets in the movie. Christopher is a CGI creation and doesn’t have doesn’t speak any language. However, his communications and the animations of his facial expressions perfectly capture his very real emotions.

Like any good sci-fi, “District 9” also explores real world dilemmas. In this movie, the main conflict is very much a representation of racism, and to a larger extent Apartheid.

Because of this angle, as well as strong characters, a compelling story and wildly exciting action, “District 9” earns a 5 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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