District 9 – Movie Review
After years of watching the usual dross pass for entertainment at the movies, I had all but given up hope that something interesting, challenging and downright brilliant in relation to science fiction would appear on the silver screen. District 9 has given me renewed faith that smart science fiction movies can still exist.
Neill Blomkamp was originally pegged to direct the Halo movie, based on the popular Xbox videogame franchise, but that movie never happened. What did happen, however, was Blomkamp working alongside LOTR trilogy producer/director Peter Jackson.
Blomkamp pitched the District 9 idea to Jackson and Jackson loved it. And I’m so delighted as a reviewer, a science-fiction fan and a movie goer that he did because it meant that we got to see a powerful and visually beautiful movie that points directly at the darkness inside humans and their inability, at times, to see the bigger picture.
The directing style is a mix-mash of footage taken from stationary CCTV cameras and news helicopter cams coupled with normal movie-style shots, creating a bouncing hybird of ultra-realness combined with staged movie shots.
What does District 9 do to envelop you into the story? The key point of a good science fiction story is to draw you into a scenario, keep you there and make you suddenly realise that this is entirely plausible – that this could actually happen and then, fuck, what if this did happen.
District 9 opens with news footage of a giant spaceship coming to Earth and parking itself, not over New York or London but slap bang above the middle of Johannesburg in South Africa. For three months nothing happens and eventually the authorities break into the ship and find one million alien refugees trapped inside.
What and where are the aliens running from? Who was flying the ship? So many questions go through your head but this is only the beginning – we learn that the authorities create an area called District 9 made of thrown together basic corrugated iron structures to house the aliens. Crime is prevalent in the area, human gangs sell the refugees food and the police are constantly on the hunt for illegal alien weapons.
Twenty years pass during which time the alien/human relationship deteriorates. The patience of the human race is wearing thin as governments continue to support the refugees. Thousands of people, finally fed up with the drain on their resources, want rid of the aliens from the middle of Johannesburg. Rioting begins and the governments of the world look to MNU (Multi-National United) to solve the problem.
MNU, a private company, have been contracted to control the aliens – think Blackwater Worldwide, the lovely private military company used in Iraq by the US – and are set to make billions if they can make any of the alien military technology work. In order to appease the public, they create a new area 200km outside of Jo-berg to house the aliens and set about evicting them from District 9.
However, this plan brings tensions to a head and all hell breaks loose when one of the agents, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), begins to ransack one of the existing shacks in District 9.
Now, I could keep going and tell you everything that will happen but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spoil one of the best science fiction movies I have seen in years.
Some people may find the South African accents hard to follow at times but the strength of the script allows for understanding of the story even if you have trouble making some things out now and then. Additionally, the supporting cast are all excellent and you never feel like anyone isn’t giving 100% throughout the movie.
As mentioned before the movie has been incredibly well directed and shot, and when you see what Blomkamp has accomplished with a budget of US$30 million you will be bewildered at how so many modern movies end up costing so much money yet fail to deliver a tenth of the story and excitement that District 9 creates.
Personally I found it hard not to see many links to apartheid in this movie. The social, political and racial segregation of the aliens is horrible to watch at times and throughout the movie you begin to realise that humans and their insecurities are the cause of many of the problems in the world.
District 9 is a science-fiction action thriller that will give you a lot to think about after it has finished, but during its nearly two hours you will be mesmerized by its brilliance. Blomkamp has a fantastic career ahead of him as a writer/director if this movie is anything to go by.
I should also add that the movie has some of the coolest weapons in a long time but I’ll let you experience them for yourself.
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