District 9 Review B

district 9

This website has talked a lot about our hopes for District 9 and we were most certainly not disappointed. After a string of mostly lackluster blockbuster movies consisting of sequels, prequels, and, oh yes, reboots, this movie was very refreshing.

For those unfamiliar with the story and under the assumption that it ‘s a simple retelling of apartheid except with aliens, this is really only the beginning of the story. As for those comparisons to Cloverfield, whilst the film is shot in documentary fashion, the comparisons pretty much end there. Think more the last half hour of Children of Men with kickass firefights in the middle of a slum and you’d be a little closer to the feel of this Neil Blompkamp science fiction action movie.

The basis for the story is that an alien spaceship stops, not in Washington D.C. but in the skies of Johannesburg. On board the ship are over a million alien refugees, known by humans as “prawns.” The prawns are kept away from the general human population in an area known as District 9 where they have lived for 20 years. Of course, the area is rife with crime, with roving bands of Nigerian crime lords, human-alien prostitution and the traffic of cat food, of which the prawns are particularly fond of.

The plot centers on Wikus Van De Merwe played by Sharlto Copley who fans may recognize as a sniper in the short film Alive in Joburg, which District 9 is based on. Wikus, the son-in-law of the boss of the powerful Multi-National United corporation, is appointed by his father-in-law to head up a new initiative to “re-home” the now 1.8 million alien inhabitants to a camp away from Johannesburg.

district 9

We are introduced to the slums of District 9 as Wikus goes door to door (flanked by armed soldiers under MNU’s employ) handing out eviction notices. He neither understands what the prawns are going through nor really cares. That is, until he discovers a mysterious object which changes the story from a simple apartheid analogy into, well, an action packed sci-fi flick. Suddenly Wikus, and the audience, learns about the more sinister side of MNU, particularly their interest in alien weaponry.

Wikus’ main motivation throughout the movie is to save his own skin, and what strikes me most of all is how generally unlikeable, and certainly unheroic he is throughout most of the movie. If characters like John McClane are the movie equivalent of the everyman then Wikus Van De Merwe is the real life everyman, thrown into a surreal situation in which suddenly those friendly MNU soldiers are turning their guns on him and District 9 is possibly his only safe haven.

Whilst more time should have been spent on the plot, in particular regarding the mysterious object, ultimately this movie succeeds as a thoughtful, gritty, funny sci-fi action movie.

Finding District 9 in Alive in Joburg


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