District 9 – Review
District 9 just may be my favorite film of 2009. A few weeks ago i posted a blog about how 1982 was chocked full of awesome sci fi and other geek films and that it was a shame that this whole year has been nothing short of lackluster. With all of the remakes and sequels and licensed pictures that come out, it starts to gets really frustrating when original films get overshadowed by cookie cutter crap. My three favorite films that have come out this year all were released within a week from each other between May 29th-June 5th. Up, The Hangover and Drag me to Hell are three of my favorite films this year and are the only films that weren’t adapted from a book, toy, video game or comic.
The last film i saw was Transformers 2. Even though i liked the original a lot, the second one left such a bad taste in my mouth that it made me rethink seeing a lot of movies this summer up until two days ago. District 9 was a film that i had been looking forward to for a long time. A few years back i heard that Neill Blomkamp was going to direct the Peter Jackson produced Halo film. Back then, all of us Halo fans said “Who the hell is Neill Blomkamp?”. So we all started looking him up and had all come across Alive in Joburg a short film about an alien race that was forced to live in a walled off shanty town patrolled by the military. We all ate it up. We thought that the movie was badass enough for us to “allow” this guy to make Halo. Even though Neill Blomkamp’s Halo short films were amazing and Peter Jackson has proven that he could produce a blockbuster film, Halo fell through and so they started working on the feature length version of Alive in Joburg aka District 9.
With any great science fiction film, there is some social commentary, but not to worry, D9 is not as heavy handed as the commercials will lead you to believe. There is some hints of race riots, concentration camps and the civil rights movement, but a lot of that is abandoned by about the fifteen minute mark. The thing that surprised me was the fact that the documentary aspect of the film was also abandoned really early on, which would be my only gripe. The movie is set up like a documentary with pieces of news footage, interviews and field camera work, which made a scene between two aliens discussing the construction of an alien technology a bit jarring. For a few minutes i was taken out of the film. I kept thinking, who is the camera man that is shooting this conversation?
Once i got used to the fact that D9 was no longer a documentary, but a scripted story shot in a documentary style, i got into this film big time. The story is pretty interesting and something that none of the advertisements tell you about. This film is about a man named Wikus Van De Merwe who is the head of a government program that oversees the alien inhabitants of District 9. During an operation in which he is relocating the alien “Prawns” he gets sprayed with a chemical that slowly begins to alter his DNA and turns him into a half man half alien being. The government wants Wikus due to the fact that he is the only “human” that can operate the Prawn’s biochemical weapons. Long story short, Wikus escapes and seeks refuge in District 9 where he becomes partners with an unlikely Alien creature. They both need each other to get what they require and the film turns into an all out buddy action film. I know what you may be thinking, here is just another movie that takes the low road by filling the last half with action, but this actually works. The action is driven by the drama and never feels forced.
With the brutal nature of the beginning of the film, you know that there is real danger around every corner. You root for the two heroes knowing that either of them can die at any moment. The fact that both Wikus and “Christopher” the Prawn have such different missions, you have no idea if the film will allow for two happy endings, which heightens the drama. Will one of them die? The chances are highly likely and that fact alone kept me on the edge of my seat.
District 9 is such a breath of fresh air! It is an original idea with many familiar element from science fiction films of the past. D9 takes from such classics as The Fly, Evil Dead 2, Logan’s, Run and Alien Nation. It also takes from some of the greatest buddy action films of the past thirty years and was unapologetically self aware of that fact. The film is full of imagery that will be considered classic moments in sci-fi cinema. The final shot of District 9 is one of those iconic shots that are reminiscent of films like The Planet of the Apes and Evil Dead 2.
As soon as District 9 was over, i decided that i was going to buy the Blu-Ray as soon as it hit the shelves. I cannot wait to see this film again and i highly recommend that you check it out if given the chance. District 9 is probably the greatest science fiction film of this century!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★