Film Review: District 9
District 9 is a film directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, and it stars Sharlton Copley, Jason Cope, and Robert Hobbes. The film runs for a total of 112 minutes, and was first released in New Zealand and Australia on August 14, 2009.
The film starts out in a mock documentary style, showning how an alien ship drifted into the Earth’s atmosphere and came to a stop above the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. Human military troops boarded the ship and found a large number of malnourished aliens within. The sickly aliens were then transported down to medical camps stationed beneath the ship for treatment. The aliens took up residence in the area beneath the mothership, which eventually came to be known as a slum area called District 9.
After twenty years, with the alien population growing and with the increasing tension between them and the humans, the government decides to evict the aliens and move them to an area further away from Johannesburg. Wikus van de Merwe (portrayed by Sharlton Copley), an agent of Multinational United (MNU), is assigned to head the eviction. He and his team head into District 9 to hand out eviction notices. Wikus is exposed to a strange liquid as he was confiscating a suspicious metal tube that he found in one of the alien’s houses. The liquid alters his DNA, slowly transforming into an alien starting with his arm.
Upon discovering Wikus’ transformation, MNU keeps him in their secret laboratories to experiment on him. He becomes a valuable commodity when it is discovered that he is able to use alien weaponry, which normal humans are not able to wield because the weapons are attuned to the aliens’ DNA. When Wikus manages to escape from the lab, he seeks refuge in District 9. An alien the MNU named Christopher Johnson tells Wikus that the alien mothership contained technology that could reverse his transformation. The liquid that Wikus confiscated turns out to be fuel for a smaller ship that Christopher intended to use to get back to the mothership, and Christopher tells Wikus that he could “fix” him if they could get it back from the MNU. Wikus initially refuses to help Christopher get the fuel back, but driven by the desire to return to a normal life as well as sympathy for Christopher and his son, he eventually agrees.
I don’t want to spoil the entire movie for the rest of you, but let’s just say that when Wikus says that the endeavor is a “suicide mission”, he wasn’t kidding.
District 9‘s gritty setting in the middle of South Africa was something new to me since I was expecting something like Independence Day or the Alien quadrilogy when I was told that this was a film that involved extraterrestrials (yes, I know, I ‘m a no0b when it comes to the sci fi genre). The depiction of District 9 as a slum area really struck a chord in me because, well, let’s face it; there’s a lot of areas that look like that in my country. The way the film portrayed the slums was as real as you could get, complete with citizens scouring the garbage heaps for food, cock fights (only they were using little alien whip scorpion-like creatures instead of roosters), and illegal trade (the aliens were strangely addicted to cat food, so the humans found ways to sell them the goods at exorbitant prices).
The use of the faux documentary format brought more humanity and realism into the film, and Wikus himself is shown to be a very normal – albeit unfortunate – human being, with very real human weaknesses and flaws. Aliens being portrayed as the victims of prejudice and selfish human behavior was also a refreshing break from all the alien films that portrayed them as villains. The overall realistic feel the film had made it much easier to relate to the characters and really get into the story.
The visuals were amazing. Everything – even the aliens – looked real, and never looked out of place despite their strange appearances. The aliens’ designs were a nice deviation from the stereotypical aliens who have big heads and big eyes, and their faces manage to portray a good range of emotions despite their crustacean-like appearance.
I’ve never been a big fan of the science fiction genre, especially books or films that involve aliens. In fact, when one of the friends I watched this film with mentioned that it was a sci-fi alien film, I wrinkled my nose in distaste. After watching this film though, I think I’ll be more open-minded about alien movies and will definitely be looking out for other films that are as good as District 9.
El Santos is a marketing & advertising professional by day and gamer/bookworm/tarot reader by night. She’s prone to sudden fits of fangirling over her varied interests: video games, fiction, art, folkore, anime, and tarot. She currently lives with her husband and 2 rescue cats.