District 9

The science fiction film District 9 started out originally as 2005 short filmed entitled “Alive in Joburg”. Through some hard dedication (as well as some luck), a tiny movie on a shoe string budget evolved into a larger scale and more developed feature film. Directed by writer Neill Blomkamp, District 9 explores the treatment of alien refugees as they arrive on earth through harsh settings and action scenes.

In 1982, a large alien craft descended onto to earth and hovered over the South African city of Johannesburg. This of course is presented in documentary style footage (District 9 switches back and forth between regular cinematic film and documentary story telling in order to give us different perspectives).  Malnourished extra terrestrials soon receive shelter and food from the South African nation. But overtime the small area that they live in becomes a squalor infested slum. In this aspect, District 9 really details the third world visual of its setting. Such as the aliens (or prawns as certain humans have started to refer to them as) having to scavenge through hills of garbage in order to feed themselves. It is made very clear this is a very filthy and violent home.

Clashes with humans in neighboring slums (along with xenophobia rampant throughout the people of Johannesburg) have coerced the government to plan a mass forced movement of the aliens to a completely isolated and guarded area.  This task is handed over to the corporation MNU (multinational united).Leading the mission of this mass removal is the newly promoted to Alien Affairs leader (as well very humorous)Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley). His duty involves knocking on alien doors (while accompanied by armed soldiers) and convincing the prawns to sign eviction papers. Wikus tries to do so by using as little violence as possible, but shows little regard to the well being of alien lives. Especially to those of the prawn’s young children and still to hatch eggs.  At time it can be funny to watch his good natured attitude juxtaposed with the handling of these situations.

After an incident with alien technology, Wikus becomes gradually ill. Once a few hours pass (a counter lets us know how many hours pass after infection), it becomes apparent that he is mutating into a prawn. The tables turn for Wikus as he can no longer trust the MNU, who try experiments on him in order to gain his ability to use alien weapons (weapons that requires those with alien DNA to be activated). In time he makes his way to District 9 to find a method to reverse his mutation.  This becomes a journey of empathy and very visceral battles.

Although cgi is a heavy component of the movie (all the aliens are entirely computer generated), the imagery is not used in a flashy manner. That is to say we don’t see any Michael Bay type scenes that are meant for the sole purpose of wooing an audience. Rather the cgi is used for the purpose of creating realistic creatures and engross us in its world. The aliens are convincing enough for the audience to feel sympathy towards.

Being set in the nation of South Africa, District 9 draws many obvious parallels to the country’s racially segregated past. The film goes even one step further and even makes comparison to Nazi experimentation with gut wrenching scenes of alien dissections and cruel biological tests.

Equally graphic are the fight scenes involving alien weapons. The film is very creative in killing humans during battles. There is no shortage of body’s blowing up .The explosive and destructive robotic fight against soldiers is quite the adrenaline pump. Violence in many forms is spread throughout the film .In the second half is when the bullets start to fly at an even pace. The fact that this is also an action movie is in no way hidden.

District 9 is a definite recommendation to those who want to see a unique take on human oppression of an alien populace (films such as Alien Nation and Enemy Mine seem tame compared to this film’s depiction), or those looking for action packaged together with a good story.

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