District 9 (2009)

Posted: August 21, 2009 in Movies

District 9


A Movie Review


Jonathan Moya

4 Out of 5 Stars or A-


The Plot: (from Allmovie.com)

Director Neill Blomkamp teams with producer Peter Jackson for this tale of extraterrestrial refugees stuck in contemporary South Africa. It’s been 28 years since the aliens made first contact, but there was never any attack from the skies, nor any profound technological revelation capable of advancing our society. Instead, the aliens were treated as refugees. They were the last of their kind, and in order to accommodate them, the government of South Africa set up a makeshift home in District 9 as politicians and world leaders debated how to handle the situation. As the humans begin to grow wary of the unwelcome intruders, a private company called Multi-National United (MNU) is assigned the task of controlling the aliens. But MNU is less interested in the aliens’ welfare than attempting to understand how their weaponry works. Should they manage to make that breakthrough, they will receive tremendous profits to fund their research. Unfortunately, the highly advanced weaponry requires alien DNA in order to be activated. When MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to biotechnology that causes his DNA to mutate, the tensions between the aliens and the humans intensifies. Wikus is the key to unlocking the alien’s technology, and he quickly becomes the most wanted man on the planet. Ostracized and isolated, Wikus retreats to District 9 in a desperate bid to shake his dogged pursuers.

The Review:

District 9 has cool aliens.  They are a cross between a cockroach and a lobster, with whirling green gyros for lungs.   They have a high “ick” factor, although the main alien Chris looks like a Transformer.  His son is so ugly he is cute.   Their spacecraft stalled out above the sky of Johannesburg South Africa twenty years ago and has remained very ufo-ed there to the annoyance of the human population.   Out of fuel and literally starving, they were shuttled down to a makeshift refugee camp, then a shantytown, and for the vast peeved off humanity in what would be hopefully the final solution to the alien problem, now to a concentration camp 200 kilometers away from the nearest human population.  The “Prawns” as they are derisively called live on the edge of violence since they lack the basic life necessities.   Their only value to humans is their advanced weaponry coded to their DNA.  Oh, did I mention that the Prawns are the good guys?

Leading the Prawn relocation is Wikus Van der Merwe (Silto Copley giving the most out of nowhere acting debut in fifteen years), a mid level screw up at MNU (Multi National United), a weapons and security firm.  Wikus has his cushy position because he married the boss’s daughter.  Accidentally sprayed with a black slime cum starship fuel developed by the alien Chris Johnson (body movement and voice of Jason Cope, CGI exoskeleton by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital), Wikus starts metamorphosing into a Prawn.  Wikus never goes full Kafka, just his left hand, which can fire Prawn weaponry.  He is now a multibillion-dollar asset to MNU- if he can be sliced, diced, synthesized and assembly lined.    The technology to change him back exists solely on the Prawn mother ship and Chris is the only way to get to it.

Peter Jackson originally hired Neil Bomkamp to direct the much-anticipated Halo movie.   Blomkamp had directed three shorts for the popular video game.  When that production went into turn around, Jackson suggested that Blomkamp make a different feature.    Blomkamp expanded and fleshed out his earlier short “Alive in Joburg” to feature length while keeping the short’s mock documentary style and upping the apartheid quotient.  District 9 echoes District 6, the mixed race neighborhood of 60,000, forcibly relocated when adjudicated as whites only in 1966.  In a further eerie echo, the Prawns speech (all of which is subtitled) has the clicks common to the Bantu language.  

The double flip-flops in District 9 give its satire a human edge.  Both Blacks and Whites exploit and repress the Prawns.  Lacking a consumerist mindset, the Prawns only exist to the White elite for their capitalist potential- the multi-billion dollar reward for those who can unlock, harness and replicate Prawn technology.  Never mind that the breakdown of that technology is what stranded the Prawns in Johannesburg in the first place. Their relocation is the next logical step before genocide.  The Blacks use the Prawns for their juju, believing that devouring a Prawn transfers their power and knowledge. They take advantage of the Prawn addiction to cat food to create a semi-slave underclass.

Wickus’ metamorphosis is the flip-flop that gives District 9 its kick and compassion.   Wickus and Chris relationship evolves through needs, to self-preservation and mutual admiration.  It is a buddy flick caught in action tropes and mated with the identity forged through combat of a war movie.  The Defiant Ones meets Enemy Mine with a little E.T. thrown in for resonance.   Chris and his son only want to go home. District 9 like any great science fiction feature creates its own screwy synthesis and worldview.  The Star Trek reboot was fun, cuddly and familiar.  District 9, however, takes us boldly to places a summer movie has never gone before.   For that, it gets an A-.          

The Credits:   (From AllMovie.com)

Neill Blomkamp  – Director / Screenwriter Carolynne Cunningham  – Producer Peter Jackson  – Producer Terri Tatchell  – Screenwriter Trent Opaloch  – Cinematographer Michelle Belcher  – Musical Direction/Supervision Clinton Shorter  – Composer (Music Score) Julian Clarke  – Editor Philip Ivey  – Production Designer Mike Berg  – Art Director Emelia Weavind  – Art Director Philippa Boyens  – Co-producer Bill Block  – Executive Producer Elliot Ferwerda  – Executive Producer Paul Hanson  – Executive Producer Ken Kamins  – Executive Producer Dianna Cilliers  – Costume Designer Denton Douglas  – Casting The Embassy Visual Effects  – Visual Effects Grant Hulley  – Stunts Coordinator Image Engine  – Visual Effects Weta Digital  – Visual Effects Weta Workshop Ltd.  – Creature Effects Zoic Studios  – Visual Effects

With   Sharlto Copley  – Wikus Van de Merwe David James  – Koobus Venter Vanessa Haywood  – Tania Van de Merwe Mandla Gaduka  – Fundiswa Mhlanga Kenneth Nkosi  – Thomas Eugene Khumbanyiwa  – Obesandjo Louis Minnaar  – Piet Smit William Allen Young  – Dirk Michaels Nathalie Boltt  – Sarah Livingstone – Sociologist Sylvaine Strike  – Dr. Katrina McKenzie Elizabeth Mkandawie  – Interviewee John Sumner  – Les Feldman – MIL Engineer Greg Melvill-Smith  – Interviewer Nick Blake  – Francois Moraneu – CIV Engineer Team Jed Brophy  – James Hope – Police Officer Marian Hooman  – Sandra Van de Merwe Vittorio Leonardi  – Michael Blomstein – MNU Alien Civil Affairs Johan van Schoor  – Nicolas Van de Merwe Stella Steenkamp  – Phyllis Sinderson – MNU Alien Relations Mampho Brescia  – Reporter Tim Gordon  – Clive Henderson – Entomologist Morne Erasmus  – MNU Medic Anthony Bishop  – Paramedic David Clatworthy  – Doctor Mike Huff  – Doctor Anthony Fridjhon  – MNU Executive Jason Cope  – Grey Bradnam/UKNR Chief Correspondent / Christopher Johnson [Voice] Hlengiwe Madlala  – Sangoma Siyabonga Radebe  – Obesandjo’s Lieutenant Melt Sieberhagen  – Anton Grobler Andre Odendaal  – Mike Van Kerland Jonathan Taylor  – MNU Doctor John Ellis  – MNU Medical Scientest Louise Saint Claire  – MNU Medical Scientist Alan Glauber  – MNU Operating Room Doctor Nicolas Herbstein  – MNU Biolab Technician Norman Anstey  – MNU Lead Medical Technician Nick Boraine  – Craig Weldon Robert Hobbs  – Ross Pienaar Sibulele Gcilitshana  – U Günters Woman Mahendra Raghunath  – SABC Anchor Person Phillip Mathebula  – Meat Stall Seller

Copyright 2009 by Jonathan Moya

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  1. Joyce says:

    Shades of E.T., The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark and Iron Man II? All of which are on the A List. Excellent breakdown and description. I agree with your rating and hope to see the movie, too. Thank you.

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