112 minutes approx
Wikus Van De Merwe -
Koobus Venter -
Tania Van De Merwe -
Written by -
Terri Tatchell and Neill Blomkamp
Directed by -
Twenty years ago an alien ship came to to a halt over Johannesburg. On entering, the authorities discovered that the aliens within were mere worker drones with little intelligence and their technology could not be made to work by humans. Placed in a camp known as District 9, they soon became a nuisance. The locals came to hate them and the only company dealing with their affairs, MNU has been directed to carry out a relocation exercise. The head of the exercise, MNU worker Wikus Van De Merwe gets doused with an alien chemical and starts to mutate into one of the aliens, dubbed Prawns by the locals. He is now a wanted man, MNU wishing to dissect him to work out why he can now operate the alien weapons. He meets an alien who promises that he can fix Wirkus if he is able to get to the technology on the mothership, still motionless above the city.
DISTRICT 9 is ALIEN NATION for the CLOVERFIELD generation. It's anything but original with nods to the likes of THE FLY, ALIENS, ROBOCOP and more, but it manages to camouflage that fact under a deluge of edits, film stock changes, cctv footage, interviews and any directorial trick that director Neill Blomkamp can come up with. It's distraction burglary, but it works because of the energy and enthusiasm that is on show.
It starts as faux-documentary giving the back history of the arrival of the aliens and their subsequent descent into being local pariahs, mixing in academic analysis and local comment. The beautifully rendered CGI prawns are shown to be scavengers (favourite meal is a tin of catfood), stupid and dirty. That this is South Africa with its history of intolerance is no irony. Making the aliens so unlikeable is a clever tactic that allows the audience to at least understand the casual and callous specism that grows up around them, but make no mistake that the true monsters here are none other than the humans. They treat the aliens in horrible fashion; abusing, killing and evicting them without second thought and experimenting on them in secret. Wirkus himself shares in the unconscious hatred of all things prawn, cheerfully showing how a nest of unhatched eggs is destroyed. The twist is that he is as much a worker drone as the aliens and they become his only hope when his own kind turn on him.
Unfortunately, the film loses its faith in the commentary and sets up a second half where Wirkus gets hold of a stockpile of alien weapons and faces off against the might of the MNU army in a running battle of destruction and splatting bodies. This is well enough done, but after the clever manipulation of the previous hour it's a disappointing change of gear.
DISTRICT 9 has energy to spare, has a brain behind it and delivers on the special effects and destruction front enough to be a hit, but we kind of wish it had stuck to its original purpose.
And the ending is so open-ended that we can expect to see DISTRICT 9 in a year or so.Top
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