District 9 (2009) – Review

District 9 (2009) Poster

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Louis Minnaar, Jason Cope, and Vanessa Haywood

Length: 1 hour and 52 minutes

Genre: Science fiction, thriller

MPAA Rating: R

Description from IMDB:

“An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.”

In 1982, an alien spaceship appeared and began hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon entering the ship, humans discover a race of aliens who are malnourished and decide to create a holding area for the aliens that comes to be known as District 9. Years later, the area has become a slum of criminal activity and refuse, so Multi-National United decides to relocate the aliens outside of the city to ease the concerns of the human population. The man in charge of this relocation effort is Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a mild-mannered agent of MNU who is trying to live up to the expectations of  his CEO/father-in-law (Louis Minnaar). While doing a routine patrol, he is infected by a black fluid from a piece of alien technology. He soon begins exhibiting symptoms of transformation and, when MNU discovers this, he is taken into their custody. After being used to test alien weapons, he escapes in search of a way to stop the transformation; however, his only hope comes from the very aliens he had previously thought of as less-than-human.

District 9
Just a polite eviction, nothing to see here.

The aliens in District 9 (2009) aren’t given an official name, but many people call them prawns after their resemblance to the creatures. However, this becomes an insult and plays into the themes of humanity, xenophobia, and social segregation. MNU uses propaganda to keep the aliens and humans separate, especially wielding it as a tool to discredit Wikus when he is on the run. Wikus buys into this propaganda himself until he is on the receiving end of it, and further realizes its falsehood as he comes to rely on Christopher (Jason Cope), an alien he had visited earlier to evict. Through Christopher and his relationship to his son, we grow closer to them along with Wikus, who is no longer fueled by the pursuit of approval, but instead to become reunited with his loving wife, Tania (Vanessa Haywood). It is this shift in thought through the interaction with the other that underlies the film’s message that we share far more than just what separates us (even if some of us are aliens from another planet).

Still 2
The time marker in the bottom right corner helps to add a feeling of documentary footage.

District 9 (2009) uses not only the traditional cinematic form, but various other techniques to create a sense of realism to this tale of science fiction. Found footage is used, especially security camera footage and talking head interviews. These interviews are recorded after the events of the film, so they foreshadow what happens to Wikus and give different views as to what actually happened. These are juxtaposed to the scenes that directly follow Wikus through the cinematic camera. There is also an aural connection to the transformation that Wikus is undergoing; each time it progresses, there is a ringing tone that swells, signaling the change and causing a moment of tension as his body changes. Subtitles are used for the aliens, though it does appear that humans can understand some of their language, which isn’t too implausible considering they have been on Earth for over 20 years.

Though his follow up films were rather disappointing, District 9 (2009) was Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film and it cemented him as a visionary director of science fiction. The social commentary isn’t heavy handed; rather, it is integral to the story and works for it instead of against it. I have enjoyed this film for over nine years now, and believe it will continue to be a staple in the category of must-see science fiction movies. Though some of the CGI has dated a bit, the story and execution exceed any shortfalls due to the digital visuals. Through all the f-bombs and exploding people, there is a story with heart built in an alternate history that has been well-built. District 9 (2009) remains as a fantastic and original stand alone film, which I would recommend everyone should see (as long as they’re over 17 and have pretty reliable stomachs).

Verdict: 4 exploding people out of 5

Recommended for: Fans of science fiction, fans of the word “fook”, those who enjoy looking for social commentary in sci-fi, people who enjoy found footage movies, and fans of Oats Studios.

Not recommended for: The squeamish, the easily disgusted, those who have difficulty understanding accents, people afraid of prawns, or those upset we got this instead of a Halo movie.

The images featured in this post can be found through the hyperlinks below.
Still 1
Still 2


8 thoughts on “District 9 (2009) – Review

  1. I loved that twisted movie with its originally unlikeable protagonist whom we come to root for and pitiful, badly treated aliens. I enjoyed the subversion of the usual tropes, but also the brilliant way in which Blomkamp turned a seemingly straight story into a social commentary on apartheid and racial divisions. It wasn’t as slick and technically brilliant as it could have (budget!) but it was the best and most original of his movies. Plus, it didn’t have Matt Damon 😛

    Liked by 2 people

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