District 9 is a fucking 10!!

district-9-poster

I became aware of this film back in May, when I saw the first “teaser” trailer for it. I wasn’t sure what it was about exactly, but it looked very compelling to me. As the brilliant marketing campaign grew (featuring billboards all over L.A. that designate the area, FOR HUMANS ONLY!), I became more and more intrigued. I love a good alien-invasion movie and this one looked like it was going to have an interesting new take on the genre. Boy, does it ever! Neill Blomkamp has made one of the smartest, most emotionally gripping films of the year so far, all in the disguise of a summer sci-fi/action popcorn movie.

The film starts out as a documentary that informs us how the aliens appeared on Earth over twenty years ago, when their mothership came to a stalled halt over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Eventually, after no contact, the leaders decided to cut their way inside to see what’s what. Once in, they discovered over a million malnourished “worker bee” aliens without the guidance of leadership. The South Africans, in the spirit of kindness, removed the creatures from their ship and nursed them back to health in a “refugee” detainment center called, District 9. After awhile, District 9 becomes a slum where the black market is controlled by local ganglords and everything is policed by the MNU. The MNU is an agency dedicated mainly to trying to find a way to use the alien’s advanced weaponry that they have seized, which can only be activated by their DNA. Also, due to public protest and unsafe conditions, the MNU is evicting the creatures (which they refer to in the derogatory as “prawns”) from their current homes, to be placed in an “undisclosed” location. During a raid on the home of father and son “prawns”, a top MNU agent named Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to the aliens’ bio-fuel and finds himself turning into a “prawn”! The MNU uses him as a guinea pig when his DNA fuses with the aliens, allowing him the unique ability to fire their weapons. But Wikus escapes his confinement and hides in the only place safe for him, District 9. He joins forces with the alien responsible for the canister of black liquid that is making him change. They form an alliance to get back the “fluid” from MNU headquarters, which can then be used to activate their ship and return home. Once on board, the aliens have medicine that can change Wikus back to human. But of course, this is all easier said than done.

District 9 is a very entertaining science fiction film with one of the greatest metaphors for apartheid ever conceived. The talents of first time director Neill Blomkamp, producer Peter Jackson and WETA’s amazing effects team have come together to create a really smart genre film that has more brains and awesome action than anything released this whole miserable summer. And they did it all for a mere 30 million?! It was also great to see the old TRI STAR logo appear before the movie, as many geeks applauded the sight of the flying horse, when I saw it on opening night at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Neill Blomkamp was originally going to direct the big budget adaptation of HALO with Peter Jackson producing, but Sony pulled the plug on it. Stupid move! There is no doubt whatsoever that Blomkamp, Jackson and WETA would have made one of the most amazing HALO films possible. It seemed like a lot of District 9’s art design (including the aliens, their weapons, the soldier’s armor and the vehicles) were inspired from HALO a little. I also loved the look of the alien’s mothership, which was more like a cross between an oil rig and an old freighter, rather than the light and beauty of the one from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND or E.T.

The other amazing thing about this film is how I started off being kind of repulsed by the “prawns” in the same way as the humans in the movie were, but by the end I was rooting for them to kick MNU’s ass! Leave it to WETA for creating the most realistic looking CGI characters in film today. They give them such emotion, it’s incredible! I highly recommend this one and look forward to a promising career from Neill Blomkamp in the future.

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