By Doug Robson
District 9 is a science fiction movie, all the way. But it's not your a stereotypical sci-fi movie, not at all. It has no phasers, no epic space battles, no Death Stars, none of that. It does, however, use the central theme used throughout the high majority of sci-fi films; Aliens. And these aren't the little green men with abnormally large heads and big black anime eyes; these are well thought out, science-fictiony aliens you'd expect from a knowledgeable sci-fi author. They're bug-like in appearance, with tentacles hanging down from their upper lip (Cthulhu style). A plot? Well, if a plot is what you want, a plot is what you shall get.
District 9 focuses around Wikus Van De Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley), an agent for the Johannesburg military. He is in charge of moving the inhabitants of District 9 to a concentration camp built specially for the Prawn (racial slur for the aliens). The Prawn came from a rather large spaceship parked directly over Johannesburg. The Johannesburg military saw the ship, and saw absolutely nothing come from it for months on end. So they did what any military would do: fly up and cut it open to see what's inside. They found starving aliens, and gave them a home (read: slum) in Johannesburg dedicated to housing them, feeding them, etc. People didn't like them, thus they tried to drive them out. The military decided to build a concentration camp outside of Johannesburg, where the Prawn could be "safe." Wikus was the head of the movement to get them to leave their "houses" and get them to move to the camps. As things progressed, he ended up finding a canister of Prawn stuff, and inadvertently sprayed himself with it, getting him... unsatisfactory results.
This movie was pretty good. I'd go see it again, definitely. It did seem a little preachy, but the preachiness was, unfortunately/depressingly, true. This movie was trying to tell us about the troubles of humanity and how we treat unfamiliar factions/races/species, no matter how sentient. I walked out of that theater not only saying, "Whoa," but also saying "Dude, we'd totally end up doing that. Even if I didn't personally, the government still would. That's sad." If you don't see what I'm getting at, watch the movie. You'll know.
The special effects of this movie were superb. The aliens looked so real it was scary, the spaceship was awesome, the weapons were wicked, everything was astonishing. I'll say this much, the first time they showed a Prawn rifle, I was in shock and awe at not only the explosion, but at the "Whoa, that explosion just came out of that little thing?" factor. The wave-rifle, or whatever it shall be called, was awesome; makes me want one. The mech-suit had to be the best of them all though. The scene towards the end with the mech-suit just demolishing everything in sight was incredible.
The character development was oddly well done. I didn't expect much of anything out of this movie, so it surprised me. Wikus never really grew on me much, but Christopher did, somehow. And that unnamed mercenary we saw throughout (again: see the movie, and you'll know who I'm talking about)? I hated his guts. Rarely do I ever actually hate a movie character, but I absolutely despised him. I enjoyed seeing him get ripped to pieces--no spoiler alert, mostly due to the ambiguity of the character. You won't know him when you see him, so you won't know who I'm talking about.
The beginning and ending were very much played out like a documentary. The beginning was almost entirely interviews with people about what they thought of the aliens, and the ending more interviews, combined with the documentary ending "facts" (e.g., Bob died 2 years later of heart disease, Sally went on to marry Duke, who cured the pestilence once and for all. Etc, etc, etc.) The middle of the movie, however, was a movie, plain and simple. We followed the characters though their exploits and the cameraman turned into the invisible flying camera we all know from all the other movies. I thought it interesting.
And those are my collected thoughts. District 9 is definitely worth a watch. Not one of those you absolutely must watch in a theater, but you should anyway, if not for the action sequences and sheer detail. Good stuff, overall. Watch it, even if you're not typically into sci-fi movies, still give it a try. Sure, they're aliens, but it's not like Klingons or something. These aliens are given personalities--they're like people who speak in clicks and gurgles, and happen to be green, and scaly, and like a 7-foot tall humanoid insect. Regardless, go see it!
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