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Movie Review: District 9

Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years ago

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Written August 12, 09

It’s been about a year and change since I first heard of ‘District 9’ and although it may seem like your typical Hollywood Sci-Fi film, and those were my thoughts exact, as I researched this film more and more I started to learn that this one was different in many ways in the sense of what would be presented, how and delicate real world issues used as a spring board to serve as backbone for what would be a fictional story. Mixture of truth and false always tends to blend in well and this film serves its purpose to the core.

Film projects can quickly develop or dissolve often either coming to full fruition or completely falling apart. In the case of the adaptation of Microsoft's phenomenally successful 'Halo' video game it was the latter. Produced by Peter Jackson, the project was to be the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp, who caught the eye of the 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy helmer with his short film 'Alive in Joberg'. With his short alien invasion tale, Blomkamp not only established a theme similar to 'Halo', but that he could produce a picture on a miniscule budget. With pre-production underway, Blomkamp was hit with the revelation that the project was dead in the water due to disputes between Microsoft and the studios producing the film. So what do you do, when your film gets scrapped and you have a production team ready to go? You go ahead and make a film anyway. Feeling that he and his partners still owed Blomkamp a film, Jackson decided they would shift gears and turn 'Alive in Joberg' into a full-length feature. The result is 'District 9', a film that's not only an exciting debut, but a thrilling and surprisingly thought-provoking release in a summer where audiences haven't been expected to think at all.

Twenty-eight years ago a massive alien craft appeared in the skies and provoked a global panic. The ship chose not to hover over major cities like
New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo or Hong Kong, but that of Johannesburg, South Africa. After three months, the military decided to breach the sky bound vessel and discovered a race of thousands of malnourished aliens inside. These bug-like creatures, nicknamed “prawns” for their lobster-like appearance, were refugees without a home and desperately in need of assistance. With they eyes of the entire world upon them, it was up to the government of Johannesburg to provide the aliens asylum. Enlisting the aid of a private contractor known as Multi-National United, the aliens were given shelter in a quarantined slum known as 'District 9.' That was nearly three decades ago and the people of Johannesburg have become so violently incensed they are now a threat to the aliens.

Metaphorically speaking what we’ve done (& continue) to do to one another. But anyway, moving along…

It’s dark-like grainy effects tied in with a complicated storyline pertaining to coexistence between humans and aliens is so unique, ‘District 9’ does not stand side to side with anything else we’ve seen in the past. Sure I’ve enjoyed other pieces like ‘Independence Day’ or ‘Terminator’ but the fact that what’s “just a film” has lots of truth on a more subconscious level made me cringe. I felt the film really gave off a visceral display of how mankind can really be if given the opportunity and allowed to do whatever s/he wants. History speaks for itself, but the malicious approach and thoughts among the film’s story along side actual documented real-life events made my mind twirl in every way imaginable.

In no way, shape or form am I defending creatures that have been CGI’d, but more of the message sent when reading between the lines of which then follows up with an entertaining twist in form of karma.

Like many of the alien prawns in the film, “actors” Christopher and his son are CGI creations animated by Jackson's f/x facility Weta Digital. Though the film has been given a budget of thirty million dollars, Blomkamp wisely makes the choice of not making the f/x look too real or fancy. The picture begins with a documentary hand-held camera feel, before resorting to traditional techniques as the scope of the story expands. The alien technology has a realistic and gritty feel to it, presented almost as an homage to the stop-motion creations of yesteryear rather than slick or smooth. In the action scenes, even the weaponry has a visceral impact causing targets to explode in a manner you might find in a video game like 'Halo'.  These aspects of the visuals indeed look cool, but a major feat is the animation of the prawns who despite the fact that they appear as vicious warrior-type bugs, convey a sense of emotion almost human. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and like E.T., Yoda and other artificial movie creatures, the prawns of 'District 9' make us believe they are sensitive, intelligent, sentient beings with their magnificent large eyes. It's easy to forget that their dialogue is subtitled, because the animation involved in their expressions and interaction with humans is so realistic.

At the heart of 'District 9' is a story with a running theme that parallels apartheid in South Africa. Blomkamp is not out to school or beat us over the head with his message, always serving up entertaining bits within his complex story. The film raises more questions than answers, leaving many of them unanswered by the end credits, but the fact that its a picture that asks you to think, disguised as an action movie is a pleasant and welcome surprise.

Its by far one of the most unique films I’ve seen thus far and truly recommend it if looking for something that falls on a 50/50 scale among your emotions.



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