Word of mouth has been telling me for weeks that District 9 is a good movie. When I saw the trailers for it last year, I thought it was a documentary on discrimination against a people in Africa. When I saw the end of the trailer, and it showed an alien being interrogated, I was very intrigued but still cautious because the film was being released in August. Generally, I have observed that films released in August are usually duds, that don’t stand a chance of competing against the summer action blockbusters. District 9 doesn’t fit the characteristics of a dud summer film. I really liked this movie, and I am having a hard time accepting that they only spent 30 million dollars making this film.
First of all the way the movie was filmed was unique and very creative. The entire movie is filmed basically filmed in a documentary style format, and if you ever saw the trailers, you would be surprised that the film was about stranded extraterrestrial aliens, who are no longer wanted on Earth. The film is definitely a homage to the movie and television series Alien Nation, but to me this film is so much better.
The film begins with the appearance of a huge spaceship over the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa, which is crammed with nearly 1 million malnourished insect like aliens. Humans being sympathetic, and interested in the alien tech, transport all 1 million aliens to an area in Johannesburg, which has been given the name District 9. Although the humans are initial excited about the prospect of interacting with an alien species, it soon becomes apparent that the aliens are very roach like in their behavior and the District that they are given becomes a slum and haven for crime. The humans try to avoid all contact with the aliens, and they create an apartheid like society in District 9 and oppress the aliens to keep them bottled up in the alien slums. Its no irony that the filmmakers chose South Africa as their location for this alien visitation, discrimination tale. It is too easy to draw the parallels with the plight of the black South Africans and the aliens, but it is also ironic and funny that the descendents of the apartheid in the movie are willing to discriminate against the aliens.
The story revolves around a bureaucrat name Wikus, who is given the charge of relocating the aliens, which the humans have negatively named “Prawns” to a concentration camp like area to keep the aliens separate from humanity. He is a nice guy when it comes to humans, but you can see he is not too fond of the aliens. I could easily have replaced his character with a Nazi official, and changed the story to fit his relocation of the Jews. Wikus while investigating a “Prawn” hideout is exposed to an alien liquid, and the movie shifts gears from a documentary to a fascinating action film that forces the main character to reevaluate his purpose in life and try something different. Wikus is not a nice guy, and throughout most of the film he is motivated purely for selfish reasons, but towards the end, there is redemption.
I was blown away by this film. It is very well crafted, with a very good story line. The special effects were top notch and the action although unexpected was amazing. There were some flaws in the film, such as convenient plot elements to help Wikus along the way, but they were acceptable. This is the best film I have seen all year long.
Now am I saying G.I. Joe is as good as District 9 since I gave it an A? Heavens no! To me these films are in different categories. G.I. Joe is a fun film in the category of Transformers or my favorite Kung Fu flicks, but District 9 is a great movie, with a quality story to match. I would rank it up there with my all time favorite movies.