There is a lot to like in “District 9”. It is a very different kind of science fiction film. For probably the first time in cinematic history, alien’s arrive on our fair planet, not to invade, but because they have been expelled from their own world, and need our help. The extra terrestrials in this film show up huddled together, starving and on the verge of death. For once their giant space craft is not hovering over a city like New York or Washington. Instead we find them casting a large shadow over Johannesburg.
So what do we do for a dying alien race? We set them up in a separate camp beside the city called District 9. But due to a lot of the bad influences in the city of Johannesburg, the alien district quickly takes on a slum like atmosphere rife with crime and corruption. After years of hostile conflict with the aliens, the government decides to relocate them further outside of the city, into what appears to be an intern camp. The eviction process is lead by Wikus Van De Merwe, who cheerfully goes door to door in an attempt to get the aliens to sign legal documents allowing for their relocation. But there is more to it even Wikus can comprehend.
When the aliens show up, major corporations around the world line up in an attempt to harness any technology they can so they can exploit it. What really peaks their interest is alien weaponry. When they get their hands on some they find that they can only be operated by alien hands. During the eviction process Wikus is exposed to some sort of off world chemicals that begin to slowly turn him in to one of the aliens. This allows him to operate alien weapons. When Wikus escapes from one of these evil company’s he finds himself a fugitive. He heads back in to District 9 in search of a possible cure before it is too late.
What I liked about “District 9” is that it is more then just a sci-fi actioner. Well at least the first two acts of the film. There are a lot of interesting political themes here involving the treatment of immigrants as well as racial tensions that result in violence. The fact that you find such elements in what could easily have resulted in a space opera elevates the material.
The third act of the movie gives it self entirely over to almost non-stop action and violence. Even though it is fairly exciting and well crafted, I was slightly disappointed because the first two acts of the film had so many interesting ideas. The movie tries to resolve everything it setup with bullets. I am all for action but honestly, I was hoping for a little bit more. Director Neil Blomkamp is obviously a very talented find. Producer Peter Jackson put a lot of faith in him by placing him in charge of a big film like this, and they do deliver, but I just wish that they had pushed the envelope all the way through. Oh well.
“District 9” is a very entertaining film. It is told in the style of a documentary, which is a fresh change from a straight forward narrative. I liked the look of the aliens as well as their personalities. They are not simply a shooting gallery, but they do possess emotions and motivations. It is not often we get a sci-fi film that even attempts to incorporate new ideas and for that I am grateful.