By Dave Campbell | August 14, 2009
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer(s): Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Robert Hobbs
It’s been nearly three decades since aliens first made contact with Earth and humans waited for either friendly technological exchange or a hostile attack. It was rather in the form of refugees that the aliens descended on South African soil as the final survivors of their home planet. The government created a makeshift area to contain and manage the alien beings called District 9.
The worlds nations have held constant debate over what to do with the aliens, with extremes ranging from liberation to concentrated incarceration. The global patience of what to do with the alien population is coming to a boiling point, so the government contracts the private corporation Multi-National United (MNU), to handle the welfare of the alien creatures. MNU’s interests fall elsewhere as they stand to make tremendous advances in weapons and profits if they can crack the activation of the alien technology.
In the height of the friction between the humans and aliens, MNU attempts to move the creatures to a new camp. While leading the door-to-door transition, field operative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) obtains a mysterious virus that begins molding his DNA with that of the alien race. Wikus becomes the most valuable and wanted man on both sides. With no other options, Wikus seeks refuge with the alien refugees in the last place he can hide, District 9.
District 9 is shot mostly documentary style, giving the film a geographically authentic look and texture to it’s South African backdrop. This relative element serves in aligning it with our own real world issues. The humanistic tone of this film gives it qualities of weighty dramatic films, by tackling racial and social parallels to the ones that actually take place between the whites and blacks in South Africa.
Produced by Peter Jackson through WingNut Films, director Neill Blomkamp manages to convey a film that adds elements of films like Children of Men, Cloverfield, and even E.T., to bring an original and thought inducing story to an audience who is ready to welcome the substance. District 9 is not only an action thriller, but a thought provoking critique on our own culture that can’t be ignored as the Aliens or Prawns (derogetory term given to them by the humans) play a much larger emotional and dynamic role in the film than the trailer or bits of viral marketing let on.
Sharlto Copley who plays MNU Field Operative Wikus van der Merwe, does a pretty brilliant job of taking a character from a state of ignorant bliss to a complete intellectual and emotional awakening. The effects, sets, and art design on this film are quite stunning and it is simply remarkable what they were able to accomplish on a $30 million dollar budget. The alien mother ship floating over Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as the creatures themselves fit seamlessly into this film in a way that bigger, more expensive releases have failed miserably in achieving this summer (Wolverine, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra).
Though the storytelling is really well told, there is an absence of back story that hangs over the experience that leaves you wanting to know more. What happened to the alien race that brought them to Earth in the fist place? As well as what happens after the events of District 9? Maybe this an answer the filmmakers what to leave in the minds of the viewer, or they’ve already been planning more. Either way, District 9 not only feeds a fan boy appetite of usual genre fair, it also dives into a much deeper narrative below it’s sci-fi surface.