Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 Film Review

Moon and now District 9 show that intelligent movie science fiction still exists. I hope that the powers that be at Bad Robot, handling the next Star Trek are watching. I'm talking to you, J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Star Trek should be more like District 9, a film more about ideas than shallow appeal. But enough of griping about Star Trek, this is a review of District 9.

District 9 starts out like a faux documentary, with talking heads detailing man's first contact with aliens. The aliens' ship arrives and hovers over Johannesberg, South Africa. However, no one comes out. The humans must enter the ship. They find the aliens, and are derogatorily called Prawns for their crustacean like appearance. During a later scene, a human attempts to eat part of a Prawn. But he does so without butter sauce. But I digress. Leaderless, they are herded into an area called District 9 under the ship. It becomes a slum for the aliens.

A private company called MNU (Multi-National United) is hired to move the aliens to another camp one away from the humans who have become impatient with their presence. MNU has no interest in the aliens' welfare. They want to develop the aliens' advanced weaponry which humans cannot operate but the aliens can due to their unique biological makeup. And what weapons! When they operate, they can turn humans into guacamole. A company bureaucrat, Wikus Van Der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is tasked to lead the eviction effort to relocate the aliens.

During Van Der Merwe's foray into District 9, he comes upon a Prawn named Christopher who has developed an alien fuel device that will power a shuttle underneath his home. While inspecting the device, Van Der Merwe accidentally sprays himself with some of the liquid inside. The device is confiscated and taken to MNU headquarters. However, the liquid starts to rewrite Van Der Merwe's DNA and he starts to mutate into an alien-human hybrid. MNU takes Van Der Merwe into custody and discover he can operate the aliens' weaponry. The rest of the film details MNU's efforts to harvest Vand Der Merwe's new abilities and Christopher's attempts to get back to the mothership and return to his home.

Director and writer Neill Blomkamp has created an exciting film that is obviously a metaphor for man's prejudice and racism. His direction is tight and energetic. There is one weakness with the movie. I wish there was more dialogue to describe what the alien device does other than fuel a shuttle. I mean it's transforming a character into an alien. I also wonder why the aliens don't use their advanced weaponry against the humans in self defense. On that one, I can guess that the aliens are basically peaceful. And of course, my pet peeve is to stop using the hand-held camera because it induces nausea. I know he wants this to feel like a documentary at times, but it's still a fictional film. It interferes with the story telling. These are small quibbles to a film, that is intentionally ugly, thought provoking and thrilling. And kudos for creating aliens that are not humanoid.

Sharlto Copley is perfectly cast as the nerdy bureaucrat. He looks the part. His performance is a study of desperation and transformation.

District 9 is an intelligent, and action packed science fiction movie. The grade is "A."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i totally think i'm gonna go see this movie now...