District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)

This sci-fi actioner blends the style of 1st 15 minutes of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (Myrick, Sanchez; 2000) with the almost parallel social concept of Alien Nation (Graham Baker, 1988) wrapping with non-tinseltown flavour. If you are tired of the usual cliché alien invading/visiting Earth kind of flick, welcome to formulaic-free District 9.

The movie unfolds in an expertly quick cut of various news clips and TV interviews. Showing us how 20 years ago, a gigantic spacecraft from other world arrived and hovering in the sky, above the horizon of Johannesburg, South Africa. For a few months, nothing happen, the spaceship stayed static, the governments were speculating, the unknown sighting in the sky heightened the fear among the local people. Eventually the military forced a way into the spaceship. Rather than open a Pandora’s Box, they found the alien beings inside are in dire, malnutrition condition and without a leader.

The stranded aliens are then brought to the ground, instead of assimilate into man’s territory, the Prawns, named after their appearance, are forced to segregate in a place called District 9, an area resembles a refugee camp fills with a population of 1.8 millions aliens. Soon the place deteriorated into a ghetto. The co-existance did not last on account of some minor violence incidents involved Prawn and man. As a result of residents’ pressure, a government funded organization MNU (Multi National United) is in charge of the force eviction of the Prawn to a designated place away from the city. Wikus Van De Merwe (a nerdy newcomer Sharlto Copley) leads the MNU enforcement team to carry out the alien relocation task. Unknowing to others, MNU’s hidden agenda is to retrieve the biologically controlled weapons possessed by the aliens.

The movie’s tone take a switch to pay homage to The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986) when Wikus is unexpectedly sprayed with some alien liquid substance stored in a canister. What happen next is, he begins to fall ill and undergo some strange bodily transformation due to the amalgamation of human and prawn’s DNA. The liquid in the canister is actually a fuel substance that belongs to a Prawn named Christopher. In the final act, the movie morph into a full blown shoot-them-up actionfest when both Chris and Wikus reluctantly team up to accomplish their own different agendas against their common foe.

First time director cum co-writer, Neill Bromkamp expand his short story “Alive In Joburg” to the feature length of District 9. With a shoes-string budget, it manages to look like a testosterone-boosted sci-fi blockbuster. The great designs of the creatures/weapons couples with slick CGI special effect are neatly done by Peter Jackson’s WETA. Be warned to expect grotesque body parts splattered everywhere, and console gamers will find themselves homecoming with the mecha scenes. The aliens in District 9 are presented as ignorant, filthy and barbaric save for one Christopher. The portrayal of man’s evilness towards the aliens is almost unheard from the typical alien related movies. Evidently, This serves as metaphor of now defunct Apartheid system in South Africa.

This movie is touted as one of the rare sci-fi flick with inventiveness, but I have to think that it suffered with anthropomorphism syndrome like other movies depicting aliens. You know the drill, aliens with all kind of / numbers of head, limbs, hands, legs, eyes,……; same senses as we do. The similar social behavior as man and animal do, the same working class social hierarchy and so on. Unlike say, Contact (Zemeckis, 1997) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968) or the dreadful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Sphere (Levinson, 1998) these movies are the prime examples of NOT divulging how do extra-terrestrials look like.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List