The best advice I can give you about District 9 is to stop reading this review. In fact don’t read any reviews, just get your keys, get in the car, and head to the theater. Seriously, stop reading. Well if you’re still reading this you’ve either already seen it, or you’re just stubborn, so I might as well go on. The reason I said to stop reading is simple, I knew almost nothing about this movie when I saw it, and I think it made the experience that much more. In a time when most trailers give away the entire movie, District 9 is a rare exception, a movie which, like Cloverfield, plays it close to the vest in their ads, and as such makes for a much more rich experience.
District 9 is set in an alternate Johannesburg, South Africa over which an enormous alien spacecraft has hovered for the past 20 years. Over the years the humans and “prawns”, as the aliens are known, haven’t had the best relationship, getting so bad that the government has placed the entire prawn population (1.8 million) into a fenced off area known as District 9. As the movie opens the government has hired a weapons contractor to assist them in moving the prawns from District 9 to District 10, which is located well away from any humans. In essence the government has set up their own alien concentration camp.
The man in charge of this operation is Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a nerdy office worker whose father is the owner of the company (no nepotism here!). As you can imagine a small group humans trying to evict 1.8 aliens doesn’t go smoothly. And that is all I’ll tell you about the plot. I know it’s not much, but trust me you’ll thank me later.
What I can say is this is one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve seen in years (since Donnie Darko to be exact) and possibly the best all around movie I’ve seen this year. Director Neill Blomkamp comes out of the gate with one of the most impressive debuts in years. (Again I think back to Donnie Darko and its promising director Richard Kelly and hope that Blomkamp capitalizes on his success a bit more than Kelly did.) But possibly the most amazing part of Blomkamp’s debut is seeing what he can do with only $30 million.
With a limited budget, Blomkamp has done more than Michael Bay has done in both of the Transformers combined. The prawns are amazing and look real enough to touch, they’re so good in fact I think if real aliens showed up they might look fake next to them. And Blomkamp has done a great job of combining a great story with some amazing action pieces. But be prepared, said action pieces are quite graphic in the violence department.
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the social side of the movie. District 9 is of course at its heart an allegory for apartheid. And Blomkamp does what only a good director can do; he makes an allegorical film that doesn’t shove the message down the viewer’s throat. What he does do is plant a seed in your mind that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater.
In the end the movie is an amazing sci-fi action film that in a dream world would be nominated for an Academy Award. But I fear that it may have to settle with amazing reviews, lots of cash, and a large fan base.