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District 9

Released: 2009

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Runtime: 1 hr 42 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, Elizabeth Mkandawie, John Summer, William Allen Young, Greg Melvill-Smith, Nick Blake

Extraterrestrials are forced to live in a South African slum.

One of the most unusual sci-fi films in some time.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

DISTRICT 9 is one of the most unusual sci-fi films in some time. It's a B-movie that, except for its extensive special effects, looks like a very low budget production. With hideous, gross monsters (the aliens) that are about as realistic as the campy ones in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, DISTRICT 9 is no spoof and, based on our packed audience, produces little laughter -- intentional or otherwise.

Set in the unlikely location of Johannesburg, South Africa, DISTRICT 9 eschews the most popular location for alien landings. As we know, having seen many such movies, aliens almost always point their spaceships toward large U.S. cities. Sometimes, of course, they have landed in Europe or Japan, but rarely have they ventured to Africa.

Even more unusual and intriguing is the alien "invasion," which starts off as something of a huge dud. After a massive mother ship parks in a stationary position above Johannesburg, earthlings board it only to find a bunch of malnourished and frightened aliens who cower when being greeted.

The script by Terri Tatchell and the film's director Neill Blomkamp sets most of the movie twenty years later, when the aliens, who turn out to breed like the proverbial rabbits, are now almost two million strong and living in a large concentration camp called District 9 near Johannesburg. Using the pejorative of "prawns," humans treat the large creatures, which do indeed look like seven-foot high prawns, like second class citizens. As human rights advocates demonstrate outside, the "MNU Alien Affairs Office" starts rounding up the aliens with plans to move them to another (and less hospitable) camp a couple of hundred kilometers away.

The movie is filled with never subtle messages about tolerance, so it is easy to see parallels between it and apartheid, as well as forced Native American resettlements. But these aliens are not very lovable, so it's easy to think poorly about them. Their favorite delicacy is cat food, which they get from Nigerian gangsters who hang around District 9, trading cat food for alien weapons. The prawns are scavengers who roam the garbage heaps, eating whatever food they can find. The movie can be quite repulsive, so I was not surprised when my wife walked out in disgust, saying she couldn't take any more of it.

Sharlto Copley, one of the film's cast of unknowns, plays Wikus Van De Merwe, the story's central character. A silly and gregarious wimp, he gets the assignment to lead the resettlement efforts, as the prawns are moved with being many slaughtered in the process. Told frequently in mockumentary style, the movie held my attention from start to finish, even though the first half was way too slow. The story picked up in the second half, as did the action. Director Blomkamp proved to be especially gifted at staging fast-action gunfights.

Although DISTRICT 9's story is quite unique, its look is lifted straight from 28 DAYS LATER. I was fascinated by it throughout, and I am looking forward to its sequel which, based on the ending, will undoubtedly be called DISTRICT 10.

DISTRICT 9 runs 1:42. It is rated R for "bloody violence and pervasive language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.