District 9 (2009)

You Are Not Welcome Here.

Back in November 2007, Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp announced that they were going to move forward on the feature District 9, a live-action sci-fi movie that will mark Blomkamp’s feature directing debut, while Jackson would produce through his WingNut Films production banner. The project grew out of a kinship that developed between Jackson and Blomkamp in New Zealand as they prepped a movie adaptation of the Microsoft game Halo. Even though that process halted when co-financiers Universal and Fox balked at going forward, Blomkamp never left. Rather, he and Jackson continued to bat around ideas until they agreed on District 9.

'I don't really look like a prawn, do I?'
‘I don’t really look like a prawn, do I?’

District 9 takes place in an alternate timeline where, twenty years ago, an alien spaceship came to a halt above the city of Johannesburg. The inhabitants of the ship are unable to operate their craft, so they end up being segregated to their own slum within the city below. Eventually, the government calls for the eviction of the aliens (nicknamed ‘prawns’ due to their prawn-like appearance) from the slum. The film’s ostensible protagonist is Wikus (Sharlto Copley), who through a series of events too complicated to recount in a synopsis, ends up undergoing some rather dramatic changes and before long he’s thrust into the middle of something far too big for him to handle.

Shot in a rather rough documentary style, District 9 manages to stay fresh and surprising throughout. The film’s narrative, effects and creature designs are all top notch which is very surprising, given the film’s rather small 30 million dollar budget. What shocked me most about the film was my emotional attachment toward some of the aliens, which I had not felt since 2008’s WALL.E, as I knew they weren’t real, but still felt emotion towards them.

'All those years of playing Halo are finally going to pay off!'
‘All those years of playing Halo are finally going to pay off!’

Given that Blomkamp and collaborator Peter Jackson were originally aiming to make a film adaptation of Halo before changing to this, there are still plenty of moments that feel quite reminiscent of Bungie’s game, from the alien technology to the frantic battles. The effects work looks great in even the simplest of situations, to say nothing of the bombastic finale. There’s just something about the way it all comes together, especially when it is combined with one very uncompromising storyline and subject.

As a film, District 9 has so much to like. It’s spectacular, darkly funny, creatively violent, entertaining and thoughtful all at the same time, it even tackles issue involving the treatment of refugees, power and government corruption. But most importantly, it’s a refreshing sign that this may be the start of a bright future for director Blonkamp!

4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

District 9 is released through Sony Pictures Australia