District 9

Director Neill Blomkamp at one point was teamed with Director Peter Jackson to bring a film based on the popular video game series Halo to the screen. Sadly this project never saw the light of day due to gigantic budget cuts and Jackson’s reported reluctance to rework his deal.

Rather than let the talented young director move on to another project without working with him, Jackson put on his Producers hat and teamed with Blomkamp to create the highly entertaining “District 9” which is one of the summers most enjoyable films and a pleasant surprise.

The film is set in Johannesburg and tells of a group of aliens who become stranded on earth when their ship runs out of fuel and becomes disabled.

The film then jumps in and out of a pseudo documentary style as footage from news feeds, security cameras, and cameras are used to set the events and introduce the main character of the film, Wilkus Van De Merwe (Sharlito Copley), who is an employee of the Multi Nations United or MNU company which is in charge of overseeing the aliens and keeping them under control.

While much of this is to keep the public’s fear and disdain for the aliens they derogatorily call “Prawns” at bay, the true motive of the MNU is to unlock the secrets of the alien’s technology specifically their advanced weaponry.

The advanced weaponry cannot be used by humans as only the aliens genetic signatures can enable the weapons to fire, and as such, 20 years after the arrival of the aliens, the MNU is still unable to take advantage of the new technology.

The crux of the films details Wilkus’s promotion to lead a massive relocation of the aliens from their shanty town in District 9 to a more remote locale that will better allow the creatures to remain removed from the disdainful locales.

While the relocation is forceful, the MNU attempts to appease international observers and alien rights advocates by requiring the aliens to consent to the relocation. The fact that this is done at gunpoint is of no consequence to the MNU as the staff and soldiers show utter disdain for the aliens and even resort to such drastic actions as arbitrarily destroying a nest of their eggs in order to keep their population under control.

During the relocation process, Wilkus is clearly enjoying his new position and the status of being the focal point of the documentary. As he attempts to show off some contraband to the camera crew, he is exposed to a substance that starts to alter his DNA.

In less than a day, Wilkus goes from a mild mannered husband and company man to the most wanted man in the world, when it is discovered his DNA is starting to change into alien DNA which allows him to operate the alien weaponry.

Wilkus is exposed to the true nature of the MNU and his father in law, and seeks refuge in District 9 where he allies with an alien in an effort to regain his lost humanity. Along the way, his viewpoints change and he suddenly realizes the need to help the aliens.

In a desperate race against time, Wilkus must face deadly gangs, the MNU troops and other dangers before time runs out.

The film is a clever mix of action, science fiction, and social commentary as the obvious parallels to Apartheid are obvious in the film. The characters are interesting and the film cleverly mixes humor in with the social commentary without hitting you over the head with it.

The film does drag a bit at the ¾ point before gearing up to an action filled and enjoyable finale. “District 9” not only serves as a strong statement from Blomkamp that he is a talent on the rise, and also as a solid redemption for Jackson after the dissatisfaction of “King Kong”, and the failure of “Halo”.

4 stars out of 5