District 9 (2009)

Film review: District 9 (2009), directed by Neill Blomkamp

district9Aliens – nicknamed “prawns” because of what they look like – decided a couple of decades ago to park their mothership over Johannesburg and disembarked, as there was some issues with it. They were put in a slum, named “District 9” to be out of the way of humans. As you would expect in a poor area, there are criminals, illegal weapons, and even interspecies prostitution (!). They don’t trade with money, they trade with tins of cat food, as that’s the aliens’ favourite munch.

The powers that be have set up a “District 10” 200-odd kilometres from Johannesburg to really get the aliens out of sight, out of mind, and thus have to serve them all with eviction notices from District 9. In comes Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a younger, nerdier, more cheerful and naive version of The Office‘s David Brent. Then things Go Seriously Wrong, and Wikus (that name reminds me of a name from Life of Brian… *cough*) suddenly finds himself on the run …

I was going to say I haven’t got a clue who anyone was, as I didn’t recognise anyone. Well, I take that back. I might not remember the characters too well, but at least I have definitely seen them before! Jed Brophy was in Perfect Strangers (2003) and John Sumner was in The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (1992)… both are movies from New Zealand starring Sam Neill.

Which is fitting, considering I was thinking the South African accent sounds a lot like a New Zealand accent. They’re not that far from each other. Sure, there are differences – New Zealand is more similar to Australian and South African sounds a lot like a Dutch person talking in English. Okay, so the post wasn’t supposed to be about accents.

Moving right along! William Allen Young has been in a lot of things, the one I remember him in being Moesha (1996-2001). Nathalie Boltt was also in a Sam Neill production, actually: as a reporter (uncredited) in The Triangle (2005), and (this is getting quite amusing now) Robert Hobbs was in To the Ends of the Earth (2005). So basically, I’ve seen a whole bunch of the cast members before! I’ve just not noticed them, as I was watching the stuff because of Sam. 🙂

Aaaaanyway.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s set in South Africa just because it feels like it quite echoing the Apartheid, but this time, it’s humans vs aliens, not white vs black. The aliens and humans have obviously learned each other’s languages, as they can understand one another and communicate. “Aliens are people too!” it feels as if they’re saying, as there are alien children, and you can clearly see the aliens reacting in very human ways (grief, care, concern, etc.) to things. Just because we look completely different doesn’t mean we’re all that different underneath. From just being weird, scaly aliens, you actually find they’re quite easy to empathise with. While Wikus is an office dork to begin with, he grew on me. Maybe helped that the moustache got lost among stubble. Never did like a man in a moustache.

The movie is partially documentary, with interviews of people who tell the backstory around the aliens and with cameras following people in the field; and partially just plain action movie. It’s very realistic in terms of yes, that’s probably what would happen if aliens came to stay. It’s the sort of bureaucracy Douglas Adams liked to make fun of, and quite rightly so!

The story is a bit predictable in that you know exactly what’s going to happen when Things Go Wrong, but it’s still a compelling watch. Sure it’s gory (rated R in the US and 15 in the UK) with people getting blown up left, right and centre in parts [sic!], but all in all, it’s a good movie. If it deserves the current spot of #68 on the IMDb Top 250 list, I’m not sure, but a rating of 8.5 doesn’t seem too far off the mark. It’s a film for thought, but not in an annoying or depressing way.

I could point out that it was produced by Peter Jackson (which would explain all the New Zealanders) and that it’s based on a short film posted on the Internet and such, but does that REALLY matter? What matters is that the movie is out in cinemas right now and is well worth a watch.

5 out of 5 tins of cat food.

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