It’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around my own reactions to District 9. That’s not to say that this movie is needlessly complicated in terms of plot, story or satire. In fact, it’s rather straight-forward. But District 9 is a total anomaly in the Hollywood structure. How else can you describe a film with no celebrity actors that starts as a sci-fi pseudo-documentary and ends as an action shoot-em-up? If Children of Men made a baby with Flight of the Navigator you might find something similar to D9, but you might as well count on your 1,000 monkeys and typewriters script-writing scheme for better results. I was blown away by District 9. The special-effects, the creature and weapon designs, the not-so-subtle commentary on human nature, the moronic anti-hero, his reasonable yet grotesque alien sidekick, they all conspired to create one of the most creative motion pictures ever conceived. No summer movie since Spielberg’s Jaws or Jurassic Park has managed to captivate me so constantly while leaving me completely baffled as to what was going to happen next.
To clue you in, the basic premise of D9 is that twenty years ago an alien craft settled above the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens- prawn-like creatures, some adorable, some horrifying- cannot fix their spacecraft and are forced to migrate to Earth. The South African government builds the aliens a temporary living space, a slum, and the aliens become immediate social pariahs. All native South Africans are united in their xenophobia toward the creatures. To alleviate the rioting and illegal profiteering on both sides of this conflict the government decides to evict the aliens from the slum and transplant them to a new “safer” environment. The aliens fight back. They do not want to move.
The man leading the government’s efforts to suppress and torture the aliens in District 9 is Wikus van der Merwe (yeah, try saying that with a mouthful of peanut butter). He’s a foolish and overconfident man, but compelling in a strange way. It’s almost like watching Ricky Gervais’ David Brent dealing with an alien invasion. He’s totally unqualified to be in this position, but he makes up for it with sheer enthusiasm. When you see him burn down a building, he’ll bear a sickeningly sweet smile as he describes the little “pop-pop” sound it makes.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of this movie, because half the fun of D9 is the insane pace at which unpredictable events occur, throwing you into unbelievable situations at the drop of a hat, showing you things that have never been done this well on film before. The real story behind D9 is Neill Blomkamp, the writer/director formerly slated to helm the video-game mega-blockbuster Halo. When Halo cracked because of bickering studio mumbo-jumbo, big-time producer Peter Jackson decided to let Blomkamp do a pet project utilizing Jackson’s extensive Lord of the Rings effects experts. The result is a movie that probably should have been released earlier in the summer, because it would have been nice to see a real science-fiction blockbuster take down an ugly red-headed stepsister like Revenge of the Fallen.
District 9 is not the greatest story ever told, nor is it the finest film ever conceived. But for a first time feature for this up and coming filmmaker, I think it’s a movie to see this weekend, even if it means seeing two movies. My recommendation? See District 9 twice, QT will be in theaters til October. (Just kidding, you Basterds.)
Grade: A+ (for arm-ripping)