I realized after getting District 9 from Netflix that I didn’t really know what it was about. I knew it had aliens, there was a faux documentary aspect to it and reflected Apartheid. I was blown away by how full this movie is. It’s not just a people vs. aliens movie or an enemies-turned-buddies movie or a rad action movie or a social injustice movie. It’s all of those things and more.
The following description will be SPOILERY, but not super spoilery. Moreso about the plot details I didn’t know going in. 20 years ago a spaceship appeared over South Africa, but no one came out so humans went up and cut in to find these aliens they dubbed the Prawns. Instead of integrating them into society Alien Nation-style, the Prawns are relegated to really shitty lean tos in a place called District 9. Now, the government has a “nicer” place to move them so some agents are sent in to tell the Prawns they’ve got 24 hours to move. Our main character Wikus goes in to do just then. He accidentally found a canister that Prawns had the sprayed him in the face and has started slowly turning him into one of them. He’s taken in by the agency he works for, experimented on and they discover he can use the weapons that came with the Prawns that only they can use. He breaks out, finds the Prawn who had the canister and ends up teaming up with him and his son. The Prawn and his son were trying to get fuel to get a small shuttle back to the ship, but they need the canister back, so they head back into the agency, get the stuff and head back. It gets crazy from there.
There’s still about 30 minutes left after that point, but I don’t want to completely spoil it. Now that I think of it, District 9 has a very video game sensibility to it. It starts off small, explaining the world and then keeps ramping things up and up and up until the crazy ending that can and probably will lead to a sequel. There’s even crazy alien weapons, several different enemies to shoot at (the military-esque guys, the aliens, the African dudes who sell guns and catfood to the Prawns) and one particular bad guy who seems ridiculously hard to kill for no real reason.
A movie like this hinges on two big things: the ability of the actors to make it feel like they’re really interacting with CGI beings and the ability of the special effects team to make CGI aliens that look real. I think they nailed it on both counts. Each of the Prawns have something unique about them whether it’s a different body color or a random, cast-off article of clothing they wear, they each felt like their own individual person.
Okay, even with all the stuff I liked, there were a few things I didn’t. I know the short film that writer/director Neil Blomkamp created and turned into District 9 was a mockumentary, but I don’t know if it really helped this movie. They use talking heads and experts as a way to explain the history and a few things at the end, plus that’s the way they get Wikus into the story, but he would have been there anyway. The movie starts off with the fake documentary format and then bounces back and forth between that later on, leaving it behind for a good chunk only to return at the end. For the most part, it was unnecessary though. I was also wondering why the heck there weren’t a ton of Prawn’s crawling around the final battle back at District 9. Had they already been moved? Did it get mentioned at all? It kind of bugged me that after showing hundreds of these things, that changed to just a handful, until the end of the action before the final comeback of the talking heads.
So, it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s absolutely worth checking out for anyone, who likes any kind of movies. Heck, even the missus liked it!