After a summer of being assaulted by millions of dollars of Hollywood special effects budgets being blown on bloated yet unsatisfying science fiction fantasy flicks like the "Terminator" and "Transformer" sequels, "District 9" arrives and restores your faith and reminds you how good science fiction can be.
Shot for a fraction of the big budget blockbusters, "District 9" comes in under the radar with a cast of relatively unknown actors, and is the first feature film from director and co-writer Neil Blomkamp who previously was an animator and worked in advertising. In 2005 however, Blomkamp released a short movie called "Alive in Joburg" which after checking it out online (watch it on the 'SpyFilms' web site here) , it is clearly the origin of the "District 9" universe and appears to be the breakthrough piece that got the feature length movie off the ground.
Blomkamp's talent must have been recognized by Peter Jackson who helped develop "District 9" as a Producer, enabling the movie to be released under Jackson's Wingnut brand. Jackson also brought with him his army of "Lord of the Rings" computer wizards at Weta that work their magic to integrate the downtrodden aliens so they seamlessly fit into the frames of the handheld documentary / reality show style that "District 9" uses to convey its story.
And its District 9's disenfranchised alien story and the transformation of the lead character that makes the movie so compelling. Sharlto Copley, who was a producer on the 2005 short film, stars as Wikus, a spineless bureaucratic paper pusher, that thanks to some old fashioned nepotism is promoted to lead up a group of UN-like troops assigned to force the eviction and relocation of the alien population from their slum like conditions, to an even creepier government run concentration camp set up outside of the city limits. Copley's portrayal of Wikus is intense and award worthy and holds the movie's focus to the very end.
"District 9" is based in the director's hometown of Johannesburg South Africa and it's easy to make the connection between the movie's underlying politics, to that country struggles against apartheid. However the alien fantasy element allows the filmmakers to take audiences a step further and force us to face the horrible truth that we humans really are the ugliest creatures in the galaxy. The movie doesn't become heavy handed delivering its message and makes it point while still being a well paced action movie that uses the sci-fi to drive it all home.
And while "District 9" does have its gruesome moments, there are quite a few nice touches that add to the movie's charm. This includes the aliens being the obvious intergalactic cousins to H.P. Lovecraft's C'thulu mythos and the alien's obsession with cat food which acts as their means of currency on earth. Hoping that Neil Blomkamp gets his wish to make "District 10", for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 08/19/09
Movie Magazine International
Movie Magazine International