Review: District 9 (2009) – dir. Neill Blomkamp


Eh. This movie didn’t do too much for me at all. I’m not a huge fan of alien movies anyway (says the gal vamping up to see Star Trek: Into Darkness when it opens) and this one is no exception.

A TL;DW for you: Alternating between documentary and cinematic styles, a ship of aliens hovers over Johannesburg, South Africa and settle into District 9. The rest of the movie takes place 28 years after the hover-landing and is spent relocating the millions of aliens that created District 9 into a slum into District 10, turning into military v. aliens v. Nigerians in a slightly-trying-too-hard allegory of the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

Personally, I found the BTS information far more interesting than the movie itself, during which I dozed off lightly for a good 20 minutes or so. Turns out I didn’t miss much. The weaponry in the film is based off of real South African military artillery and the language that the aliens (known derisively as “Prauns”) speak is a mixture of several African languages, the most prominent being Xhosa. The military personnel have a heavy South African dialect and there’s plenty of colorful Afrikaans vernacular in the dialogue, which I found amusing. The cast itself is relatively unknown; in fact, Sharlto Copley (Mikus van de Merwe) had no intention of pursuing an acting career at all and the vast majority (if not all) of his dialogue was improvised. The aliens with speaking roles (of which there are three) were all played by a single actor (Jason Cope) and his lines were dubbed in post.

Speaking of the prauns, they were hysterical. They were oddly violent towards inanimate objects, butchered cows a lot, were addicted to cat food, and the main alien that befriends Wikus has a strangely cute alien kid and was named Christopher. Christopher. It’s like after George Lucas said “fuck it” to naming his space creatures awesome names like Ask Aak and Orn Free Taa and instead went for General Grievous (which LITERALLY MEANS GENERAL EVIL OR GENERAL BAD LIKE ARE YOU KIDDING ME GEORGE. WHY) in Revenge of the Sith, other directors making sci-fi films followed suit. Or maybe this is just an anomaly. Point is, an alien named Christopher is an alien I am going to take seriously for 0% of the movie. But I suppose they made an adequate representation of black Africans during apartheid because I did feel some empathy for them during the eviction sequences. They were stuck in this tiny shithole caused by militarization and after making the best of it, they’re forced into a (maybe) slightly bigger shithole. Not cool, white soldiers. Not cool.

So, that’s what I was reading up on while the actual movie was playing because I am a terrible movie-watcher. But honestly, there wasn’t a ton of substance in the movie. It’s very intense for sure, but didn’t really become story or character driven until the climax. I gave no fucks about the outcome for any of the characters. I thought the technology and science in the film were pretty nifty and I thought the shift from documentary to cinematic and back to documentary styles were well done. But other than that, I’m not quite sure how or why the film was as well-received as it was. Maybe viewers were relieved that it wasn’t another Cloverfield style of film, I dunno.

To sum up, District 9 did a stellar job with development, but couldn’t hold my attention with the finished product. On the other hand, I did like the ending. But still. Sorry not sorry.

Final Verdict: C

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