District 9 is one of the more creative movies that I’ve seen in a good while. It takes the typical science fiction story of first contact with an alien species similar to the day the earth stood still or close encounters of the third kind. But it’s presented in a way that flips the script. Making the aliens come off as weak and pathetic, not powerful and intimidating and instead of humans being in awe, they look down on them and see the aliens as a burden. But district nine is more than just a refugee story trying to be clever.
The characters are interesting. They have well-written dialogue and motivations. The setting is unique and the story is great. This is a really, really well-done movie. In my eyes, it’s pretty close to being perfect. I’m not 100% happy with it but I don’t have a whole lot to complain about. District nine takes place in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. An alien mother ship arrives to Earth and simply hovers in place above the city for three months. Until it’s decided to break the ship open and see what’s inside.
Oh my god. The creatures were extremely malnourished. Um they were very unhealthy. They seemed to be aimless. There was a lot of international pressure on us at the time. The entire world was looking at Johannesburg so we had to do the right thing. The government then established an aid group that started to ferry the aliens to a temporary camp that was set up just beneath the ship. What begins as a humanitarian effort to protect the alien species quickly grows out of control. As slums are constructed and become laden with crime and chaos, humans turn from accepting to annoyed and fearful. In the wake of this comes multinational United, a private military company that aims to control and police the slums of district nine. And 20 years later, by the time this backstory has become the accepted norm, is when our protagonist Vicus comes into play.
Vicus works for MNU as a social worker for the aliens and during his latest assignment to evict several alien residents, he becomes unintentionally infected with their DNA. Transforming his arm and leading MNU to capture him, run experiments, and eventually try to harvest his hybrid organs. Vicus now has to escape from his former employers and rely on the aliens who he had so much contempt for. Hoping that they will protect and eventually cure him. That’s a lot of backstory to get through but surprisingly, it’s all very well told and easily absorbed. Remember how in Cloverfield, nothing happens for the first twenty minutes? District nine is the complete opposite.
With constant information bombarding the audience but never too much as to be overwhelming. The earlier parts of the movie is told in a fake documentary style and while much of the lure is kept as a mystery, just enough is told to get a good idea of what’s going on as well as the attitudes of the key players. Sorry, sorry. Just above the the allocated amount of ammunition because I see your pouches are full but you think maybe you should speak to the colonel, right? You should over here is that uh we got too much uh ammunition.
Now, all I’m saying is that uh you know, you should find ways of making your vice more efficient, you know? Listen to me, you **** Get out of my face. Most of the characters, especially the antagonist, have exaggerated personalities. They’re basically a couple of steps away from being Saturday morning cartoon villains but while the story does have a flare for the dramatics, it manages to keep itself restrained more often than not. The MNU corporation just focuses on profits no matter what. Which does make them a little too dimensional but they are well written enough to make for a fun opposition. More interesting, however, is how the main character Vicus develops. He makes a lot of rash and selfish decisions but it’s mostly out of desperation. The guy is barely hanging on to his sanity after all what with everything that’s going on and he rarely gets the chance to think any through.
This makes him a great character with realistic flaws. Keeping in mind the very fantastical science fiction setting and while Vicus isn’t necessarily deep, he is engaging enough to make you want to follow his journey. It also helps that the actor portraying him, Charlotte Copley, gives a masterful performance and it’s easy to empathize with this character. You can just feel the hopelessness that he’s going through. **** **** **** Oh. The special effects are pretty amazing and it makes sense considering that the director Neil Blancapp has a long history with 3D effects in film. So he no doubt paid a close eye to detail in making sure that nothing looks out of place.
The mothership is a constant presence but despite being impossible to exist, it looks like it totally belongs. Same goes for the aliens and their technology. Little things like crouching to get through a door and the way they move around in general. They’re also very emotive particularly in the eyes which is undoubtedly done on purpose to tug at the heartstrings. The story really wants you to feel sorry for the aliens to the point where it kind of comes off as artificial but I’d say it’s never bad enough to get in the way of the movie. Really though, the visual work is quite impressive even by today’s standards. Despite the movie being over a decade old and only having a budget of million.
Unfortunately, I feel like there are some minor flaws that do bring the movie down just a tad. A couple of scenes here and there do look a bit unnatural. It’s hard to criticize this point considering how high quality the movie is as a whole. But that also makes such selection stand out even more. I’m also not a fan of how shaky the camera is pretty much all the time. I get that it’s a look they went for on purpose and I do think that they pulled it off well but shaky cameras in general tend to be obnoxious for me. Furthermore, the story relies a lot on conveniences. Despite how unlucky Vicus is for ending up in his circumstance, things keep working out in his favor to survive. I know that’s mostly a Hollywood thing and I do excuse it for the most part but overall, there are just too many little nitpicks that I feel could have been tightened up to make for a much better movie.
Despite whatever complaints I have, District nine is a massive favorite of mine. I love the characters. I love the setting. The pacing is spot on. There’s almost never any downtime. There’s always something going on and it’s a really exciting movie to watch and that’s thanks in part to the fantastic editing that always keeps the narrative moving while still being easy to follow. On top all that, the characters are well written and well developed so you actually care about what happens to them and the fantastic special effects are just a cherry on top. Unless you’re not really into science fiction, I would imagine that this movie should appeal to pretty much anyone. The scenario has a good amount of tension to it. The action is fun to watch. The characters are great. It hits just about every checkpoint with flying colors and it’s an absolute joy to a watch.