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I first saw District 9 in the cinema when it was released; I've seen it several times since then and it's poignancy and brilliance barely dims on repeat viewings.
This is the debut feature length film from Neill Blomkamp, and also from lead actor Sharlto Copley. It doesn't show. This is an excellent piece of work from both, well worthy of more wide-spread appreciation than it achieved.
In a world where an alien ship, full of aliens that were to become known as prawns, found itself stranded in Johannesburg, we find ourselves in a simply excellent study of prejudice and what is essentially apartheid with aliens. When government worker Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is sprayed with an alien substance during a raid, the plot amps up and, along with prawn pal Christopher Johnson, Wikus sees what it's like on the other side of the fence.
The format is mock-documentary, which actually seems to work here, aiding the plot rather than getting in the way of it. The affects are top-notch and the whole thing has a gritty dirt-encrusted feel that brings you more firmly into a world where there are slums for slightly insectoid-looking aliens.
If it were an American film this would be a blockbuster; if it weren't a sci-fi film then it would've had a chance at major awards. It's neither; it's a South African sci-fi, critically acclaimed, but generally only having a cult following.
It's a 15 age rating for a reason though - there's plenty of pretty convincing looking gore, some mature themes, and plenty of swearing too. Not for kids, and not for the easily offended.
It's a fantastic and truly excellent film though, with the excellent and strong performance of Sharlto Copley keeping Neill Blomkamp's deep and devoted premise on course. It's worth a watch, I promise.
Directed by Niell Blomkamp
Written by Niell Blomkamp and Terri Tatchel
Cast: David James, Jason Cope, Kenneth Nkosi, Louis Minnaar, Mandla Gaduka, Nathalie Boltt, Sharlto Copley, Sylvaine Strike, Vanessa Haywood
In 1982 an alien space craft appears hovering over South Africa. After waiting for some sort of contact from the inhabitants of the ship the humans decide to go aboard. What they find are alien refugees, the only survivors of their planet. The aliens, or 'Prawns' as the humans call them, are set up in a camp in South Africa's District 9 as the world's nations argue over them. Now, after 20 years of tensions between the aliens and the humans they are to be evicted from District 9 to a new camp out of Johannasburg. Wikus van der Merwe, a field operative in charge of the operation, comes into contact with an alien substance and begins changing his DNA, ironic as he has treated the Prawns as dumb animals, and will now learn what it's like to be the persecuted.
Merwe quickly becomes the World's most wanted man. On the run he returns to District 9 in the hope of a cure. He finds help in the form of 'prawn' alien, Christopher Johnson who promises to help him- but will he. Christopher tells him he needs the substance that was taken to fuel the Mother ship to reverse the mutation, so together they must break into the lab to try and get it.
Sharlto Copley, whom I've never heard of before, is fantastic- he manages to bring realism and humour to the role. The film is is well made and the special effects are outstanding. The characters are 'believable', and the selfishness and self preservation of the main character really comes through, although as the film progresses he becomes more and more 'empathetic' towards them.
This documentary style film shot in 2009 is based on Apartheid in South Africa and in parts is uncomfortable to watch but a great must see film.
I stumbled on this film by accident while flicking through the TV channels a few weeks ago, I'm glad I did as I haven't enjoyed a film so much in ages!
*** Film Only Review ***
'District 9' is a film from 2009, directed by Neill Blomkamp.
*** Storyline ***
Years before, a spaceship arrived in South Africa, depositing its passengers and apparently ceasing to function, hovering above the ground but still, ever since. The aliens are like large insects, bigger than human beings but bipedal, and have been confined to a reservation-like area - District 9. As we join the story, the humans have decided it's time to restrict the 'prawns' further and are clearing the area, sending them to a newer camp.
It is Wikus Van De Merwe's (Sharlto Copley) job to inform and evict residents from the shanty town that makes up District 9. He is being followed by a documentary team.
When Wikus stumbles upon a resident's stash of contraband items, he is sprayed by some kind of chemical and almost immediately starts to suffer severe side-effects. It's not long before he is in deep trouble, no longer in control and in authority over the 'prawns', but is more in their place of oppression...
*** My View ***
The film is shot in documentary style, aiming for realism rather than glossy production values, occasionally having hand-held camera-type shots. It is interspersed with interviews and voice-overs with various characters, who tell the story of what happens to Wikus. There are special effects: after all, the aliens themselves are computer generated and the spaceships and technology require it, but it's cleverly done and not obtrusive. The film is not about the gadgetry or the special effects, it's about the story.
I didn't recognise any of the actors in the film at all, which added to the realistic filming style for me.
I loved this film - it had me thoroughly engrossed throughout.
The audience is led to empathise and sympathise with the oppressed aliens more than the humans. It is an odd juxtaposition of the mostly defunct, yet superior alien tech against the slum conditions the poor 'prawns' are forced to live in. The prawns seem a degraded people, having had technology beyond human ability, yet reduced to scrabbling about for cat food on Earth. The humans are desperate to acquire the alien technology but are unable to work any of it, as it will only respond to the prawns' touch.
You might say there's a kind of self-hatred in the depiction of humans in this film, which isn't an uncommon theme in s-f, (often humans as the biggest threat to themselves or the universe, or a virus/cancer on the face of the earth). Here, hardly any humans come out looking good. The exploitative gang who live on the edges of District 9 trade with the 'prawns' but have no compunction in killing them for their own ends, while the corporation involved with the 'prawns' is willing to experiment on them. Especially because it's set in South Africa, you can't help but think about the parallels between racial segregation and bigotry in real life and the past. It's somewhat problematic to my mind that the black gangsters are chaotic, superstitious evil-doers while the whites are scientifically/industrially evil.
Wikus is almost an anti-hero, dismissive of the 'prawns', especially in the beginning. He will treat the aliens poorly, willing to stretch the truth and obfuscate, even blackmail the 'prawns' into co-operating in their own eviction. That said, he's not vicious in his work, whereas his military colleagues take pleasure in brutalising the aliens. He is desperate to save himself at any price and his eventual shift towards treating the 'prawns' as if they have worth or rights is hard-won.
There are some grotesque moments, reminiscent of Cronenburg's The Fly (1986). There's violence, swearing and the film is rated 15.
Whenever I watch this film, I'm always absorbed. It's amazing that I can be brought to wince on behalf of a machine, (as Wikus is under attack in an alien robot) - I feel every shot/blow and it's gruelling to watch. It's a bit of a change from the usual sci-fi imperviousness and disposability of tech. I think it's really interesting and well-done.
It's available on DVD and Blu-Ray. New from Amazon the DVD will set you back £3.70.
District 9 is a science fiction/fantasy film that follows the life of a government bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe who has been allocated the task of relocating malnurished and struggling aliens segregated from the rest of the Johannesburg population, crudely nicknamed 'prawns' for their crustacean-like appearance. The prosthetic effects used to 'create' the so called prawns is stunning and as realistic as one would imaging a threatening alien race to look.
The film parallels the Apartheid era in South Africa, taking key themes from it such as complete segregation and the District system, whereby District 6 was named "White only". In District 9, 'speciesism' represents the xenophobia and racism that was prevalent in the last 60s-90s in South Africa.
Despite much reliance on special effects and the glamorisation of government running in the experimentation labs, District 9 is outstanding. It manages to be both action packed and heart-wrenching, with Wikus taking on the role of 'class-clown' as well as a thoughtful and considerate being understanding the plight of the prawns.
The hero is very unorthodox adding to the already imaginative nature of the film, with the viewer expecting at any moment for some muscle bound action man to take his place. The acting is generally good, in particular from Sharlto Copley who effectively conveys the often callous and uncaring attitude toward the 'Prawns' which echoes history subtly without making it over obvious. Copley is able to turn the film from just another sci-fi flick into a piece of realism.
I bought this DVD for my wife who is a huge sci-fi fan for Christmas 2009, we have only just got round to watching it, as neither of us felt too sure we would enjoy it. What a mistake, this film lives up to the hype entirely and is one of the most thoughtful and interesting films I have seen in a long time.
The story is set in 2010, it begins with documentary footage explaining that in 1982, a huge space craft carrying malnourished aliens, unaffectionately nicknamed 'Prawns' parked above Johannesburg in South America. The mock-documentary explains how the aliens were quickly placed in a holding camp, District 9, experimented on and treated like outcasts, their behaviour began to fit their circumstances and a decision was made to move their camp to a more remote area away from the city, where they were visible and clearly upsetting to the locals both socially and in their behaviour.
The story follows Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) an operative of MNI (Multi National United), the worlds second largest munitions manufacturer, whose company have been tasked to vacate the Aliens and move them to District 10, 200km outside the city. Wikus is given the task, despite his obviously lack of nous, of managing the operation, however things go horribly awry when he accidentally spills some liquid on himself in District 9 and becomes the most wanted man on the planet, with his face in every newspaper and television screen there is only one place for him to escape to.....District 9.
Sharlto Copley ... Wikus Van De Merwe
Jason Cope ... Grey Bradnam - UKNR Chief Correspondent / Christopher Johnson
Nathalie Boltt... Sarah Livingstone - Sociologist
Sylvaine Strike... Dr Katrina McKenzie
Elizabeth Mkandawie... Interviewee
John Sumner ... Les Feldman - MIL Engineer
William Allen Young... Dirk Michaels
Greg Melvill-Smith... Interviewer
Nick Blake... Francois Moraneu - CIV Engineer Team
Morena Busa Sesatsa... Interviewee
Jed Brophy... James Hope - Police Officer
Louis Minnaar... Piet Smit
This is a wonderful film from the South African born Canadian, Neil Blomkamp, produced by Peter Jackson, it is so effective partly because it eschews the usual American setting and places the drama in an area where easy comparisons can be made between the treatment of the aliens and the treatment of some Black Citizens of South Africa. It is a science fiction film that has an incredibly interesting central premise, what if Aliens were found who presented no clear danger, what would we do with them, would they be allowed to integrate, would they be segregated or even used for our own scientific advances?
The film benefits from it's documentary style, for much of it, the action switches between close ups and news footage of the action taking place, it is utterly effective and reminiscent of the world we live in. The visuals work on every level and push this story above most regular science fiction films.
The story is excellent, Shalto Copley is great as the central character. For much of the film, he is an incompetent bureaucrat only interested in his work and his wife, his behaviour even entering the final third of the film is cowardly and self-preserving and then something changes, he appreciates the humanity of life, and that his own struggle is mirrored by the 'Prawns' around him. He doesn't seek sympathy unnecessarily or attempt to make his character any more comical than he appears, my only reservation on his excellent performance was that every time he swore he sounded like a Liverpudlian, but I have researched and this is his real accent so I step down on that one.
At the start of the film Wilus is happily evicting Alien families, even helping destroy buildings where the young aliens feed, whilst they are in there, he has no connection to these 'monsters' and this allows him to dispassionately view them as something beneath him, as animals, but as the story develops this changes.
The story is bright and intelligent, there are clear comparisons between the dirty, grimy 'camps' set up for the 'prawns' with some African townships, it also brought to mind the camps set up for Zimbabweans in South Africa, fleeing their own regime.
The locals reaction to the 'Prawns' is also reminiscent of the scenes in Zimbabwe between the Afrikaan's and the black inhabitants and the current generation of South Africans and Zimbabwean immigrants, it could also be more widely accepted as a global issue as I've seen similar voxpops here of people discussing how immigrants are taking space and social care that could be used for residents. The aliens are clearly unwanted by their hosts, and this causes them to be treated badly, so badly, that their natural reaction is to rebel and to find ways of living, from stealing and robbing to buy catfood (The preferred cuisine of the aliens), to murder and more brutal means.
The Aliens are CGI generated but perfectly brought to life, District 9 is dirty, devoid of virtue, unsafe and unclean, but it is unclear if this is due to the Aliens or the conditions they have been forced to endure. The multi-national brought in to clean the area up, is a selfish money orientated beast, as we discover when Wikus experiences problems and is hung out to dry, their selfishness is easily translatable to many existing organisations and by the middle of the film, much like Avatar, you have to question whose side you are on in this story, just as Wikus does also.
Wikus behaviour reminds me of the film, 'The Fly' and his personality and desires change as the film develops, his alliance with the alien 'Christopher Johnson' is key to him appreciating that these creatures have feelings and brains and actually are superior to humans, unfortunately as the film begins it is explained that the aliens who survived their arrival on earth were merely followers and all the leaders died, so there is nobody to harness the raw materials and allow them to express themselves clearly to the humans about what they can do.
The film is a mix of English and subtitles for the Aliens, there are vicious Nigerian Gangsters and some magnificent gun fights and chases. The South African accents become easier to understand as the film develops, even if the attitudes of some of the soldiers and businessmen don't.
The film is well paced and catches just the right mix of emotion, CGI, story and action, the fights are amazing, some of the guns awesome and the spaceship overlooking the City is a wondrous sight to behold.
The documentary feel gives it a real link to our world, it is seen in a manner we would see such issues with global news at our fingertips, this makes the action much more integrating and also makes us feel much more an element of the problem as well as the solution, as the way the situation develops for the aliens over 20 years in South Africa isn't resolved or bettered by any other countries offering to help the aliens or aid them further.
For me this is what Science Fiction films should be about, it asks loads of questions and doesn't give you all the answers, It provides a situation that is just far enough from reality to be unreal, but close enough that you believe it could happen, that is the beauty of this film, it's not pure silliness it has elements that could easily happen, what would happen if aliens landed and needed refuge and food, what would we do?
How do we treat aliens in our own countries, what would happen to our lives if we were ostracised in the ways some others in our society are? These are excellent questions and there are many others for smarter people than me. The film is well thought out, brilliantly paced and well shot. It received worldwide plaudits on release and rightly so, the ending is very good and quite sweet, with a real sense of humanity, it will be interesting to see if this remains the only film in this series though.
The end is excellent and not what you would expect, but then the film is slightly off kilter from most films in its perspective which makes it very different and much more exciting, if there is a sequel I look forward to it, simply because this is such an inventive and interesting story, i'd be keen to see how they follow it up.
The DVD is available for £3.99 on Amazon and includes the following special features:
The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker's Log--Three-Part Documentary
Favourite Scene: The beginning where Wikus enters the camp and attempts to intimidate the 'Prawns' with his management techniques.
Favourite Line: I would never have any kind of... pornographic activity with a ******* creature!
I genuinely enjoy proper sci-fi, but, unfortunately, it has become a rare thing in the recent years as most of it was replaced with formula books and movies that I don't bother to read or watch. So you can imagine my scepticism when I came across the District 9 DVD. On top of it, there was also curiosity because suddenly it looked like everyone I knew had watched the film and enjoyed it.
First of all, a few words about the plot. A big spaceship appears in the sky over Johannesburg, South Africa, and remains suspended for over 20 years. The aliens found on the ship turn out to be drastically malnourished and somewhat disorientated. Nicknamed "prawns", they remain on Earth, but become loathed by the local population and are forced to live in a ghetto. While the scientists and the military men are racking their brains over ways to use the aliens' weapons based on some complicated bio-chemical principles, the government decides to relocate the prawns to another area and assigns the task to Multi-National United (MNU), a private military corporation. The operation is to be led by Wikus van der Merwe, a bureaucrat to the backbone and, coincidentally, son-in-law to an MNU executive...
To be honest, when the film just started I couldn't immediately realise whether it was the film itself or some stupid commercial. A silly guy filmed in his office was the last thing I expected to see at the beginning of a sci-fi film. But as it kicked off with the documentary bits, I found myself totally involved with what was happening on the screen. Some of the documentary "experts" were chosen particularly well, especially Jason Cope, who, as it turned out, played all of the speaking aliens in the film, including Christopher Johnson (how weird does this name sound for an alien!). I also particularly liked the unity sign with figures of a human and an alien holding a star. That looked pretty awesome, just like a simplified version of Worker and Peasant Woman or Hammer and Sickle in some god-forsaken town on the post-Soviet Union territory.
In terms of content, District 9 is a rather unique film as it touches loads of topics without diverging from the main theme or making a mess of the story. At the same time, Sharlto Copley as Wikus delivers a whole spectrum of human emotions pulling the viewers one-by-one to his side. Having watched the deleted scenes, I am really grateful to the film-makers for not providing explanations for all the aspects of the story, particularly what had happened to the aliens on the ship and how their society was organised. In good sci-fi and, broadly, in good films, such details are usually left out. I believe a director who explains and rationalises everything is not much of a director since his cinematographic linguistics skills are definitely weak.
Neill Blomkamp, on the contrary, managed to do his first full-length feature in the best traditions of sci-fi. I couldn't stop comparing the atmosphere of the film to The Roadside Picnic, the only book by the Strugatsky brothers I have read so far, but a real classic of the genre. It is this idea of putting aliens in the slums and turning them into the outcasts that brings so much believability and social relevance. Here I can't help thinking of the 1972 Solaris with its conversation in the library and Snaut's words: "We don't want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don't want other worlds; we want a mirror." If you view this film in the pure sci-fi way, then this idea will characterise it pretty well.
But District 9 is, of course, not about aliens at all. That's the whole trick about good sci-fi: it's all about us humans. Even though the film has clear references to the past, in my mind, it paints a pretty gloomy picture of the future. With every 6th person on the planet living in slums, it is not hard to imagine that for someone life of a "prawn" is reality, not science fiction.
NB: This review is mirrored in my blog at www.artymind.com
(This review also appears in my blog, http://www.alphatucana.co.uk/blog/alphatucana.php )
A vast alien spaceship arrives and parks itself high in the air over... Johannesburg. And then, nothing happens. After about 3 months the humans get impatient and break into the ship to find a couple of million aliens in need of rescue. So, they bring them down to the city, but they turn out to be rather a rootless, aimless bunch of criminals and losers and cause so much hassle with the local population that the aliens end up being coralled in a ghetto, called District 9.
That's the premise of this 2009 sci-fi film by Neill Blomkampp and Terri Tatchell (with Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame as an executive producer). And for once, the term 'sci-fi' is accurate, because this isn't just a normal Hollywood action film in sci-fi dressing, this is proper science fiction for once. By that I mean that the story is a subversive look at a possible future for humanity - which is what real science fiction is supposed to do. In this case, the future being looked at is what happens if humanity can't control its over-exploitation of the Earth's resources: will we end up with a small super-rich elite living in gated and heavily guarded communities, and everybody else living in foul slums like Johannesburg's Soweto (where this was largely filmed)? In this film, the aliens stand in for the poor.
The acting in this film is exceptional, especially that of the star, Sharlto Copley, who plays the reluctant hero Wikus Van De Merwe, a very ordinary guy - stupid, selfish, cowardly and prejudiced - placed in charge of managing the eviction of the aliens from District 9 because the authorities (MNU, an evil military corporation, basically) wants to move them 200km out of the city and well out of everybody's way. Much of the film is shot in handheld documentary style, as the idea is that as Wikus goes about his business, a documentary is being made. So he is talking to the camera, explaining what he's doing, being embarrassed as he makes mistakes, and so on. As a novice, he glances at the crew behind the camera too, just as a not-too-clever newbie might in this situation.
He's a reluctant hero because he doesn't care for the welfare of the aliens at all, really: he is only concerned with his own situation. However it all goes wrong for him and he ends up having to ally himself with a rather smart alien called Christopher in an attempt to steal some alien gunge from MNU. You see, he gets infected by some advanced alien... stuff... and begins to turn into an alien. For a prejudiced man like Wikus, this is perhaps even worse than it would be for most. The alien, for his part, wants the gunge so he can power-up the crippled alien starship and get the heck out of this slum.
So what we have here, as well as the science-fiction angle, is a personal, psychological angle. Wikus is a rather low type of human being, but as it turns out, the alien is of the noble variety. We can see them as two sides of the same person: Wikus the conscious side is a selfish coward, but as he slowly transforms into an alien, his superior inner nature, represented by the alien Christopher (Christ) gradually comes out. So Wikus loses his humanity in order to find it...
It goes without saying, of course, that there's a racial angle to this film too. Set in post apartheid South Africa, it could hardly be avoided, and the bureaucratic way it is implemented in this movie rings true, along with the way Wikus lectures the camera and his black assistants about what "the Prawn" needs, wants, should do, etc. But rather than saying how bad the racism under apartheid was, the film is more importantly saying that it is still with us: humans are still the same. As filming began, there were riots in Johannesburg with South African blacks burning and killing Zimbabwean refugees. Nigerians have a rather bad reputation down there (and elsewhere) too. And we should not forget just who the aliens really are in South Africa.
A film like this naturally has to have a ton of CGI and it is done extremely well. Not only that, but the director doesn't dwell on it - there are no time-wasting gee-whizz shots. The focus is always on the action and the characters, and the story moves on constantly.
Overall, this has to be one of the best, if not the best, sci-fi film for years. I rate it 10/10.
I watched District 9 last year on Sky so this is a review of the film and not the actual dvd. I recorded it on Sky + and started to watch it but at first I couldn't work out what was going on and thought I wouldn't like the film but then I came on Dooyoo and read up some reviews about the film and realised it was my kind of film so I watched it again and really enjoyed it.
The film starts like a documentary with a reporter and camera crew in a war zone in South Africa. There is a lot going on and at first like I said I couldn't quite get what was going on. But if you stick with it you find the whole story is filmed like this where you feel like you are watching live action taking place. It is very cleverly done and does keep you watching, a bit like when there is a big news story taking place and you are watching it unfold live on one of the news channels.
I really enjoyed the story once I "got" what was going on. It was quite sad in a way but exciting too and even though the creatures were way out of this world you could actually believe that this was real news that you were watching.
I thought the way they made the creatures was good, they looked like something that could really exist being a sort of cross between reptile, sea creature (they were called prawns in the film) and insect. I liked the way they had them living in this refugee camp, they gave the creatures personalities so you saw them living as families with youngsters just like you would a human family who was living in this kind of slum.
Apart from the Prawns, the star of the film was Sharlto Copley who played Wikus Van De Merwe. He is in charge of the operation to clear the site of aliens but when he gets contaminated with an alien chemical things start to go wrong and he finds he ends up on the side of the creatures as they are the only ones who can help him.
Chief actors in the film are
Sharlto Copley - Wikus Van De Merwe
Jaspn Cope - Grey Bradnam
Nathalie Boltt - Sarah Livingstone
Sylvaine Strike - Dr Katrina McKenzie
John Summer - Les Feldman
I would highly recommend this film, it is not just for science fiction fans, it has a good story to it which I am sure you will get sucked into.
The film is directed by Neill Blomkamp and it runs for 112 minutes. It is rated a 15 in the UK.
In Johannesburg, South Africa in 1982 a huge spaceship parked itself right over the city. There it stayed for 3 months, hovering with no sign of activity. Eventually the government decides to do something about it and forces entry into the ship. On board they discover thousands of alien creatures, dubbed "prawns" because of their resemblance to this creature. They look more like overgrown insects to me. They are struggling to survive aboard the spaceship and are in desperate need of aid. The government decides, to be seen to do the right thing, and houses them in a run-down area called "District 9" on the outskirts of the city centre.
There is a mixed reaction from the locals. Many feel sorry for them, want to help them and welcome them to their city. Others reject them and refuse to get along with them. They are uncertain of their intensions, they fear them and just don't trust them.
Over the next few years conditions gradually deteriorate for the prawns as people start to lose their affection for them, and they steadily get neglected. The dishonest, abusive element of the human fraternity come to the fore and start to abuse and exploit the prawns. Their population increases and their camp becomes overcrowded. It becomes extremely rundown and living conditions become dreadful. Tensions between the humans and the prawns rose because the prawns seemed to be manufacturing their own weapons, and of course where there are weapons, there is crime. People eventually got fed up, and soon the rioting started in an attempt to remove the prawns from their city.
After 20 years, the government decides to do something about it and plans to relocate them to a new larger, better facility 200 kilometres away. They employ a private military company called Multi-National United (or MNU) to carry out the eviction. Lively employee, Wikus Van De Merwe, is head of the alien affairs department, and is charged with leading the operation and it's his job to inform all the prawns of what's happening and to get them to sign an eviction notice using any means possible.
Unfortunately for Wikus and his team not all the prawns are compliant. Some are suspicious of what MNU are trying to do and retaliate violently. In one such incident Wikus is exposed to a volatile substance manufactured by a very suspicious looking prawn. Wikus initially continues his work, but slowly, whatever he was exposed to, starts eating away it his body. He gradually deteriorates and is unable to continue his work. His condition worsens and soon he realises what's happening to him.........he's turning into a prawn! What will Wikus do?
This film is quite a riveting watch. There are plenty of special effects involving the spaceship and the prawns but it's not in your face like Independence Day. Instead it's a more toned down approach and one that gives a more realistic version of what it might actually be like if alien life landed on earth. This serves to make the story that bit more believable.
The prawns themselves are wonderfully animated giving them life-like properties. They have human like limbs and a strange reptile like exterior. They converse using their own sounds and clicks, which is quite well thought out. Their conversations are provided as subtitles. They are so well integrated into the shots that you think that they are real and actually there. The effects department has done an outstanding job. Keep an eye out for the young prawn, he is so cute.
Much of the filming, especially around the camp, is in the handheld video camera style which gets you right in the thick of the action. It's not like Cloverfield or Blair Witch, but it does put you at the heart of the story.
The acting, especially from Sharlto Copley (Wikus) is first class. The enthusiasm he shows for his job makes him a likeable character and makes it easy to sympathise with him. I've heard that many of his scenes are ad-libbed, which makes his performance all the more impressive.
The film also plays on your allegiances and feelings. Initially you will probably side with Wikus and his team, but over time you may find yourself developing a soft spot for the prawns and their predicament, especially as you get to watch them go about their own lives. It's tribute to the writers for coming up with such a clever and thoughtful story.
I think the films tries to portray and put across the difficulties humans might face if confronted with such a situation. It shows that many people are inherently xenophobic and that they would be shallow and cruel towards such an unknown race. It tries to say that humans would find it difficult to accept the unknown beings and find it hard to integrate them into our society. To be honest I can see how it might happen.
Many people have commented on the various plots and themes that they think are written into the story, and comparisons have been made with the apartheid era in South Africa. For me, I didn't try to draw any parallels, I just enjoyed the film for what it was.
To summarise, District 9 is a well written and very impressive science-fiction film. It's not a Hollywood spectacular, but has been directed and shot in such a way to bring a sense of reality to the already excellent storyline. I was very impressed with this film, and would certainly recommend it to others.
Film: District 9
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Running Time: ~112 mins
Certificate: 15 [Very strong language and some scenes of violence]
Cheapest Price: £4.99 [Amazon.co.uk and Play.com]
If Paul Verhoeven has wet dreams, they probably look a little bit like District 9. A brave new world framed within an awesome action-fest that belies an otherwise intelligent social commentary; seamless special effects that make modern blockbusters blush at the size of their effects budget; and, most importantly, demented alien weaponry that eviscerates victims into a bloody pulp of glorious, glorious gore. So Verhoeven's probably crying himself to sleep that out of the remains of the aborted Halo movie the world's hairiest and most recognisable hobbit (Peter Jackson to the uninitiated) decided to give young pretender to the throne, Neill Blomkamp, the keys to the kingdom of WETA. Who was to know that with his first feature film he'd somehow better Verhoeven's back catalogue with not even a demure three breasted women or any kind of American baiting in sight!
Aliens have finally arrived on Earth! Yet instead of obliterating New York in a furnace of fiery death as expected, the aliens have parked their beaten-up shed of a ship outside Johannesburg. Given the usual warm human welcome, the dim-witted 'prawns' found on board are quickly eyed with suspicion by the locals, decreed lowest of the low and exiled to District 9, a slum on the outskirts of the city. After 20 years of the derelict ship hogging the skyline and inconsiderate prawns causing a general nuisance, the inhabitants of Joburg demand the government shift the incompetent drones to a more suitable home, preferably a galaxy far, far away. Enter MNU (Multinational United), the organisation set up to control alien affairs, and specifically irritating desk-monkey Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) who is charged with leading the forcible eviction of the prawn problem to a designated happy camp that would make the Nazis blush. However, Wikus' discovery behind the mysterious workings of the exquisite alien weaponry MNU have been floundering to establish since the aliens' first arrival, and the befriending of a prawn named Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope) cause a strange metamorphosis to overcome Wikus. With his loyalties and prejudices challenged, Wikus becomes MNUs public enemy number one and, hunted as a fugitive by the organisations military arm, he enters the one place he knows they are unlikely to follow - District 9 - to look for Christopher's help, salvation and a shitload of alien weaponry...
At first glance there would seem little unique about District 9. The concept of a human and alien double act teaming up to expose the underlying nastiness of a large corporate conglomerate is nothing particularly new, with both Alien Nation and Enemy Mine having previously, uhm... mined such themes within the sci-fi cannon. Likewise, the Wikus and Christopher dynamic is really no different to that of Riggs and Murtaugh (just with fewer wise-cracks) and the slew of buddy-buddy partnerships that have since followed. It's a tried and tested formula that generally works, but subsequently can lead to a drab, mediocre movie. Yet, District 9 is anything but formulaic. Unlike most flicks under the buddy-buddy staple, you don't really see where District 9 is going plot-wise until the finale, a masterstroke that provides a tension and intrigue often missing from its genre contemporaries. Wikus' plight, ordeal and retribution are therefore entirely captivating. And when you add an unconventional documentary style mixed with a good dollop of body horror, a smidgeon of action adventure and some clever sci-fi musings, well you can't help but have a huge grin on your face come the closing shot.
Credit really has to go to Blomkamp for creating such a fusion of styles. With only a number of short films to his name, the most important being 'Welcome to Joburg' which lays down the foundations from which District 9 has been constructed, his first feature could have been little more than amateurish. The fact it's slick and compelling is largely surprising. Sure, having Jackson and WETA for support is going to go some way to making your first feature stand out visually, but Blomkamp is certainly responsible for the ballsy decisions that impact so indelibly on District 9's style. For instance, to film the movie unconventionally as part documentary, with protagonists informing the viewer on events that have already happened, and splicing it with normal cinematic footage for the 'unknown' elements of the story, could have made for a jarring, confusing experience that left the audience cold. As it stands, it's edited together so well that you barely notice the joins as the movie flips from one format to the other with surprising elegance. Such a method also ensures that the viewer is brought completely up to speed with the timeline of the alien arrival to their eviction before the title credit even rolls, meaning Blomkamp has much more time to delve into that which matters - the fall and rise of Wikus.
Likewise, the decision to film Jason Cope on stilts and then overlay the prawns' exterior over his movements is equally commendable. Not only does it build on believable characteristics and movement of the aliens (for his part, Cope is utterly superb despite only seeing his visage as a character in the documentary segments), it ensures the CGI seems natural and comfortable on screen and not entirely out of place alongside the real backdrops (no green screen here - most of the action is shot outdoors). Indeed, despite the smallish budget, the effects are utterly superb throughout. The eerie, desolate alien ship hogging the serene Johannesburg skyline is beautiful, as are the kick-ass alien weapons when they finally burst into life. With Blomkamp at the helm, there is something just so refreshing about District 9 that would have been lost in the hands of a more mature director. Pure exuberance coupled with a little talent and the art of experimentalism, does a quality film make.
And that's without discussing Sharlto Copley. Feck knows where Blomkamp found him, but what an exceptional talent. Indeed, much of the success of District 9 largely falls on the shoulders of this unknown actor. Copley pulls off the rather difficult task of playing an utter dickhead that does a number of outrageously stupid things throughout the film with aplomb. Think a prototype Bruce Campbell that can actually act! His heavy Afrikaans accent, Hitler styled comb-over and naïve superiority complex over the prawns makes Wikus instantly dislikeable, particularly throughout the ad-libbed documentary sequences that Blomkamp encouraged Copley to perform. But despite Wikus' flaws, Copley still has the ability to ingrain an aura of fragility in Wikus that makes him human to the core. His metamorphosis from willing, unquestioning lackey to alien sympathiser (although still driven by an innate selfishness) requires that most difficult of performances - a convincing breakdown - and Copley deftly handles the task with unnerving authority. In essence Copley becomes Wikus, providing the audience with a character you'd follow though hell and back, if only to see what he could possibly stuff up next. That he acquires our sympathy and delivers a level of unexpected pathos on this journey as well, is simply marvellous.
The quality of the acting and directing are, quite simply, immense and help to sharpen up the remainder of the film. The last 45 minutes is similar in style to The Matrix, providing an absorbing action finale that would be much less without Copley and Cope's previously astute characterisation or Blomkamp's finely crafted story-telling. That the action is so wonderfully manicured just heightens it further. An appearance by ED-209's second cousin with a rail gun that combusts enemies into bloody stumps is simply outstanding. As is Wikus' and Christopher's storming of the MNU head office in a sortie that shows the real firepower of the alien weaponry to full effect. It's deliriously entertaining carnage that Verhoeven on acid would find difficult to better. When that first soldier is simply vaporised into a blood stain on the wall - wow. Just wow!
But even then the carnage and gore do not over-ride District 9's central conceit. Any association to apartheid is clearly obvious, but this is not a film about South Africa (it just happens to be filmed there). The themes are much more universal than that. Confabulating over the modern ills of corporate capitalism and the ignorance and repugnance of humanity in one fell swoop, it's an accurate depiction of even when humanity finally does learn the lessons of its past, once a bunch of aliens turn up we will revert to type. We will repress and subjugate the rights of such a group merely because they look, smell, sound, act and think different to us. Plus they have kick arse weaponry, which makes it our right to take it away from them simply because they had the gall to discover the technology before we rightfully could. Humans, what a bunch of arseholes! Aliens have more to be scared of than we have of them, for sure.
So, District 9 is much more than just an absolute blast (although that's no bad thing in general); it does what all good science-fiction should do. Thoughtful and intelligent, it opens up a whole new visually resplendent world for the viewer to dive into, explore and question. That it's final shot leaves a lasting emotive punch full of (unexpected) pathos, is surely the icing on the cake. And in Wikus van der Merwe, it features one of the truly iconic sci-fi characters of recent memory (in your face Jake Sully). Even Verhoeven, holding back a tear, would applaud the job Jackson has done in trusting his protégé here. District 9 is an absolutely awesome film of pure awesomeness. It cannot be recommended any higher than that.
Overall - The best film of 2009. The best film of possibly the last decade. That is all!
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Screenplay: Neil Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Sharlto Copley ... Wikus Van De Merwe
Jason Cope... Christopher Johnson/Grey Bradnam - UKNR Chief Correspondent
David James... Koobus Venter
Nathalie Boltt... Sarah Livingstone - Sociologist
Sylvaine Strike... Dr Katrina McKenzie
Louis Minnaar... Piet Smit
Vanessa Haywood... Tania Van De Merwe
Mandla Gaduka... Fundiswa Mhlanga
Kenneth Nkosi... Thomas
Running Time: 112 mins
© clownfoot, July 2010.
Johannesburg, South Africa. The setting for the film where, in 1982, a massive spaceship arrived, bearing with it an entire species of aliens, nicknamed "Prawns", due to their appearance. They are given a huge welcome by the human population and are settled in "District 9". In 2010, twenty-eight years after their initial arrival, the Prawns are treated less well, with the human welcome now deteriorated. The camp the aliens were settled in has become a slum and the aliens are now exploited and badly-treated. During an eviction, which is now put into play to control the alien population, our hero Wikus van der Merwe, who is in charge of the operation, is exposed to a chemical, which is beginning to turn him into a Prawn. Trying to escape the clutches of the army (who want him to try to use the Prawns' weaponry, which can only be activated by their own DNA), he must rely on the help of the Prawns he just tried to have evicted.
There are some key points about this film which a lot of people have touched upon. One of them was the style in which the film was done. Unlike a lot of sci-fi films which are done as glossy as possible, with the sleekest airships and the biggest explosions, District 9 focuses on the more mundane, the every day lives of these creatures. It really isn't sci-fi in the way that we imagine, in fact, but (noted by the style of filmmaking it was done in) more a documentary about human behaviour and lives, from the viewpoint of a species completely in the dark about us. It's kind of a refreshing view actually.
There are some obvious themes here, of racism and the likes - especially with the derogatory terms "prawn" which can be easily related to how we like to use similar terms for different races. There are definitely some underlying messages in the film, most of them reflective of what humans are, and it works quite well, subtly placed into the plot of the film.
I like the usage of CGI throughout, as well. There's some really impressive stuff throughout the film - the Prawns and the spaceships are all really quite realistic. But none of it is played in that typical "grandeur" style of Hollywood, but just seen in grainy video camera footage. It's almost a waste of fantastic CGI, but it works really well in the film.
All in all, District 9 is a great film - with some great acting and a wonderfully fresh story.
The main premise of the film is that of aliens (prawns) landing on earth and us humans promising to house them, but we do this by cramming them into District 9, the equivalent of a camp in South Africa for Black people in the past. The protagonist is Wikkus Van De Merwe who is tasked with evicting aliens to move them to another camp. During this task, he is subject to an accident which affects him by slowly turning him into a 'prawn'.
This film is incredible; one of the best films of the year and maybe even the decade, from new director Neill Blomkamp. Who would have thought that a bloody, action-packed sci-fi film could also be an emotionally-wrenching story aswell? The mockumentary format works incredibly well and the previously-unknown actor Sharlto Copley is amazing. Parts of the film are improvised (the alien-eviction scenes) and this works awesomely. A great sci-fi film and an eye-opening look at how shallow and cruel humans can be; worth watching.
The music in the film is dark and heavy which adds to the whole shady feel of the film. The special effects used in creating the 'Prawns' are also impressive.
The fact that the movie is an independent one makes it all the more impressive. The film has also been nominated for loads of awards and has won over 5 of them.
A sequel has been hinted at, let's hope Blomkamp can pull it off though.
This is from the producer Peter Jackson (LOTR trilogu) and so i had to give it a watch. I bought it on DVD a few weeks back and i am really glad that i did. It is not what i expected, at all but it was a very good film and very well made.
It is a documentary style film that puts us in a world where aliens have landed. At first, they are intergrated with the human race but after they begin to cause trouble they are exiled to to a slum on the edges of Johannesburg. They create there own population and they are not to mix with the humans. When the population becomes too large and protests start, a group of people are sent to evict the aliens from there homes. After consuming some form of alien liquid Wikus van der Merwe becomes an ultimate test subject for his own people. When he escapes he is hunted and he must hide in the one place that they would never think to look, District 9!
Expect a tense sci-fi thriller. It is filmed in a documentary style which means we get to know the characters rather well and also makes it seem a lot more realistic. The special effects are amazing and the storyline is very original. Sharlto Copley (Wikus) gives an extraordinary performance and is very believable in his role! Overall, i was very impressed with this film, so expect a great ride!
If you like sci-fi thrillers then by all means watch this, it is one of the best i have seen. Also those who like documentary films will appreciate this film, and the work that has gone into it. It is very well written. It is a certificate 15 because it contains very strong language and a lot of violence, so if you get offended easily i suggest you give it a miss. Run time is approximately 1Hr and 48mins
Special Features on the DVD include:
- Directors commentary
- Deleted scenes
- The Alien Agenda: A filmmaker log (which is a 3 part documentary
This review is also published on ciao.co.uk
District 9 is a good sci-fi film, that at times really felt real. You sympthasise with the main character and the parallels with the 'shrimp' aliens and members of societies that live in shanty towns is uncanny.
Without spoiling it too much, the plot is centralises in Johannesburg, South Africa, where an alien aircraft is mysteriously trapped in the sky.
When humans go in, they find the aliens malnourished and struggling to survive.
The bond the main character builds with one of the aliens is touching and goes to show that no matter what creed, race, religion etc, we can all get along, and you get the feeling that is the message Peter Jackson is trying to put across to the viewer.
I also get the feeling that they have set it up for a District 10 to come out, but I hope not as this will destroy the impact of this groundbreaking film.
My only slight criticism is the slow start and the stereotypical nature of the main characters girlfriends Dad.
It is well worth a view, and a good one to watch with some popcorn on a Saturday night (although when I begun to watch the film, the realistic nature of the 'shrimp' aliens really freaked me out!)
*please note, this is a film only review*
I first saw District 9 at the cinema when it was released in October of last year and up till then had heard virtually nothing about it - surprising really that it has gone on to do so well, including an Oscar nomination!
The film is set in South Africa where an alien spaceship has appeared in the sky and upon investigation been found to be housing over 1 million malnourished aliens. Since the ship is broken the government is forced to house these aliens in a makeshift camp outside Johannesburg called 'District 9'. The aliens themselves are fairly unpleasant, rather bug-like looking creatures with a tendency to steal and damage property for fun - unsurprsingly this leads to conflicts with the people of the nearby city, who give the aliens the derogratory term 'prawns' and call for the alien camp to be moved further away.
A government body, led by the lead character, Vickers, is sent in to give the aliens their eviction notice - and it is here that the plot begins. The rest of this review will give no further details on plot in order to avoid spoilers as I found the unpredictable nature of the film to be one of it's great merits - this is no predictable 'humans vs aliens' sci-fi.
The film is shot in a very interesting format which I found really held the attention, it is partially shot like a typical film and interspersed with 'documentary style' sections where various characters recount their interpretations of the events within District 9 following 'eviction day'. The camera work is also often shot in the way you would expect a home movie or a documentary film to be made and this gives you a real sense of being in with the action.
The film's involving camera work also helps to draw you in and gain interest in the characters. While there are clear 'goodies and baddies' I found the lead character, Vickers, to be very well written. A government pen-pusher out of his depth in essentially a military situation he is at times cruel and ruthless, other times compassionate, other times just downright rude and arrogant. I often find that in these sorts of movies the lead character is a very one-dimensional 'hero' type and it was a refreshing change to have a lead who could be both reviled and supported by the viewer.
The film does contain a lot of strong violence and gore, there are several moments which were quite squeamish to watch, however a lot of the violence is also interspersed with humour which stops it becoming too heavy going. The action scenes are well paced without being overly long and due to the unpredictable nature of the film achieve a real sense of danger at several moments.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this film to most people, except perhaps those who are very squeamish towards gore. It is in no way your typical 'sci-fi / aliens' thriller and many people I know who do not typically like those sort of films have very much enjoyed this one. In my opinion it should have won the 'Best Picture' Oscar - I've seen it about 5 times so far and still am not tired of it!