Nov 20, 2019

Movie review

TriStar Pictures / McClatchy Tribune

“District 9” offers more than the usual sci-fi flick

In “District 9” the formula is perfect for a textbook alien invasion movie: a spaceship camps out above Johannesburg, South Africa and terror ensues.

The difference here — the aliens are not the bad guys.

Produced by Peter Jackson of “Lord of the Rings” fame, “District 9” begins as a would-be documentary and shifts gears to a more stylized science fiction film.

At the start of the movie we learn the spaceship did not embark on Johannesburg by choice, but stalled above South Africa more than two decades ago, transporting millions of malnourished aliens with no place to call home.

Multi-National United (MNU), a private-interest group, is tasked with moving the aliens from their refugee camp (District 9) to a new location outside of the city.

Mild-mannered Wikus Van Der Merwe, played brilliantly by relatively unknown actor Sharlto Copley, is leading the move.

Director Neill Blomkamp, who co-wrote the screenplay, does a fantastic job of creating an authentically gritty environment complete with dirty politics, back-alley gangs and alien/human prostitution.

One of the film’s biggest strengths is its depiction of the aliens, or “prawns,” as they are insultingly called. Unlike other movies of the genre, the aesthetics of the creatures prove to be both unique and realistic — a cross between a machine and a crustacean.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that MNU is more interested in the aliens’ weaponry than their well-being. Appalling experiments are covertly done on the creatures in an effort to unleash the secret to operating their artillery.

The real threat throughout the movie is not the aliens, but the human beings living among them. The lengths to which MNU’s top officials are willing to go for financial gain are by far the most menacing part of the film.

“District 9” challenges the science fiction genre by questioning who the real enemy is. It is a suspenseful, yet intelligent film worth checking out.

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