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District 9

A 2009 science fiction / action film directed by Neill Blomkamp.

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"Easily One Of The Worst Films Ever Made"--Neil Blomkamp's "District 9"

  • Apr 22, 2011
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Okay, I'm a pretty big sci-fi geek. I watch numerous sci-fi shows and I'm a big fan of most sci-fi films. I enjoy watching science fiction be used as a platform that explores deep personal truths about the human condition. Every good sci-fi movie reveals something deep about ourselves, but amongst the good ones, there are terrible sci-fi movies that never should have seen the light of day. I'm normally an easy reviewer and I'll even give a bad sci-fi film some credit every once in a while. However, there is one film amongst the plethora of bad ones that is so bad, so predictable, so utterly ridiculous that even I can't be soft when it comes to reviewing it. If I had to pick the top five worst movies I've ever seen in my entire life, this particular film would definitely be included in that grouping. I don't know if it's the worst film of all time, but it's damn near close to it, that's for sure. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of the biggest steaming piles of crap ever created and released to the public. It's time to review Neil Blomkamp's "District 9".

District 9 PosterThe premise is incredibly simplistic. A large spaceship full of aliens mysteriously appears 20 years ago on the planet earth. The spacecraft hovers over Johannesburg, South Africa and no one is quite sure how it got there. When the humans finally break into the ship, they discover a race of space aliens (referred to as "prawns" in the movie) that are extremely malnourished and cannot fend for themselves. So the humans take these aliens and ship them off to District 9, which is basically a concentration camp for aliens. This mysterious alien race lives in District 9 for 20 years and in that time period, District 9 becomes a haven for violence, weapon trafficking, and instability. Now in the present day (2009), the MNU (Multi National United Forces) decides to handle the problem of District 9 by relocating all of its alien inhabitants into another district which is conveniently named of all things....District 10. The movie begins pretty much at the point when the relocation is taking place. Everything that I have just described above is nothing more than backstory, which takes up maybe the first five minutes of the movie roughly. It's a great backstory and when you see this at the very beginning of the film, you think that you're in for an epic alien movie that will provide a sci-fi twist on apartheid in South Africa and how we deal with race relations in general. Sadly, after the first five minutes, the movie goes downhill very, very quickly.

Enter Wikus van de Merwe, our main character and protagonist of District 9. He works for the MNU and he's the one who is put in charge of getting the aliens out of District 9 and relocating them to District 10. Wikus is by far one of the worst main characters I have EVER seen in a movie. There are so many problems with him, I don't even know where to begin. He's extremely unlikable and annoying, but I could have handled that if there had been some realistic human element to his character. But instead, this guy is a cartoon character. There is no depth to this guy at all. Normally, I find unlikable main characters interesting because if done right, it can show some deep flaws which can make a main character more engaging and interesting. But Wikus does not possess any of these attributes. One reviewer commented that watching Wikus was like watching Borat meander around in a film about space aliens and I have to say, that reviewer was right on the money with that assessment. Wikus is a complete idiot, so much so that you are actively rooting for his demise all throughout the film even though he's clearly the one you're supposed to side with and feel sorry for. I won't completely spoil the plot here, but I will say that there are even a couple of scenes in the movie where Wikus is on the phone with his wife to tell her how much he loves her and those scenes completely fall flat. Again, imagine Borat in a supposedly "touching" scene professing his undying love to his wife and you'll realize quickly how ludicrous a scene like that would look in a serious sci-fi film. Wikus is probably the main reason why I hate this film so much. His character is so unbelievable and pathetic that you don't really care what happens to him throughout the course of the movie. If District 9 were a dark comedy, then Wikus would fit right in. But because District 9 is supposed to be a smart film that focuses on very important social issues, the character of Wikus is completely out of place and unnecessary. The movie also tries to tell the audience multiple times that Wikus is really not a scumbag, but all of the evidence proves otherwise. He is a terrible main character, through and through.

Evil White Guy-District 9
Wikus is not the only character with major problems though. All of the other characters in this film are poorly underdeveloped and even a little racist, which goes against everything that the film claims to stand for. If you're of african descent, then you're involved in illegal activity within District 9. If you're of Caucasian descent, then you're an evil military person working for the MNU who has no conscience whatsoever.  If you're one of the aliens, then you're basically a lowlife thug. The character of Wikus might not have been so bad if there were other people in the film who were different from him in some way. But sadly that's not the case. With the exception of two characters (the alien dad and his son), every other character in the film is EXACTLY like Wikus. They're all narcissistic punks with no redeeming qualities at all. Now that wouldn't have bothered me so much if all of these secondary characters had been developed further. But just like Wikus, they're all surface level cardboard cutouts. These characters hit one note throughout the film and that note is one of anger, cruelty, and general jackassery. Without anyone different from him to react to, Wikus's character is even more annoying and irritating to watch. The other characters should have had different qualities about them in order for there to be more character variety in this movie. Even the two nice characters in the film (the alien dad and his son) are so underdeveloped that you don't even really care what happens to them as well. There is no character in this film that is fully fleshed out. All of the characters are exactly the same and not in an entertaining way. This truly makes the entire District 9 experience a one of a kind disaster from start to finish.

Even the style of filming is sloppy. District 9 is a film that can't even decide what it wants to be. It starts off as a documentary like film (a la "Blair Witch Project") that is fully equipped with the constantly shaking camera to let the audience know that this movie is like a reality show, except with aliens. The documentary concept seemed cool to me at first, but then at about 20 minutes into the movie, the movie abruptly stops being filmed in documentary format and instead goes back to being filmed more traditionally (with our point of view being the omniscient fourth wall instead of from a bumbling cameraman's perspective). The problem with this transition is that the camera still has that shaking documentary like effect even when we're viewing the film from the perspective of the invisible fourth wall. This shaking effect lasts until the end of the film even though almost everything after the first 20 minutes or so is no longer a documentary. It's as if the director wanted it both ways and couldn't make up his mind whether this was a psuedo-documentary film or not. For the most part, the film is not a psuedo-documentary, but it is shot as if it is one. Other directors might have been able to fuse the two more seamlessly, but Neil Blomkamp completely fails at it here. He should've made up his mind about how this film was going to be shot heading into the movie and stuck with it. Instead, this is a convoluted half-documentary, half-something else film that just feels very thrown together and off base. The shooting style here leaves much to be desired, that's for sure.

However, the biggest crime of all is that this movie was nominated for best picture last year at the academy awards. Are you kidding me? I'd rather nominate a test pattern for an academy award than this hot mess. The movie wants to make you think that there is a deep message here, but there really isn't. It's basically a mindless, shoot em up, action flick with underdeveloped characters and a very predictable plot. Nothing more. If anything, I would say that this film deserves an academy award for not just worst film of 2010, but perhaps worst film of the decade. Yeah. It's that bad. Seriously. At the end of the day, District 9 is easily one of the worst films ever made. Bottom line. 

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April 26, 2011
Nice review, Pard! I haven't decided what I think of this one yet...I actually hated the documentary style, and I was very relieved when it switched to a traditional movie style. I enjoyed your thoughts!
April 30, 2011
I actually had the reverse reaction. I liked the documentary style and then became annoyed when it switched to traditional. It just came off as a really awkward transition that made no sense. The director wanted everything, but I think that he should have chosen one shooting style or the other.
May 01, 2011
I agree. I liked the traditional movie style more. The documentary style annoys me...which is why i don't watch a lot of documentaries. I don't find them well put together. J also said that he didn't care very much for the film, so it looks like we all disliked it.
April 22, 2011
I kinda liked this one, but I see your points. I saw this as a Hotel Rwanda colliding with Alien Nation and then meshes with Enemy Mine. Liked your review though our opinion on this one is a little different.
April 23, 2011
Yeah, it does come off as a combination of those films you mentioned. I would also add Avatar to that list as well for plot reasons, but Avatar did it much better and that's hard for me to say since I considered Avatar to be an average film at best. Thanks for reading. :-)
More District 9 reviews
review by . December 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
District 9 is one of those movies that I bought on DVD (though I soon upgraded to blu-ray) on a whim and wasn't burned by a bad movie. This was one of those times that I wish I watched the movie in theaters, and that when the hype behind a hit movie is largely justified.      STORY      In 1982, a giant alien ship grinds to a halt above Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens are referred to negatively as “Prawns” for their scavenger-like personalities, …
review by . August 14, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
   Co-produced by Peter Jackson, the acclaimed director of the “Lord of the Rings” and directed by Neil Blomkamp; ‘DISTRICT 9” screams “Cult Classic”. Blomkamp has adapted his short film called “Alive in Joberg” and has crafted a film loosely inspired by the events of District 6 in South Africa. “District 9” collects some familiar pieces of history, science fiction elements, and some cool action in a tale which is mainly a retelling …
review by . August 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Alien mothership...
   The idea of using science fiction and horror stories as a way of discussing taboo or controversial social, political, and religious themes is nothing new. Since the birth of the horror genre, which came into being after the popularity of 18th century gothic romance took off, and since science fiction was first acknowledged as a genre unto itself in the late 19th century, the two have often dealt with issues that were considered to be of the utmost social importance while disguising …
Quick Tip by . June 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Despite the movie's less-than-subtle messages about humanity, I found this to be a strong film because of the fact that the characters have decent levels of depth to them, which is one of the main deciding factors for why I like District 9.  In particular, I found Wikus's change in character, physically and in terms of personality, the most interesting.  The cool action scenes and visual aesthetics to the Prawn technology are also helping factors with this.      …
review by . April 09, 2011
  District 9 begins when a very large star ship lands in South Africa during 1982. These are aliens called "the prawns" and are initially welcomed by the human race. Now, twenty-eight years after this, the aliens are stuck and mistreated in a beat up, worthless camp called District 9. The Multi-National United, otherwise known as MNU, cares very little for the alien race, but has strong interest in their advanced weapons. An MNU field operative, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) …
review by . June 07, 2010
The movie started off slow and directed like it was a documentary.  A mothership of aliens comes to Earth and stays hovered over  South Africa.  A military orginazation (NMU) sends a team of helicopters and moves the aliens to live in District 9, a hovel fillled area.  The aliens are called "prawns" and like to eat catfood.  The aliens also bring very advanced weapons that NMU is very interested in.  Unfortunately only the aliens can fire them because the …
review by . December 30, 2009
One of the greatest science fiction films of all time...
I've seen Sci-Fi films that try and fail miserable to get that emotional reaction from audience by telling a recycled story and a dried up plot. But I'm finally happy to report that there is such a Si-Fi film, and this film is called "District 9."          District 9 tells the story of a lone man, who is infected by an alien biotechnology and him and him alone becomes the only hope for the salvation of the aliens. It's a powerful film that resonates with Science …
review by . May 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
'District 9' is one of those movies that blindsided me - I had heard a little about it before seeing it, but few specifics. I was excited and hopeful, usually signs that I'm about to be disappointed. Not only did the film not disappoint, it went well beyond any expectations I had of it.    In terms of story, it's a film where very little is as it initially seems. You are presented with a deceptively simple scenario - a large alien craft has sort of broken down over Johannesburg, …
review by . August 20, 2009
movie pic
I went into this movie feeling slightly mislead, but in a good way. I'm not sure why, but I thought this was going to be some shallow, action oriented sci-fi movie that's only really enjoyable in theaters. I left feeling like I had seen one of the better sci-fi movies of the past few years. I could tell my friend was disappointed leaving the theater; he's the kind of person who loves terror, destruction and mayhem...yes, he's evil. I, on the other hand, enjoy a certain level of sophistication …
review by . August 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I must be honest.  When I first saw previews for District 9 my only thought was that it was remarkable how Transformers 2, GI Joe and District 9 could all look like the same preview.  Yet the more I began to learn about it, the more I realized that unlike the other two, District 9 might actually be a good movie.  A fun movie that could be more than meets the eye.  The previews don't make the film look like much.  Not in my eyes, but then again... the preview …
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I'm a 29 year oldwhoenjoys reviewing certainreality tv shows and scifi programming. I also post reviews on other topics every now and then as well. I enjoy being here on Lunch and interacting with … more
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A provocative science fiction drama,District 9 boasts an original story that gets a little lost in blow-'em-up mayhem. Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 begins as a mock documentary about the imminent eviction of extraterrestrials from a pathetic shantytown (called District 9). The creatures, it turns out, have been on Earth for years, having arrived sickly and starving. Initially received by humans with compassion and care, the aliens are now mired in blighted conditions typical of long-term refugee camps unwanted by a hostile, host society. With the creatures' care contracted out to a for-profit corporation, the shantytown has become a violent slum. The aliens sift through massive piles of junk while their minders secretly research weapons technology that arrived on the visitors' spacecraft.

Against this backdrop is a more personal story about a bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) who is accidentally exposed to a DNA-altering substance. As he begins metamorphosing into one of the creatures, Wikus goes on the run from scientists who want to harvest his evolving, new parts and aliens who see him as a threat. When he pairs up with an extraterrestrial secretly planning an escape from Earth, however, what should be a fascinating relationship story becomes a series of firefights and explosions. Nuance is lost to numbing violence, and the more interesting potential of the film is obscured. Yet, for a while District 9 is a ...

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Director: Neill Blomkamp
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
DVD Release Date: December 22, 2009
Runtime: 112 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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