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District 9

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

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Action Packed and Fun, But Not Without Heart

  • Aug 17, 2009
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 almost never makes the movie look like what you get.  It's just there to show you a few snippets so that you can see what it looks like... but they'll never tell you what it's about.  And District 9 is about quite a bit.  It's politically enticing without beating you over the head with its political themes, and without being so overtly ambitious about it.  But it also has a lot of intense action that is there for much more than just the simple sake of blowing things up.  This is the action movie Michael Bay could never make.  Flash AND Substance.


District 9, when you dig beneath the surface is an incredibly simple film.  And at the same time very deep.  It doesn't juggle too much, but you get the feeling it has a lot to say.  About twenty years ago or so, Aliens landed in Johannesburg and the Alien Mothership got stuck.  Over one million aliens have been stranded.  Instead of growing as a different species and living alongside humans, they are instead closed off in what is only known as District 9.  Except as the population among these aliens grows and as more violence comes as a result of the increase in population, it's become clear that they can't stay in District 9 any longer.  Slowly the MNU begins to give out eviction notices and kick the aliens out.  And we learn that District 9 is pretty much a slum.  And where Nigerian gangsters have also set up shop and selling cat food the to the Prauns (the alien race).  In exchange for them trading weapons etc.  Except the Nigerian gangsters go a little deeper than that as well.  They believe if they eat parts of the Prauns (as they do kill some) they'll gain their power.  It's savage like, but a firmly held belief.  

And the Prauns do have power.  More than they think.  There just aren't enough, and most of their weapons have been taken away (or traded).  The government keeps a firm look over them and keeps them contained within District 9.  While the mother ship mainly hovers above, unable to leave Earth. 

That may not last for very long, though.  Two of the Prauns in particular have found enough fuel to get their ship up and going again, and perhaps go home.  And perhaps they'd be able to get going if it weren't for the fact that the MNU (Multi-National United) was starting to evict them from their homes in the slums. 

Sharlto Copley plays Wikus Van De Merwe, the one in charge of this operation in evicting them.  He's a fairly humble man, who doesn't want to do too much harm.  But when he's sent there, there are several government agents to aid him as he does so.  Many of whom are packing weapons.  Wikus gets to one home in particular and finds a young Praun and his father and friend.  The friend is immediately killed after he gets a little hostile.  While searching through the shack, Wikus discovers that they've been breaking the law.  And happens to find the fuel that they need to get their ship up and running.  It took twenty years to gather it all, and it might be ruined.  Except Wikus gets more than he bargained for.  He accidentally sprays himself with some of it.  And at first he thinks he's fine until his nose begins to bleed and he's vomiting up something fierce.  Then his finger nails become detached from his fingers.  All this leads to the MNU taking him against his will... where Wikus discovers he's slowly turning into a Praun... and where he also discovers just what the government has really been doing.  And it isn't pretty in the slightest.

We'll stop there, so that I won't have to provide any spoilers.  You're getting and action flick through and through, but in the long run, what you're also getting is a lot of heart.  There's a bit of political intrigue but it's not preachy or anything.  You can see shades of our own history as we see signs that say things like "No Non-Humans Allowed" or something like that.  And the idea that no one really wants to integrate with them.  What we discover, of course, is that not all of the Prauns are hostile... but the government wants to get rid of them anyway.  And then, of course, there's just what the government is doing with captured Prauns.  It will haunt you just as much as it haunts Wikus.  As Wikus tries to stop himself from becoming a Praun, he also begins to take part in the fight as well.  This is where District 9 shines the most.  The second half may be action packed, but it never once forgets that there is a point to what they're saying or doing.

The style of the film, in and of itself is also very unusual.  The film comes off like a mockumentary, but only in certain parts.  What we're discovering as we watch is that these events have already happened.  The entire film isn't done in this documentary fashion.  Rather we see certain snippets of a fictional documentary spliced in with the actual story itself.  Some may not come to like that.  But you have to understand... the whole film isn't a mockumentary.  Just a certain segment of it s.  This is how they tell the story.  And as a result it feels very real.  It's almost like watching those movies that Hollywood claims are "based off a true story," only this time they know they're making it all up.  

The movie also doesn't hesitate to play on ones emotions.  The music score is just as ambitious and will fill just about each scene with emotion that needs to be.  The final climactic moment may be a little long, but you'll find yourself hoping for a good outcome for everyone.  This is because we grow to like Christopher, his boy and Wikus.  Especially as Wikus grows to understand just what is really going on.  In our hearts and minds we know that it's wrong.  Again, the movie plays politics, but does so in such a way you don't feel like you've been tricked into seeing a political movie, and it never keeps beating you over the head with these political musings.  Rather they mend their way into the story seamlessly.  It's not too highly though provoking, but it is heartfelt.

District 9 is an exciting movie and heart warming to watch.  The style of the story of a fictional documentary gone awry works out just fine as they find a way to work in interviews and give us a glimpse into the world.  The movie comes off as disturbingly real at times.  The camera work in and of itself helps by being a handheld camera, but not being too jumpy.  There's focus when it needs to be, and that only makes some of the more intense moments more real.

If you are one to be offended by violence then it should be known that District 9 has a lot of it.  It's very violent and very bloody.  People literally get blown apart.  If you're a tad bit squeamish, or if blood really freaks you out, you might want to consider staying away from this one. 

Thematically ambitious and action packed, you just might find yourself blown away by District 9. 

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August 27, 2009
awesome review--I rate it a 5!! You pretty much covered everything, including the gore warning. :)
August 18, 2009
I love this review. And I'm glad there's another person here with the guts to say that Michael Bay is a hack of a director if there ever was one. It's funny, but I had been a little worried about Peter Jackson's career choices after "King Kong", but I now see that the guy's not just making films that will sell loads of tickets, but that he's got integrity. What he's doing is making films and financing and producing films, that he himself would like to see. Some might say that's selfish, but so long as those films resonate with viewers, who cares? I can't wait for "The Lovely Bones" and "The Hobbit" I'll be seeing this soon and hopefully getting a review up within the week.
August 18, 2009
Yeah, I'm no Michael Bay fan.  I was also a bit worried about Peter Jackson and what he'd be doing.  I actually wasn't a huge fan of King Kong.  And when I first heard he was directing The Lovely Bones I was a bit nervous about it, considering it seemed like a total 180 from what I was used to seeing from him (It was just after The Lord of the Rings and King Kong).  But I'm actually quite curious to see The Lovely Bones.  It's one of my favorite books and I think Peter Jackson can really do something good with it.
August 18, 2009
I wasn't a fan of "Kong" either and I was afraid that Jackson was just going to start making big budget action films, but I was pleasantly surprised when he decided to do "The Lovely Bones" next. I just read the book a few days ago and found it to be quite a good read. I loved the depth of the characterization and the authentic details that helped to evoke the time period that it took place in. Plus, I have a lot of family in the Pennsylvania and Delaware area and I live in Maine, so there were a lot of things in the book that were familiar. Hopefully, he can deliver a faithful and entertaining adaptation.
August 18, 2009
excellent review! happy you liked this one, Sean, and you even liked it more than I did it appears. Your review is spot-on and you grabbed the reader with your opening paragraph. The mockumentary style is definitely odd but I was impressed as to how Blomkamp made it work. I can't wait for the sequel!
August 27, 2009
Or maybe it'll be the prequel.
August 17, 2009
I liked it too although 1 star less than you because of the way it changed into Transformers meets Robocop in the last third. But it's sure a great movie. I did notice in the beginning. I think it went on a bit long for them. It was an unusually effective way to approach the subject of racism though.
August 18, 2009
I was laughing when some folks in ammie were saying that strip the film of its social and political message and it is just a mediocre movie--how can one judge a film by cutting off one leg? A film has to be judged as a whole with what it is trying to say intact. I just don't get how some folks can expect/want another Transformers 2 in District 9...
August 18, 2009
How absurd! That's the film's whole raison d'etre! Take away the singing and the dancing and WEST SIDE STORY is just another ripoff of Romeo and Juliet.
More District 9 reviews
review by . April 22, 2011
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 …
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) …
Quick Tip by . September 07, 2011
I've seen this movie multiple times now, and still haven't managed to review it yet. It's a brilliant look at racism, segregation, and seeing these topics from the other side.
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, …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


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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