District 9

A Review by Jason L. King

Starring: Sharlto Copely
Directed by: Neil Blomkamp
Rated: R for Violence and Gore
Movie Released: 2009

The summer months have been whisked away and we are now heading into autumn with leaves turning colors and people’s doorsteps sporting jack-o-lanterns and skeletons. October is Halloween, month of the monsters, hence why many of the reviews you are seeing are horror films or monster movies. Throughout the month of October 2009, I will be focusing at least a solid portion of my reviews on various movie monsters each week. Week #2’s movie monster is Aliens.

Final Grade:

Finding a great conversation piece movie is sometimes hard to find. And when you do find those films, they normally are seen only by a select group of people, making it hard to drum up a good conversation about a film with people. This last week, I got a chance to chance to finally watch District 9, the new Sci Fi/drama film that debuted in theaters this summer.

District 9 is a mix of a SciFi film, an action film and drama all in one. Shot as a documentary film, District 9 follows a government agent in charge of evicting Alien beings named Prawns from District 9 to District 10. During his eviction process he is exposed to a alien genetic agent that is slowly transforming him into an alien himself.

From a social standpoint District 9 is filmed in Johannesburg and used many of the real shacks that were used by many African immigrants and natives years ago. They too were migrated and evicted from their homes, paralleling the story of District 9. The film also provides a great deal of social commentary on how humans treat other humans and other life forms and our sad obsession with weaponry and technology. Despite this heart heavy message, the film doesn’t beat you over the head with it, making it a success. I wanted to go into this film to be entertained, not lectured and I thought District 9 did a good job of not lecturing yet still giving the viewer something to think about.

I also really enjoyed that District 9 had a ton of action. There was a lot of Sci Fi action going on throughout the film, keeping viewers who didn’t want to “think” about the film equally entertained. Many times the film felt like a cross of Predator and Transformers giving viewers the sci fi action they need to keep the film moving. None the less don’t let that statement make you think the film lacks originality or substance. It brings a lot of new twists and turns to the table and finds ways of blowing stuff up in a way that can only be trumped by Michael Bay.

What I really didn’t like about the film is I had a very love-hate relationship with the camera direction. The film started out and ended with a documentary style film making approach, giving you a lot of handheld cam shots. Once the agent is exposed and goes on the run, the camera work shifts gears to this omniscient 3rd person camera shots, only to return back to documentary again at the end. While you don’t notice the transition from documentary film, you definitely notice the distracting transition back into it. With that point aside, I loved how the scenes were lit and scenes were set up. Director Neil Blomkamp does a fantastic job of slowly evolving the camera shots to portray each of the characters in the “light” he wants them to be in. With a simple slow move of the camera or an adjustment in the lighting, Blomkamp makes the Aliens seem more human and likable, and the humans more cruel and shady as the film progresses.

The film has a somewhat open ending, leaving you with a bit of critical thinking to decide what really happened or what really is going to happen. In this film, I felt like it really worked. I love films that give you enough subtle clues to have you know the ending, but at the same time doesn’t give away the ending. District 9 attempted this ending and would have pulled it off to near perfection. But since I think they were trying to go for a broad audience, they threw in one more ending scene that I felt was un-needed. I referred to this as the “redneck subtlety” ending. It was there to not so subtly scream “Hey- this is probably what we are hinting at, if you weren’t smart enough to get it!”

All in all, I really enjoyed District 9. I felt it left a lot unexplained, and the film had its share of problems but it also had its share of success. It is a great, original film coming out of Hollywood and these days that is something that is few and far between. If you get a chance to check it out, go for it. You can enjoy it as mindless entertainment, or you can make it a film to think about. I’ll leave that decision up to you.

PS…There are some of you who may want to post comments and discuss the film. If so, please start the discussion on Box Office Backtalk, our web forum so no spoilers are given away on this review!

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