District 9 (2009) Review

district

RATING: 3/5

[SPOILERS]

Aliens who crash land on Earth are not given the best living conditions and arn’t treated with plenty of respect. Things don’t get better when they’re asked to move out. Things also don’t go better for the main character who crosses paths with one alien and his son who wish to return back to their planet.

Director Neill Blomkamp’s feature film debut. He and producer Peter Jackson bring forth a film that had garner acclaim 10 years ago. Understandably since it deals with pretty heavy and relevant themes/issues that to this day are still alive today. I just wish it was executed a smidge better.

I would say the only characters that I cared for were the aliens themselves, the Prawns. The film did a real job, especially at the beginning, at showcasing the early days of how these aliens came to Earth and how they got where they were. One cared for these beings and one didn’t want to see anything bad happen to the father/son.

That can’t be said for the human side that is. Not one human character, including the main character of Wikus (played by Sharlto Copley), didn’t resonate with me. He gave a good performance but I couldn’t buy his character development. By the end of the movie, it seemed like he was the same type of person he started off from the beginning. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to the aliens, but he wasn’t showing too much love for them either. I understand the filmmakers want to have this character start off neutral so that the audience can question whether he will change by the end. Though I wish, me personally, he would have started off against the aliens and toward the end, he had grown to like them. It would have made the progression more natural.

The other human characters I didn’t care, especially the human villains. They were way too cliche with wanting to either kill the Prawns because they’re aliens or caring about money when they experiment on them. The love story between Wikus and his wife was almost non-existent. I would say the Nigerians were sort of cool, but that’s barely saying much.

Effects wise, the film used a fine mix of practical and CGI. Both were used effectively well. The level of detail and facial movements on the aliens were done great. The alien tech was pretty cool. It was nice when it came to their lightning gun, flamethrower, and the mech.

The pacing, for the most part, was quick. In the beginning, it was paced well. I enjoyed when the fictional organization of MNU was exploring the slums. It was a really good way to get an introduction to the world that the aliens were unfortunately living in. They were residing in poor conditions, had limited resources, and there were gangs which sometimes took advantage of their livelihood. But after Wikus was exposed to the alien fluid, that was when a number of scenes would start and end rather fast. There was no chance for the film to take a breath and allow time to set up.

I love the world that the film presented, predominately, its themes of racial, social, and political issues. The main inspiration for the film was the real-life events pertaining to District 6 in Cape Town, South Africa. These events took place during the infamous Apartheid issue which lasted for almost 50 years. Though while this film is more in-tune with South Africa’s history, the themes can be crossed onto all-grounds. It can be touched upon to races who don’t get the proper kindness and generosity that other races get. The movie grasped on the idea that no matter what one looks like, they shouldn’t have to deal with any form of harmful prejudice. Everyone should treat each other equal.

The documentary-style segments were a good way of making the plot look real to the eyes. The false interviews, the signs depicting the aliens, the Prawn name itself, how a country deals with individuals from another world, many of these aspects have happened in history in many countries who have dealt with these things. With that, I give Blomkamp praise for making District 9 bring forth facts to the viewer.

Going back to my negatives, while the film presented its situation well, I wish it could have done a bit extra. What many don’t know is that the film was based on a short film directed by Blomkamp titled “Alive In Joburg.” Honestly, I prefer that short over the actual movie. Sure the effects were not good like the alien masks. Though in terms of delivering a more real-life experience, that short did it better. It showed the aliens taking advantage of the Earthlings by stealing their resources and causing havoc in the city of Johannesburg. The interviews with the aliens were intriguing as it was something that wasn’t in “District 9.”

There were little things that made me raise an eyebrow. Like why did the aliens decided to randomly help Wikus to kill the evil general? Where were all the aliens when the massive shootout was taking place? Why didn’t they take part in it and started a rebellion of some kind? How did the alien Christopher not get shot in the MNU underground facility?

This film is a complicated beast and one that disappoints greatly. I really do want to like this and call it great. But it doesn’t succeed in all departments including the human characters, pacing, some plot elements, and not going that extra mile with its premise. But in the end, this is a pretty decent film that has an interesting premise, cool production designs/sets, and has strong themes that are continuing to be addressed. If you like it, that’s fine. I’m not holding it against you.

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