District 9 (2009)

I used to have a litmus test to see if movies were actually great, or if maybe they were only good and I was perhaps overrating them a little.  I’d get my mom and step-dad to watch them, and if they loved it, I looked for things to pick apart in the movie, because well, they have vastly different tastes than I do.  However, when the parental units said they disliked or even hated a movie, I knew it was great.  No offense mom and Norm, your taste is pretty close to popular opinion, so you’re in the majority while I stew in the critical population of loneliness.

To bring it around to this movie, District 9, well mom and Norm hated it.  I watched it before them, raved about it, and since they love sci-fi stuff, thought it would be right up there alley what with all the aliens and .. sci-fi stuff.  I don’t know exactly why they hated it, but I think it had something to do with the style of the movie and that it wasn’t just a space opera movie, but that it had deep levels to the storytelling.  They might also have been vaguely racist, I don’t know.

Director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp’s picture tells of a time in South Africa when a giant alien mother ship came into the atmosphere and just stayed there, hovering above Johannesburg for over 20 years.  The residents of the craft came to Earth, and since they were non-human, they were essentially put into segregation camps and basically speciesism was the new norm for South Africa, narrowly beating out the pervading decades of racism for first place.  If you’d like to learn more about aparthied in South Africa, watch Lethal Weapon 2 to see how it affected humans in Los Angeles, as well as seeing Patsy Kensit’s glorious boobs.

The film is told through a mixture of documentary style footage and TV reports, eventually dropping both of those without explanation and moving to a handheld camera telling us the tale of Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), an agent working for Multinational United (MNU) who comes into contact with an alien substance and begins to mutate into one of the aliens.  Wikus becomes a fugitive as MNU is eager to dissect him and discover more about the alien genealogy.  Desperate to turn the mutation around, he comes back to District 9 and works with one of the smarter ones to reverse the process, and in doing so brings a whole world of hell to District 9.

Almost everything about the movie works perfectly, from the CGI aliens to the highly improvised acting of Copley.  I have a few minor quibbles about the switching from the documentary footage to the traditional film camerawork, but it works for the most part.  It tells a highly intelligent human story that isn’t bogged down with scientific jargon, and makes us radically change our views on the actions of Wikus throughout the film.  It’s easily one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, and one I look forward to re-watching numerous times in the future.  There’s also a sensible case to be made for a sequel to be filmed, which in today’s movie industry, seems to be more of a rarity.

4.5 / 5

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About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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