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Movie Review: District 9

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Written by Hombre Divertido

District 9 is an ambitious endeavor as it combines Alien Nation with The Fly against a backdrop of apartheid. Though the film contains a strong message, many members of the audience may not be around to hear it, as the ridiculous way the back-story is presented along with the buffoon of a lead character, will cause many to check out. With no characters for the audience to latch onto, there is little to re-engage them.

District 9 runs to the two extremes of gore and over-the-top, ridiculous characters, and fails to create much action or excitement.

As is explained in the opening segment of the film, a large alien ship has come to Earth and is hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. After waiting for something to happen, the Earthlings eventually cut their way into the ship and find refugees from a dying planet. District 9 is set up as a makeshift home for the creatures. Over time the area becomes a slum and the local humans want something done with the unwelcome outsiders who resemble large insects or “Prawns” as they have come to be called. A large corporation is assigned the task of moving the aliens to another camp, but the corporation also has an interest in the alien weaponry.

Leading the task force assigned to relocate the aliens is Wikus van der Merwe, played with inconsistency by Sharlto Copley. The unqualified Wikus receives the job due to a promotion from his father-in-law who is an executive in the corporation. Far too much time is spent in the film showing us how ridiculous our lead character is, and this simply distracts from where the film should be going.

Wikus becomes infected with a chemical that slowly begins to turn him into an alien. During the process he becomes able to operate the alien weapons, which previously were unusable by humans. So the corporation wants to capture and exploit him, and he is left with only one place to hide: District 9. The problem is that the audience does not care about Wikus, around whom the story now revolves, because too much time was spent establishing him as an idiot. His transformation from human to alien takes far too long, is inconsistently displayed, and is simply not interesting or enjoyable to watch.

The biggest tragedy is how easily this could have been a great film. Better definition of protagonist and antagonist, a more relatable lead, any type of supporting characters, and some detail in plot development to add some truly suspenseful moments, and it’s all good.

District 9 does contain some good special effects, though the exploding bodies resulting in blood and guts’ hitting the camera lens becomes tired. The CGI aliens look great and blend perfectly into every scene.

The ending certainly leaves the story open to a sequel, but superior writing and directing would need to be employed to insure less contrived action sequences.

Recommendation: A movie with a strong thought-provoking message can be very valuable, but if so much focus is put on said message, that the basic necessities of a successful film are lost, then everyone's time has been wasted. District 9 is full of wasted potential and is sure to disappoint.

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  • Jesse G. Barnes

    Wikus is supposed to be unlikable. This is his first feature film and for an actor that could barely be considered an amateur, his performance is nothing less than impressive.

    And why is it that every reviewer feels it necessary to spoil what happens to Wikus?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I don’t think any of the reviews I’ve read here have “spoiled” the movie at all. What they have done is revealed a few details crucial to the plot. But with all the twists and turns this movie takes, nothing said here is going to spoil the actual experience of seeing it. If anything, it just raises the expectations of the person reading.

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Come to think of it, I think the scene where Wikus gets sprayed is even part of the trailer…

  • Jesse G. Barnes

    Right, but not what happens to him because of it. Granted, it’s not much of a surprise what happens, but this is one of the very few films that doesn’t give anything away in the trailers. Blomkamps/Jacksons decision to cut the spots that way should be respected, They did it for a reason.

    Most reviews I’ve read, just like this one, are practically not reviews. They just sum up the film and give little reason why they love it or hate it. All they end up doing is spoiling plot.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I didn’t agree with this reviewers assessment of the film — I loved the movie (and reviewed it myself elsewhere on the site). But again, I also don’t think either this reviewer or myself revealed about thew plot could really be called a spoiler. The “spray” scene that is included in the trailer draws the conclusion for you already (as you stated)_.

    There are also so many levels of plot on this film, so many exciting twists and turns, and particularly in the latter half, so much action, that anything said in the reviews I’ve read should only further whet the appetites of anyone considering seeing it for themselves.

    -Glen

  • Jesse G. Barnes

    Personally, I’m one of the types that likes to be surprised by everything a film offers and if I must read a review I have virtually no interest in learning about its plot, because that’s why you see a movie in the first place isn’t it?

    District 9 is especially sensitive to this. I find that a good portion of the reviews I’ve read are not being respectful of it artistically or how it’s been marketed.

    If I wanted to know the plot to a film, I’d watch it. What I want to know is if it delivers on what it sets out to do artistically. No, it is not impossible to write a review like what I’m asking for. I do it all the time and several people who have read mine (G.I. Joe and District 9 available on Blogcritics) are thankful and relieved that I reveal practically nothing of the plot.

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