The summer of 2009 at the box office has been like a Christmas in which we received nothing but sweaters and socks. Every week, a new, nicely festooned package was trotted out at the box office, holding a promise of something magical to be found inside.
And every week, we were underwhelmed with just how ordinary the contents were. Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Transformers 2, Land of the Lost, Year One – the list of disappointments seems endless.
But like some last-minute Santa, Peter Jackson and his little elf by the name of Neill Blomkamp have delivered us District 9, effectively saving the season from being a complete wash.
Equally rousing and resonant, District 9 is a film that will likely earn a spot in science-fiction's top tier (working as a sociopolitical snapshot of the times) and is a testament to the power of superlative writing over the budgetary bloat of the pre-ordained “blockbusters.”
Made for a measly (by Hollywood standards) $30 million, and created out of the ashes of a failed film deal, District 9 is a message movie without pulpit-like preaching and an action film without pandering to the ADHD target audience.
Acting neophyte Sharlto Copley plays Wilkus van der Merwe, a paper pusher for MNU (Multi National United), which oversees a colony of aliens that descended to Earth from a stalled spaceship hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa.
Wilkus is quite an interesting lead to follow. First presented to us (through video interviews) as a spirited drone who is charged with relocating aliens to a more organized camp, as their current conditions have graduated from slums to compost heap. As he travels door to door evicting the aliens, you can witness him gradually becoming drunk on his power and responsibility. He simultaneously begins to develop something of a conscience, displaying empathy for these crustaceous creatures (who are derogatorily – if not suitably – referred to as “prawns”). Of course, massive relocation of a population does not go as easily as planned, but perhaps not in ways audiences would expect.