So a lot of you are probably wondering if District 9 is as good as all of the early hype indicates, and the answer is an absolutely resounding yes.
What is most remarkable about District 9 is the way that producer Peter Jackson (Lord Of the Rings) and director Neill Blomkamp (directing his first feature here) achieved the feat of creating the big blockbuster feel of this movie — the special effects here are absolutely amazing — with a shoestring budget of about $30 million (if reports are to be believed) and a cast of largely unknown actors.
In watching movies about how we as a civilization might react to first contact with an extraterrestrial race — from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind to Contact to Independence Day — I have rarely, if ever, seen a flick that nails it right on the head the way that District 9 does.
The added bonus is the fact that while telling a great story which serves as a rather obvious metaphor for human injustices ranging from the Holocaust to Apartheid, District 9 takes you on the thrill ride of a lifetime — particularly during the latter half of the movie.
First off, let's get a few things out of the way.
District 9 is not a metaphor for Area 51, or any of the other conspiracy theories about official government contact with aliens that have found their way into modern pop culture. If anything, the internment camp for aliens at the center of this film more closely resembles the sort of ghetto slum you might find in any major U.S. city, than it does some sort of super-secret government installation.
The fact that District 9 lies in Johannesburg, South Africa — with its obvious connections to the era of apartheid — is not entirely lost either. But rather than dwell upon that connection, District 9 is a film that instead, once those comparisons are established, soon commences to kicking some serious ass.
The basic story here is that, for reasons which are never established, an alien race parked a gigantic UFO over South Africa two decades ago, and that some one million of its inhabitants (who the locals refer to somewhat disparagingly as "prawns"), have since been quarantined in an area known as District 9.
When the predictable results of the slum condition — inter-species prostitution, alien gang-bangers getting high on cat food, and the like — arise, a public outcry soon demands that someone take control of the problem.
The person put in charge of this task, a guy named Wikus van der Merwe, is largely painted early on in the film as a complete idiot, and for good reason. As the representative of a corporate entity known as MNU, Wikus, a likable enough guy who has earned this job only by virtue of his marriage to the boss's daughter, is charged with the quasi-legal duty of moving the alien "prawns" into what is more or less a concentration camp.
But when Wikus, in the course of doing his job, is infected with a virus that slowly turns him into one of the "prawns" he has been charged to protect society at large from, all hell breaks loose.
I wont spoil the details here, except to say that from there the plot involves everything from South African gang lords lusting for the power of twisting Wikus' arm right off his body, to the corporate interests of the MNU group charged with harvesting the technology of the alien weaponry.
From there, lots of shit gets blown up (and it gets blown up real good), and any human standing in the way basically gets blown to bits. The special effects here are some absolutely dazzling eye candy, especially once the alien weaponry is finally put into play. It's the sort of thing that will glue you to your seat in the theater, no matter how badly the stale popcorn demands a trip to the bathroom.
So do the good guys win? Does the alien get off the planet with his son?
I'll never tell.
Just go see it. Seriously, District 9 is that good.