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.