Whenever aliens come to visit our planet (in the movies) we humans are not known for rolling out the welcome mat for our distant neighbors. In the new science fiction District 9, such sentiment is no exception. However, such a common plot combined with a dose of reality and the unexpected, it becomes quite clear why District 9 is one the year’s biggest sleeper hits.
Initially District 9 has a bit of trouble finding its footing and almost looses the viewer. Is it a comedy, a sci-fi, an action movie, a documentary or some hybrid of all of the above? Next, the aliens appeared as if they had been dressed from the amateurish wardrobe vault from the original Star Trek series creating doubt about what lied ahead for the duration of the film. Fortunately for District 9, sometimes first impressions are not always true.
Set partially back in 1982 when aliens first arrive and get stranded on Earth, District 9 mostly takes place over 25 years later in 2010 as the aliens attempt to finally return home. From E.T. to Brother From Another Planet the idea of aliens getting stuck on earth is not a novel concept, yet District 9’s spin on the tale is as innovative as they've come in a long time.
Part of what makes District 9 work has to be the quirky yet engaging performance of the relatively newcomer South African born actor Sharlto Copely who portrays Wikus. Wikus is the nerdy awkward leader of the corporation that’s contracted to forcibly throw out the alien population and when his reversal of fortune takes him from the hunter to hunted class, Copley brings a fierce grit to the character that you wouldn’t expect. An ensuing chase is soon afoot and delivers some high powered action and surprisingly gory scenes packed with enough oomph to rival that of any action or horror flick out there today. District 9 will undoubtedly satisfy any action movie seeker…it’s easily the most fun, tensest, thrilling edge of your seat ride of the year you’ll take.
District 9 also had one more component working in its favor, an atypical setting. How refreshing it was to see a colossal alien landing and/or global catastrophe somewhere other than NYC. District 9’s unlikely setting of Johannesburg, South African was a smart and creative choice giving the film a bit more credence than your average sci-fi movie and the use of the partial cinema verite shooting style was brilliantly executed without being overdone .
However, this foreign setting wasn’t a mere coincidence; this was a piece of film art that inconspicuously imitated life. District 9, in the movie, is the sectioned off ghetto where the aliens have been confined to with force by humans. In reality, District 6, was a whites only area in Cape Town South Africa during apartheid after black humans were forcibly removed and relocated to deplorable slums by force of the South African government, all of which were white humans. How’s that for a sci-fi with metaphorical message!
If for no other reason District 9’s director Neill Blomkamp gets kudos for pulling off a foreign sci-fi film that more than holds its own with the big Hollywood productions. Though nowhere near the stunning visual of Avatar, District 9’s gutsy narrative and execution was just as thrilling and enjoyable. District 9 is not predictable yet it leaves no doubt that a sequel is imminent. District 9 is fun, action packed and dare I say it … even moving as it has easily jumped into the arena of some of the best sci-films ever made.