August 20, 2009
District 9When I first saw the trailer for District 9 (IMDb) I thought that it looked like it might have potential to be amazing so I made up my mind to not read anything else about it, hoping not to spoil the enjoyment of seeing a great movie with no expectations beforehand. This paid off, because District 9 was amazing!
This is why: District 9 takes an unusual twist on a common sci-fi concept (alien invasion), has an unusual protagonist, has the visuals that are typically afforded to films with a large effects budget. One of my first thoughts was, “this is not what I would have expected” – and I was glad for that. The situation in the movie, as weird as it is, is presented without explanations for why things are that way. The alien “invasion”, which is often the focus of films like this, in District 9 has already happened. And the existence of extraterrestrial life on earth is something taken for granted by the human population. The aliens are commonplace, and a nuisance, which is an important plot element underling the events that happen in the film.
District 9 is based on the apartheid that director Neill Blomkamp witnessed while growing up in South Africa. The movie is a surprisingly violent allegory of those events. As for the protagonist, Wikus Van De Merwe – he exhibits characteristics completely contrary to the typical tough-guy hero character typical in big-budget sci-fi films. He is afraid, and vulnerable at times, which makes him very endearing.
Note: The Halo Connection - I remember wondering early into the film if possibly I was watching a very-good-covertly-kept-secret prequel to a “Halo” movie. (Halo is a very popular video game franchise.) So after I got home I did a little research and was surprised how accurate my intuition had been because director Neill Blomkamp had originally been attached to direct a Halo film with Peter Jackson attached to produce. But when that venture collapsed, Jackson asked Blomkamp to make whatever film he wanted instead – the result being District 9. And I think sci-fi fans can feel very fortunate that this was the case.