When I first saw the trailer for this, I was a little conflicted. They started it off very promising as they led up to the eventual payoff. You're watching normal everyday people being interviewed briefly stating why they think certain people shouldn't be there. So you're wondering who are they so opposed to? Plus, the way it was shot in news footage style and their accents makes you think it was some flick about the oppression of some third world people. Then you see the spaceship.
In "District 9" it's been 28 years since the aliens made first contact, but there was never any attack from the skies, nor any profound technological revelation capable of advancing our society. Instead, the aliens were treated as refugees. They were the last of their kind, and in order to accommodate them, the government of South Africa set up a makeshift home in District 9 as politicians and world leaders debated how to handle the situation. As the humans begin to grow wary of the unwelcome intruders, a private company called Multi-National United (MNU) is assigned the task of controlling the aliens.
Instead of concentrating on the welfare and the treatment of the aliens, MNU is more concerned with attempting to understand how their weaponry works. Should they manage to make that breakthrough, they will receive tremendous profits to fund their research. Unfortunately, the highly advanced weaponry requires alien DNA in order to be activated. When MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to biotechnology that causes his DNA to mutate, the tensions between the aliens and the humans intensifies. Wikus is the key to unlocking the alien's technology, and he quickly becomes the most wanted man on the planet. Ostracized and isolated, Wikus retreats to District 9 in a desperate bid to shake his dogged pursuers.
This is again one of those films where the documentary-style shooting pays off tremendously. We have seen all types of films about alien invasions before and it is normally the special effects that sells it. However, when the movie is done as if we're watching actual news reel, it lends more realism to it. You get the feeling that the alien presence did take place and get to experience what its like as not only the government but normal people try to deal with it.
Also, the fact that they moved the location to Johannesburg, South Africa adds even more interest to the movie. It's about time that New York wasn't the backdrop of an extra terrestrial existence for a change. Instead, we have a location that is already experiencing impoverished conditions. So seeing the aliens, known as prawns, living in squalor seems believable. It's almost as if these are overgrown cockroaches that have somehow developed personalities and intelligence.
One thing that really works for the film is they realize how the appearance of the prawns can seem off-putting. They counteract that by trying to humanize them. You can't help but sympathize with them because of the conditions that they're forced to live in. It's bad enough they can't leave because their ship won't function, but they are forced to exist as scavengers in order to eek out a meager survival. They are treated like refugees when in reality, they don't really even want to be here.
There was that and also how they added a single parent aspect. The one prawn that forms an unlikely alliance with Wikus has a son who is the driving force for the prawn wanting to find a way home. They smartly stayed away from any ridiculous comedy which would have been easy with the tiny prawn's appearance. Instead, you get the genuine feeling that it is a child that has a strong admiration for his father and a father that would do anything for his son.
But the two areas that definitely played out as the strongest suits for "District 9" was first-time actor Copley and the aliens themselves. Maybe it was the documentary-style of filming that worked out in Copley's favor as a rookie. I'm guessing not though because even the scenes that weren't in that format were incredible for him. You would have thought this guy had been acting for years with the powerful performance he gave.
The thing that mad me leery about the trailer when I first saw it was the aliens looked borderline hokey with the brief glimpse they gave us. However, in the actual movie, their appearance was fairly seamless. Their interactions with all of the human components looked natural. That's why I didn't let that glimpse in the trailer dissuade me. I knew with Peter Jackson on board as the executive producer he wouldn't disappoint. Every movie he has been apart of has delivered. And now he's done it yet again.
My rating: A