Starring: Sharlto Copley, William Allen Young, Robert Hobbs, Jason Cope, Kenneth Nkosi, Vanessa Haywood, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, John Summer, Nick Blake, Jed Brophy, Louis Minnaar, Vittorio Leonardi, Marian Hooman, Mandla Gaduka, Johan van Schoor, Stella Steenkamp, David James, Tim Gordon, and Jonathan Taylor.
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp.
Once upon a time, director Neill Blomkamp was assigned by Peter Jackson to direct the film adaptation of the popular video game Halo. Due to many internal disagreements between Microsoft, 20th Century Fox, and Universal Pictures, the project was canceled but the parties involved felt like they owed Blomkamp a shot so they gave it to him – They helped him fund his short film Alive in Joburg which Jackson saw the potential to expand it into a feature length film and the result was… District 9.
Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 introduces us to a dying extraterrestrial race who have arrived on our planet. Their mother ship has lost its command module therefore making it inoperable and stuck hovering about the city. Spanning over two decades, after several attempts to integrate them into the community of Johannesburg, things simply don’t work out and everything that goes wrong ends up being blamed on the poor and innocent aliens. As a result, Johannesburg’s Government (the MNU) banishes them into a slum called District 9 where they forced to stay and take up residence alongside a black market street gang.
These aliens aren’t in any sense dumb nor or they almighty powerful, but they do have sense and intellect, they’re highly capable of getting along with and socializing with people (those who are not hostile, that is), they can even work and make themselves extremely useful. 20 years after their arrival, the MNU invades District 9 to enforce eviction on all the aliens living there and moving them to concentration camps. However, this is nothing more than a cover so that the MNU can illegally inspect their homes for bits and clues to their biotechnology or their advanced weaponry rather (their weapons are DNA activated so humans are unable to use them).
The main character of the story is MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) who is part of the eviction team that invades District 9. The other main character is one of the aliens themselves, Christopher. He, his son, and a colleague have been working on a solution for their spaceship problem over the past 20 years and it has to do with a special black liquid they created which ends up in government hands. Wikus accidentally gets exposed to this liquid and soon begins his transformation into one of them, first by growing an alien arm.
Wikus is captured and quarantined by his boss (whose daughter is Wikus’s wife) for experimental use being that he is now the only human that can operate the alien weaponry as well as the first human to mix with their DNA. However, Wikus gets away and flees into District 9 where he ends up siding with Christopher in an attempt to get the liquid back so that the aliens could fix their ship and make Wikus human again via their medical technology.
District 9 is perhaps the epitome of science fiction in all of 2009 as well as a breathe of fresh air in this summer of films, I personally haven’t seen an equally entertaining film this summer since Star Trek last May. This film is a documentary and character drama hybrid, the heart of the story centers on a man who becomes alienated by the people he trusted and forced to realize his true identity while siding with the people he alienated in the first place.
This movie has a very distinctive big screen take on aliens – The case with most extraterrestrial flicks is that either the aliens come in peace (The Abyss) or they come to take over and conquer (Independence Day, War of the Worlds), but in District 9, they are simply victims. Overall, Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp have carefully crafted and put together an original and unique film that is neither a remake, reboot, or a book adaptation of anything else unlike 90% of films that are released today. Now just one quick question: Between Public Enemies and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, where the heck was this movie on the July 4th opening weekend of 2009?