Arts and Entertainment

Praise to Peter Jackson’s new film: District 9 revitalizes alien science fiction genre

By Alex Frail
Published: September 2009

Throw a cast of no-name actors into a genre that’s been recycled, regurgitated, and beaten to death, and then selling it to a country that primarily sees movies based on celebrity name recognition is no small task, but Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp have succeeded gloriously.

The newest blockbuster on the sparkling résumé of Jackson, District 9 is a wildly fun and imaginative film that revives the alien and science fiction movie genre.

Following years of stale, one-dimensional snores like Knowing and The Day the Earth Stood Still, audiences can finally appreciate the “aliens-are-invading recipe and enjoy a decent movie.

Other alien films have probably failed because they didn’t have what District 9 thrives on: a quality actor and a solid plot.

Sharlto Copley, the excellent newcomer from South Africa, plays Wikus van de Merwe, a worker for a military organization who strives to conquer the aliens condescendingly known as prawns. Wikus is assigned to lead the alien evictions from District 9, based on the real District 6 used during the Apartheid, to a new, smaller home.

During his mission, one learns the true nature of the prawns and the havoc their chemicals can wreak if ingested.

District’s first selling point is its setting.

Unlike its predecessors, the alien mother ship doesn’t come to vaporize New York or the White House, nor does it turn humans into a bloody food source.

Instead, the immense ship lands above Johannesburg, South Africa and simply sits there. After months of dormancy, humans break in to find a race of starving aliens.

Conditions rapidly plummet for the prawns after they move into District 9, essentially a fenced off ghetto.

Humans treat the prawns like dirt, igniting what becomes a small war.

20 years later, the story begins as the military initiates a crackdown on the prawns. Copley leads an unknown cast through the bloody blockbuster that satisfies both the scholar in you and your childhood appetite for sheer destruction.

Based on the real Direct 6, Direct 9 contains Apartheid metaphors run rampant through the film, strengthening the plot’s integrity in the process.

The movie successfully portrays the hatred and aggression between races that existed during the Apartheid as well as the internal resistance needed to break it.

During the first half an hour or so, the film is shot in a nauseating documentary style that is reminiscent of Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project. Much of this time is spent telling the audience what has happened since the aliens arrived, so does try your patience; however, it is well worth the wait to see the rest of the movie.

After this sections through ends, the movie soars on adrenaline and the documentary style continues to improve.

At first, I thought the prawns were simply people in costumes, like many of Jackson’s orcs in The Lord of the Rings.

They look so genuine that I simply couldn’t believe that these creatures are computer generated.

The film is so original that it is impossible to predict the ending or even what may happen in the next scene.
I have no shame in calling District 9 a masterpiece. Though not for the faint hearted (alien weapons are not kind to humans), the movie proves to have Transformers’€like action with Good Will Hunting-esque poignancy.

You may never have heard of District 9 before now, but you won’t be able to stop talking about it once you’ve seen it.

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