Low budget film invades theaters

By Peter Yarnell
August 27, 2009

It is very obvious, even in the first five minutes of the new movie “District 9,” that this is not your or my parents favorite science fiction film.

The aliens are not here to harvest humans, to declare war, nor are they here to make peace and further our technological advances.

They’ve been scavenging refugee drones living in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1982 when their ship landed above the city.

MNU (Multi-National United) is an organization that is supposed to be taking care of the prawns (a racial term for the aliens due to their insect-like appearance) and due to rising tensions over the past 20 or so years, they decide to relocate them from District 9, which is now a slum inside Johannesburg, to District 10 outside of the city.

They send in Wikus Van Der Merwe (played by newcomer Sharlto Copley) to spearhead the operation.

But when he is exposed to an alien substance that begins to alter his DNA, he becomes extremely valuable. MNU begins to hunt him down along with the police and the only place to hide is District 9.

This is the debut feature length film from director Neill Blomkamp and there are no A-List celebrities either.

This gives this production an even more independent feel. Take into account that this film cost $30 million, lower cost compared to movies like “GI Joe,” which was made for $175 million, and looks like $300 million with visuals. You have a sleeper hit if this writer has ever seen one.

Blomkamp also cleverly moves from a mockumentary style to narrative fairly often.

The shakey style of the camera only gets unnerving in a couple of sequences, but it adds to the realism.

Also, cutting in camera shots from security cameras and news helicopters, along with interviews that take place after the events in the film, allow for everything to feel almost thrown together by a documentarian in the world of “District 9.”

It is as if you are watching two different films at the same time.

The film is violent and has many dark references to our own past. Seeing the aliens in the slums being mistreated and roped off from society brings up thoughts of World War 2 concentration camps (especially the pictures of District 10).

The aliens even have to wear an MNU stamp on their head. Also, setting it in South Africa amidst all the racial tension there makes it easy to compare the aliens to the Africans fighting for civil rights and being looked at as second- class citizens.

But at the core of the film lies an amazing theme of acceptance. Seeing Wikus expose MNU’s secrets with Christopher, the most important alien in the film you feel very sorry for the prawns. You want the two species to co-exist and seeing their friendship develop gives you hope for the future of the world in the film after the movie is over.

District 9 takes the concept of invaders and turns it around. Humanity becomes the aliens and the prawns become the hopeless victims.

Original, low budget and fiercely independent, this movie must be seen in a theatre to be appreciated by any sci-fi aficionado. You have this writer’s recommendation. There are many secrets in “District 9,” go find them.

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Peter Yarnell

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