Directed by Neill Blomkamp, District 9 is by far the most original Sci – fi film of this year or for the last several years as well. Set in the very near future Johannesburg 2010, the film stars Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt and Sylvaine Strike.
Starting off with a series of documentary type interviews, it is found out that an alien mother-ship has come to rest over Johannesburg, South Africa. It has been investigated and found to have aliens aboard who were malnourished and sick. The aliens were placed in a shanty town in Johannesburg temporarily, but after 20 years, it is finally decided to move the aliens to a different facility. It is the job of Wikus van der Merwe, a field operative, to move all 1.8 million aliens to the new district 10. While investigating a home of a suspicious alien Wikus is accidentally sprayed with a dark liquid and begins to develop symptoms from the exposure.
Alive in Joburg, a short film by director Neill Blomkamp, was the initial idea for District 9. Both District 9 and the original contained the documentary style video sequences and gives the movie a raw feel. This is slightly reminiscent of Cloverfield or even back to the Blair Witch days. Even though most of the film was given this treatment, it was done very well. We were a full 3rd of the way through the movie before I realized the docu segments were in retrospect. Ok, I may be kinda slow… Having been the one with the original idea, Neill Blomkamp has really fleshed out the whole storyline. It is sketchy in just the right spots and full throttle in others. As far as telling a story where the arriving aliens are settled into a slum, shanty town location and treated as well… illegal aliens, is very much against mainstream plot concepts. It is typically the earth dwellers that become the enslaved or enlisted against their will to do what the advanced alien entourage dictates. This film was a breath of fresh air in this regard.
Finding a shooting location and dressing it for the film was a fairly straight-forward approach as the shanty town location was in fact real as well as located near Johannesburg. The only set built there for this film was the main alien character, Christopher Johnson’s home. Using the already available location added much realism to the visual effect that this film had. The acting was on point here with the only real complaint being the use of the Johannesburg lingo and dialect, giving the viewer a bit of difficulty understanding some of the dialog. This was just a mild distraction however as most of what was going on you could follow without any dialog. Sharlto Copley did a very fine job on this film for a relative newcomer to acting with the original Alive in Joburg being his first acting job. Maybe the familiarity with story helped him here.
Overall this was a great piece of Sci-fi. It had all the necessary elements in place but arranged them in a completely refreshing way. That is the main reason I am giving District 9 4 stars. The fact that Peter Jackson was involved with this film gave me peace of mind that whatever direction it went, it would be done in great fashion. The first time viewer will find a unique experience that I am sure will have it’s detractors but not for the serious or experienced sci-fi fan.