I’ve never been much of a fan of the Star Wars or Star Trek franchises of movie making, but I do love a good, straightforward science fiction film on the rare occasion that one makes it to the big screen. After what seems like a very long wait, that occasion has finally arrived. Last night Geoffrey and I were squealing like little piggies with excitement at a screening of the new Peter Jackson produced film, District 9; a film that everyone will be talking about. Directed spectacularly by first time director Neill Blomkamp, this film has a seemingly simple plot which unfolds into one of the deepest, most thought-provoking back stories I can recall seeing in a film in possibly decades. I fucking loved this movie.
District 9’s basic plot centers on a race of aliens that made first contact with Earth over twenty years ago, when their spaceship became dysfunctional over the South African town of Johannesburg. Lacking an ulterior motive of taking over the earth, these aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures have been set up in a shanty town slum known as District 9 while the government tries to figure out what to do with them. When the public’s patience over the alien situation runs out, the government contracts Multi-National United (MNU), a private company, to relocate them to a newer, more remote tent village. MNU employees are also told to confiscate any alien weaponry – which the government has been unable to make use of, as activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.
The tension between aliens and humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley, in a truly amazing performance), makes contact with a mysterious fluid that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable – as he is now capable of unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, District 9 is only place left for him to hide. The entire film is shot documentary style and every frame of it feels like something that could happen at any moment. Danger lurks around every corner and the tension is frightening and palpable.
During the film I was reminded of memorable sci-fi flicks like The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Fly and the most obvious comparison, Alien Nation. Yet, despite recognizable similarities to other films of the genre, District 9 feels completely fresh and unique. It should also be noted that Blomkamp is a South African native who was obviously influenced and sensitized by having experienced first hand the now mercifully defunct, racist practice of Apartheid. District 9 is brutal and unflinching, bringing a high-tech horror movie aesthetic to smart science fiction.
Having garnered nearly universally positive press and pre-release word-of-mouth, District 9 is already being called the best Science Fiction film of the 21st Century so far. I can’t wait to see it again.
District 9 Opens in Theaters on August 14th.