“District 9” Gets A 10

He ain’t pretty, he’s my…prawn?

If ever there were a man who can compete with the vision of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson is that person. The man has a gift for taking an idea or a thought and transferring it to the big screen. Or in the case of “District 9”, he has taken another person with a grand vision and allowed him to make a masterpiece. Jackson didn’t make this movie, but he fronted it after his deal to make a movie based on the video game “Halo” fell through. Apparently he was so disenchanted with the whole process of working with a corporation to get a film made that he decided to set out on his own and, using his own money made from “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy, help create this exciting and gritty piece of sci-fi. And I, for one, am thankful for it.

Science fiction has lost its edge. And in a time when so much technology exists to create cool aliens or interesting spaceships and intergalactic battles and such, you would think that now there would be a glut of awesome science fiction movies out there. But there isn’t. And you know why? Because computer enhanced effects can NEVER replace a good story. And that’s what “District 9” really is…a really, really good story. Not that it doesn’t steal a bit from OTHER great movies…like “The Fly”, “Independence Day” and “Enemy Mine” (remember the Dennis Quaid/Louis Gossett, Jr movie from the 80’s?), but it takes bits from those and makes their ideas even MORE original.

The premise is a simple one…what if aliens landed on Earth and couldn’t leave? For whatever reason, a spaceship has “appeared” in our atmosphere and is hovering over the city of  Johannesburg, South Africa. Like the spaceship in “Independence Day”, the spaceship sits for months until finally humans cut into it only to find not a vicious alien being that wants to sizzle our faces with venom spit, but a culture of creatures not too much unlike ourselves. Well…except they look like giant shrimp and they are starving. So they are transported to a community which, over time, quickly becomes a slum and are basically left to fend for themselves. Eventually crime and filth take over and the human community just wants to be done with them. So the Johannesburg government decides to relocate the “prawn” community to a place outside the city where they can be of no harm to anyone. To lead up this process is a man named Wikus. He and his team of government officials want this process to go smoothly and without violence. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen and Wikus finds himself in a much larger situation after stumbling upon some alien goo that changes his life forever.

I don’t want to give away any plot points because, quite frankly, you should see this film yourself. It’s funny because there is an obvious message wrapped up in this movie and with the director, Neill Blomkamp (who is originally from Johannesburg) leading the way, the message is never thrown in our faces. He keeps it quietly buried in the storyline, and just enough so that it never distracts from the film but still it makes you think about how we treat those who are forced to live in communities much like the slum community of District 9. It’s a powerful message and for a science fiction film, one that hits home harder than most documentaries based on the same topic.

According to “Entertainment Weekly”, this movie was made for $30 million. Can I just say that I don’t understand that. How can Peter Jackson create a movie such as this one for less than a quarter of the cost of a film like “G.I. Joe” and it looks far better and so much more realistic than anything else I’ve seen this summer? From the aliens (who remind me of the creature from “Signs”) to the spaceship, everything is so realistic and lifelike. I sat watching this movie and I felt like it could actually be taking place. With most of it being shot in “news documentary” style (much like “Cloverfield” a couple of years ago), it just has this realistic vibe going for it. And it’s not until about the middle of the movie, where the plot finally shifts away from documentary and becomes more of a traditional movie, that Blomkamp lets it drift into a little more of an action sci-fi film. And the great thing is…it shifts seamlessly.

So I pretty much enjoyed everything about this film. It has all the elements of a science fiction classic. From the actors who are great to the CGI and the special effects. The entire film is very well done and is a much needed breath of fresh air in the stale Hollywood void of summer moviemaking. And I imagine that Hollywood will see what Jackson & Blomkamp have made here and try to crank out replicas in order to make some money off it. But they will more than likely fail. Because it’s not the effects that make a great movie. It’s the story. And Blomkamp has a doozy of one in “District 9”.

Overall Rating: A


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