District 9 an alien original
It’s no surprise that District 9 kicked off the weekend with a strong 100% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes. The hype has been off the charts! Nearly everyone I know has been talking about it for weeks and Twitter was all a’buzz with early reviews from people who attended midnight screenings. I finally got the chance to see the film and I definitely was not disappointed.
In the movie, aliens arrived on earth, landing over South Africa two decades ago. Since then, they have been forced to live in slums away from the general human population. The central character, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who seems like some kind of evil Murray Hewitt, works for MNU, a weapons manufacturer trying to figure out ways to harness the technology of the alien weapons. Blending traditional action movie sequences with documentary-style talking-head interviews and “real” footage from security cameras, District 9 manages to feel very authentic despite its sci-fi premise.
Best of all, it seems to assume you’re familiar with other major movies in the alien/sci-fi category. The shots of the ship hovering over the city are reminiscent of Independence Day, the creatures remind you of Alien or Predator, and the handheld camera style definitely has a lot in common with Cloverfield. Not to give anything away, but there are also a few scenes that instantly conjure up memories of The Fly.
Instead of feeling like a rip off of all that has come before it, District 9 feels completely original because it uses these common reference points to move a unique plot forward. If the audience is already knowledgeable about how Hollywood presents alien contact, the story can be told on a deeper level because less preliminary explanation is needed. Think about how many alien, sci-fi or even superhero movies spend lengthy scenes laying out the “rules” for their characters. Now imagine if you could skip a lot of this and get right to the story.
The only slight issue with the film is that it’s very graphic, something that might be a reference point itself to some of producer Peter Jackson’s early work. People are shot, people throw up and people explode, just to name a few of the gory shots. In other words, people do gross things and they’re shown in detail. This won’t bother most viewers, but there are a few scenes that are sure to make people in the theater squirm in their seats.
Despite some excessive gore, District 9 remains one of the smartest and most original films of its genre.