District 9 Review by Dave

Before I get to work reflecting on Blomkamp’s District 9 I must admit my naïvity regarding the film. As often happens I had precategorised this film into a mould that I had no intention of viewing- ever. The process was not complicated. It sounded a little bit like the film Ladder 49 so I envisioned some mildly dramatic plot involving police officers or firefighters doing something just important enough to warrant a $50 million Hollywood budget. To my pleasant surprise I was wrong. It involves aliens, and it’s not even set in the US.

It is a funny thing that comfort is such an integral foundation in films. Whilst many will agree that particular accents, be they Australian, Eastern European or even Scandinavian, are either pleasant, sexy or otherwise endearing- none can create the same platform of comfort that the American accent offers for film.

Although it provided a unique backdrop for District 9 the South African accent took a little to get used to. Maybe we have been somewhat broken in by the likes of Blood Diamond but it must be said that the American accent still offers the greatest pillow for familiarity.

The beginning of the film saw us immediately in the thick of District 9 which, as it turns out, is an area that has been colonised and dominated by 9ft tall aliens- known commonly by the white population as “prawns”. The urban landscape  has semblance to an Indian slum, dilapidated to a seemingly untenable state of disrepair. Yet it is thriving with aliens.

The premise is a satirical masterpiece. Eviction of the aliens to a new district uncovers the dark and dehumanising nature of urban clean-up and treatment of the impoverished and powerless. Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copely, is the main protagonist who, as a manager of the MNU, leads the eviction until he is infected with an unknown virus. This infection sees his progressive morphing into an alien whereupon his new perspective digs further into a necessary empathy for the powerless and afflicted- represented by the aliens.

The film style is unique. In part it is a mockumentary: involving a lot of hand hend cameras- and one mounted on the end of a rifle offering a unique shot, until the soldier begins to fire. This disjointed reporting on the progress of the eviction adds to the xenophobic comment and creates a wider scope for the dehumanising corporate perspective that is represented by the MNU Department for Relations with Extraterrestrial Civilizations- originally lead by Wikus.

Economically speaking, District 9 performed well. With a production budget of approximately $30 million and a viral campaign following, returning a revenue of over $200 million was not unforeseeable but equally welcomed. Competing against the likes of Inglourious Basterds- it is safe to suggest District 9 was nothing like Ladder 49, and in my opinion, offered a real, potent comment on life and the perils of xenophobia. Despite the comedy, it offered a palatable sadness causing the audience to leave thinking.

I give it 4 film reels.

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