District 9 Directed by: Neill Blomkamp Cast: Sharlto Copley Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 14, 2009
Plot: It's been over 20 years, and an extraterrestrial race is living on Earth, forced to live in slum-like conditions. A government agent (Copley) is exposed to some sort of liquid and it brings him closer to the aliens than he ever thought possible, and becomes the target of his own military.
Who’s It For? Sci-Fi fans that don't want to settle for a sequel to get their fill (I'm looking in your direction Terminator: Salvation.
Expectations: Very little. I knew Peter Jackson was involved and I knew there was some sort of alien ship hovering over Earth. That's it. Again, I try and avoid previews so I can go in fresh.
Actors: Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe: A government agent that has underachiever written all over him. He's put in charge by his father-in-law to run the aliens to a new camp. He's the type that does what he's told and doesn't really think twice about it. The problem is, Wikus is our "hero." We're supposed to be rooting for this guy. That finally happens but only when his own government is trying to kill him. My heart is never in this journey, and that's because Wikus is leading the way. Score: 5
Special Effects as Prawns: Ugly. In a good way. So's the entire film really. I don't think they name the key aliens or "Prawns" as they are nicknamed, but there's a father and son. The adventure picks up with Wikus must work with one alien to try and restore his life to what it once was. For all the documentary-style backstory they give, I still don't understand this alien race. How do they become technologically advanced, but easily controlled? And doesn't most of them seem ignorant? Score: 7
Talking: I just hinted at the documentary-style above ... what did the interviews truly add? They teased the past tense of Wikus, so you know something is going to happen to the man. And they beat it over our heads that controlling the aliens is about military superiority and has the feel of a concentration camp. I wonder if any of that was needed, because I felt the tone of that was much more powerful. So in other words, less would have been much more. Score: 5
Sights: Slumdog Millionaire meets Starship Troopers. The town, the aliens, the things Wikus does to his hand ... it's all good ugly. Heck, even eating cat food can turn my stomach a little bit. That seems to be the point of this film. Whether it's finger nails falling out, or someone's back peeling from a terrible looking rash, you'll be tempted to turn away. At one point, I think I even saw a pig used as ammo. Score: 8
Sounds: Every time a gun is picked up, I'm excited to hear the noise it makes. Otherwise, the music is oddly completely forgettable. Normally you remember the score from the Bourne Identity-type moments in films, but not here. Score: 4
Best Scene: When Wickus gets into the heavily armed suit that looks like it's straight out of Aliens you're ready to go on an annihilation run. And he delivers.
Ending: They really seemed to talk about three years from now a little too much. Was that so there would be room for a sequel? Again, I personally didn't need the interviewees giving me their insight.
Questions: So, the Prawns can travel in an elaborate space craft, design weapons that are extremely advanced, learn English ... but they're considered less intelligent than us? Yeah, you lost me. And Wickus, come on man, watch any chase movie out there and you know the government is tracking your cell phone. Here's the big question though ... did the fuel the Prawns need for their ship also change Wickus? Isn't that like gasoline turning an ape into a human?
Rewatchability: I wouldn't kick it out of bed, but this is the type of film I come across on TV as opposed to seeking it out.
For most of District 9 you really don't know what's going to happen next. That's the best thing that can be said for this film. Is this a film about containment, controlling people (species), or a fugitive flick? We get a little of everything. We know the stakes, the MNU (Multi-National United) wants weapons, and will stop at nothing. They finally have their gateway in Wickus, an annoying man in need of a good manicure. Unfortunately, I never cared about Wickus. I guess he's flawed like all of us. So, while I was curious, I never felt like I was on the journey with these characters. I finally figured out what, or who, I needed. There was a tiny second of comedy, and I thought, "Wow, Simon Pegg would have nailed this role."
The issue here is that original doesn't necessarily equal great. You've got to do something with it. And while comparing aliens to those Africans who endure life in the slums in an interesting idea ... it really doesn't go beyond that. Is that fact that aliens love cat food enough?
Things clearly pick up in the second half of the film, but the entire pace of the movie still felt slightly off. It's like I wanted the record player dial turned up. Sure, everyone would have sounded like chipmunks, but it would have made for a faster ride.
Final Score: 6/10