Back in 2008 a viral marketing campaign began entitled “Human’s Only” that first brought people’s attention to District 9. Then, upon its release, it received acclaim from all angles and really helped to launch the careers of its South African director Neill Blomkamp and leading man Sharlto Copley.
District 9 is the story of Sharlto Copley’s Wikus van de Merwe. Almost thirty years prior to the events of this film a large spaceship stopped above Johannesburg in South Africa and its alien occupiers came down to Earth and now inhabit the slums of South Africa. Wikus van de Merwe is a government agent chosen to lead the camp relocation by serving the aliens with eviction notices. However, after uncovering a deep secret about the alien’s technology he becomes a kindred spirit of the alien race.
The film begins in a very interesting documentary style and remains this way throughout the first half an hour. This allows the audience to be given a fantastic insight into the alien race and their history, as well as the opinions held of humans about this new species on their planet. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout as we hear the talking heads talking about their colleague Wikus and we know that something bad happens to him, but we are never quite told what. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Wikus, this happy, charming, loved up government worker who is, not all the time competent, but always means well.
Then the story moves on and we suddenly come out of the documentary style and we are welcomed to a more conventional style of story telling. We know get introduced to the aliens and learn what they are doing here and what they intend to do with their spaceship, and how they intend to go back home, if they want to. The aliens are brought to life magnificently by Jason Cope who plays a huge part in the making of this film by providing the voices for all as well as playing the lead alien, Christopher Johnson.
As well as being an enthralling piece of drama District 9 also brings up several strong themes surrounding humanity. Right from the title through to its treatment of aliens District 9 is a sure fire criticism of Distric Six. District Six, an inner-city residential area in Cape Town, was declared a “whites only” area by the government in 1966, with 60,000 people forcibly removed and relocated to Cape Flats. Racism and xenophobia are explored with the aliens being the subject of the hatred. The use of the word ‘prawn’ is a very evident replacement for racist words used in the past. It’s not the first time the science fiction genre has done this but District 9 is certainly one of the best to have used this tact in their film making.
It is amazing that on such a low budget Blomkamp has managed to bring to life one of the greatest science fiction/fantasy films of this century so far. A fine piece of art!
My Rating: 9/10.