Published Aug 13, 2009Most sci-fi summer blockbusters are little more than an excuse to splash some mind-numbing special effects across the screen, but District 9 manages to tell a unique and interesting story without compromising the summertime need for high-octane action and jaw-dropping digital creatures. In his debut feature length film, Neill Blomkamp manages to make this summer's other action blockbusters look like little more than advertisements for children's toys.
Blomkamp transports audiences to a near-future South Africa where, 20 years prior, a massive alien spacecraft touched down and unloaded a million starving extraterrestrial refugees, nicknamed "Prawns" by their unwelcoming human hosts. Unlike most sci-fi aliens, the Prawns are not technologically superior super-creatures but, as far as their human observers can discern, are comprised of mostly lower class, uneducated workers.
The Prawns are relegated to a cordoned-off shanty town known as District 9, but as inter-species tensions hit a boiling point, the authorities begin preparations to move the Prawns to a new camp far outside the city limits. In charge of the relocation is Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a mid-level bureaucrat who's exposed to Prawn bio-tech in the line of duty and soon finds himself being hunted through the refugee ghetto by a corporate militia hoping to unlock the secrets of alien weaponry.
Produced by acclaimed director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong), District 9 is an instant sci-fi classic that will satisfy hardcore geeks and casual fans alike. Those looking for thought provoking social commentary will find layers of subtext dealing with xenophobia, racism, corporate greed and the plight of the world's refugees, while those just looking for a bit of fun with their buttery popcorn will easily be able to enjoy District 9 for its creepy aliens, kick-ass weapons and sci-fi action.
District 9 is proof that special effects can be used as a tool to help tell an interesting story rather than as a way to hide a weak narrative under a thick spackle of dizzying graphics and eardrum-damaging explosions. If you're only going to drop your cash on one big ticket movie this summer make it District 9. (Sony)