District 9 (2009)
Reviewed on 2009 August 19
I typically go blind into movies once I get a barebones plot description and hear who stars or directed in it. I’m always interested in anything with gooey aliens fighting humans, but I put this on my must-view list because of two words: Peter Jackson. And boy, was I rewarded.
Johannesburg, South Africa, has been in (more) turmoil for two decades because of extraterrestrials that appeared overhead one day in a broken space ship. Nobody likes being disillusioned, and I think the first problem facing the aliens is superficial humans. The human residents of Johannesburg probably expected the wisdom of the ages coming to them from beings of light. Once they get the ship opened, I’m sure they feel cheated as they’re confronted by huddled creatures that look more like cooked shrimp someone forgot at the back of the fridge for a few days than benevolent ETs. This isn’t their fault, but a lot of the creatures, nicknamed “prawns”, don’t help themselves much either. They’re relegated to the infamous District 9, a crime-infested slum of corrugated metal buildings and gang activity. One man, a hapless MNU (Multi-National United) bureaucrat named Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), is recruited to lead the team to evict the aliens from the district and confiscate their weapons, and his team finds something unprecedented.
I really don’t want to say any more about the plot, for anyone else who wants to ride this no-hands like I did. The acting is a bit stiff (I think deliberately) at the beginning, and it works — the beginning makes it seem like a documentary. As the film becomes more jittery and crazy, the stiffness is dropped as the story roars along. I’d never heard of Sharlto Copley but I hope we see more of his work, because he was incredible in this. So many sci-fi and action movies throw away a good story line or character depth in favor of things just blowing up purty. Once this gets rolling it juggles the whole lot, gracefully.
Three chocolate morsels, and a slice of uncontaminated cake.