District 9

Stars:  **** out of Four

Summary:  Extremely well produced and extremely tense, this sci-fi actioner for the thinking man exceeds the expectations of its template.

No, they haven't taken over the world.  Far from it.

No, they haven't taken over the world. Far from it.

Review:  The aliens haven’t landed.  Their ship has floated to a halt over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, apparently out of gas.  They don’t emerge from their ship, so after three months of arguments, the human race allows the South African government to cut their way in.

The aliens are confused, malnourished, and apparently without hope.  Humanity brings them down to earth and organizes them in a camp known as District 9, on a temporary basis.  It eventually turns into a violent, crime-filled slum, and alien unrest threatens to bring down the hammer of humanity’s bigotry.  Super corporation and mercenary force Multi-National United is sent in to evict the “prawns” and send them to a concentration camp far from the thick human population.  The MNU task force is headed up by Wikus van de Merwe, a married man in his 30s who shows a surprising amount of cruelty to the prawns.  During the mission to evict the aliens, however, he is sprayed by a mysterious black fluid, and horrific things start occurring in his body…

‘District 9’ is played like a history, a documentary, and a lightning-quick chase narrative, and they are meshed together remarkably well.  It’s wound up tight and the action is brutal.  The whole movie is brutal, a justified assault on the senses.  Violence and gore abound, but if they did not, then ‘District 9′ wouldn’t have nearly the edge it needs to be an effective story.  The gruesome makes it organic and much more emotional.  We feel the pain of Wikus’ transformation, and the devastating effect of alien weaponry, which literally causes people to explode, but not in the way that this year’s ‘Watchmen’ showed the same effect.  This is much more realistic, which oddly enough makes it less disturbing.

Once the action heats up, it becomes very focused and gratifying.  It becomes about personal sacrifice, and the heroes save each others lives over and over again.

The CGI, accomplished by Weta, The Embassy Visual Studios, and Zoic Studios, is nearly seamless.  I wasn’t wowed in the way that I was by ‘Star Trek’, but it accomplished its goal.  The art direction, on the other hand, did indeed blow me away.  I felt like I was watching a 1980s sci-fi action movie, realized with 21st century technology and the appropriate zeal.  Excellent, excellent stuff.

Despite an insane amount of gruesome imagery, violence, and other objectionable content, the message of the movie is ultimately positive.

Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.