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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 38.24%
Average: 10.78%
Pretty Bad: 1.96%
Total Crap: 4.9%

6 reviews, 66 user ratings

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District 9
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The perfect late-summer antidote to a dismal season for movies."
5 stars

They used to say August was a dead zone for movies, the dumping ground for summer films that couldn’t compete with the big dogs of May and June. Not any more.

When one weekend in August brings us Hayao Miyazaki’s magnificent Ponyo and Neill Blomkamp’s perfect piece of parable entertainment District 9, it’s time to reassess the eighth month. Like the best sci-fi, District 9 is a sociopolitical allegory of sorts, equating repressed and dispossessed aliens with the forced relocation of Cape Town residents. It’s also a kick-ass monster movie, though the monsters tend to be the humans, and the audience hoots when an alien turns one of the bad guys into a fine red mist.

There’s an honest-to-god character arc here — remember those? Remember when there were actual characters in summer entertainment? The hero here is Wikus van der Merwe, a dorky clipboard-carrier for the MNU (Multi-National United), which has kept the aliens (or “prawns”) in squalor for 28 years while trying to figure out how to use the aliens’ weaponry. (The weapons only work if an alien uses them.) Wikus is played by Sharlto Copley as a mix of Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy and Lionel Cosgrove, the dweeby but ultimately heroic protagonist of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. (Jackson produced and “presents” District 9.) Wikus starts out as an amiably callous company drone, treating the aliens with offensive jocularity as he tries to get their “signatures” to “approve” their relocation from the ghettos of Johannesburg to a place with even less stellar conditions.

Things happen, and Wikus slowly, organically begins to empathize with the “prawns.” We do, too, as the film introduces an intelligent “prawn” and his plucky little son, who keeps saying things like “We go home now?” The special effects in District 9 are subtly dazzling, creating computer-generated aliens that always seem to exist in actual space. The movie’s atmosphere — hot, hazy, grungy — made me glad of the theater’s air conditioning. Blomkamp and his team have built a physically persuasive world here, even if many of its people are sort of caricatures. The chief villains — an MNU higher-up, a bald gung-ho mercenary, a wheelchair-bound Nigerian warlord — ooze cartoonish menace. But that’s part of the fun and the irony — the “prawns,” with their icky tendrils and unintelligible masticatory speech, come to seem more human than the humans.

In truth, District 9’s credibility as an allegory has been a bit overstated elsewhere, and probably won’t stand up to close scrutiny — otherwise you’re essentially saying that black South Africans are ugly chattering crustaceans addicted to cat food. Neill Blomkamp grew up in Johannesburg, and he thought it would be a fine desolate place to set a sci-fi film — that’s more or less how far we should take the analogy. But it is a backdrop we don’t often see outside of art-house dramas. And the action sequences are clean, exciting, inventive, and always rooted in an identifiable goal. The movie also has the most emotionally perfect final shot since Shaun of the Dead, which, like this film, did not originate in Hollywood.

We Americans used to be good at this stuff, maybe at one time the best. Not any more. But it’s good that other world citizens are taking up the slack.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/17/09 07:31:47
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell boring overrated crap 1 stars
4/26/15 Terror One of the greatest movies ever made 5 stars
3/24/15 the truth Stay the Fuck away from ALIEN, Neil! 1 stars
3/11/15 Joe This is great 5 stars
12/06/13 terra c One of the greatest sci fi films ever made 5 stars
1/18/13 austin great movie 5 stars
9/22/12 austin awesome. one of my favorites. 5 stars
4/19/11 Chris F complete and utter trash 1 stars
3/01/11 brian Sci-fi noir comedy. Hmm. 5 stars
1/14/11 dude I love this movie 5 stars
10/30/10 R.W. Welch Imaginative, if not terribly logical. Impressive acting. 4 stars
4/18/10 Ionicera Great movie overall, could have used a litle more setup initially 4 stars
3/28/10 Shaun A Realistic, satiric first half. Compelling second half. 5 stars
3/22/10 Stanley Thai It's a fresh and unique take with aliens coming to Earth. 4 stars
3/19/10 mr.mike So good I watched it twice. Beginning is a turnoff,tho. 4 stars
2/15/10 Simon Hokey story/writing by the end indeed, but Blomkamp's direction and creativity is promising 4 stars
1/25/10 LynchFan Wildly uneven!Really shitty first half(Blair Witch camera is tired)then good 2nd half.Weird 3 stars
1/21/10 daveyt loved the mix of styles and storytelleling, not highbrow- just entertaining!! 5 stars
1/10/10 Jeff Wilder More intelligence than most sci-fi films. 4 stars
12/30/09 randy todger awesome better than usual hollywood shit 5 stars
12/17/09 Mess Well-made science fiction full of quality moments, Blomkamp a rising star 4 stars
12/13/09 mwilde Not for the dim witted. 5 stars
12/05/09 pin very well done 4 stars
11/29/09 Aaron Commareri Refreshing Sci-Fi 5 stars
11/28/09 matt way more violent than i expected, but hugely entertaining 5 stars
10/23/09 Tessa Showed Apartheid in a light that would have not been allowed in a documentary. 5 stars
10/04/09 Rastafarian Bad ending----useful only to set up a sequel. 3 stars
10/04/09 Joseph The story itself sucked...action was good...but plot, story, etc...horrible! 1 stars
9/26/09 av_rated Unaware of the goal, the "more human than humans" angle was sold to perfection. 5 stars
9/15/09 ES Empathy; if you felt nothing during this movi you do not possess it. 5 stars
9/04/09 othree Convincing main character, I liked that, techo efx, bonus 4 stars
9/03/09 The Grinch Kicked more ass than Charles Bronson 5 stars
9/03/09 Gordon Slow and stupid story - Stunk; got my money back 1 stars
9/03/09 David A couple plot holes, but it's story was still interesting and the actrion kicked ass. 5 stars
9/01/09 KingNeutron Kind of shocking in parts, very thought-provoking 4 stars
9/01/09 DarkKnight77587 Can't wait to see Blomkamp's interpretation of HALO! This film was the spring board for it! 5 stars
8/31/09 Omar One of the best films I saw this year. 5 stars
8/30/09 MVC Definately a must see on the big screen 5 stars
8/27/09 R. G. Ranade Perfect first hour, still entertaining but not as great typical-action-movie second hour 4 stars
8/25/09 damalc not nearly what i expected, but not quite as good as many reviewers are saying 4 stars
8/24/09 gc Finally a summer movie with interesting characters and a unique plot, visuals awesome too 5 stars
8/21/09 Arturo Great movie, the final scene is so powerfull, can't wait to see the conclusion. 5 stars
8/20/09 DiamondJoe The mistress likes Aliens so it was good 4 stars
8/19/09 Night1836 Great graphics and it even had a plat! LOL! 5 stars
8/19/09 Slee Fresh and unexpected. Not perfect but darn good! 4 stars
8/19/09 action movie fan one the right track but hard to follow-aliens seem silly-still good 3 stars
8/19/09 FrankNFurter Shitty shaky-cam ruins the film, like in Cloverfield, Quarantine, Blair Witch, etc. 3 stars
8/18/09 Overrated It's "E.T." with explosions. Nothing unique about the story at all. Rent "Alien Nation" 3 stars
8/18/09 JB I agree, the very last scene is so very powerfull and full of depth- a sequel please 5 stars
8/18/09 Phineas Whites: no more 'sensitivity' to aliens that only want to destroy our culture AND US. 4 stars
8/18/09 Jack Teeple Best Sci Fi since Dark City 5 stars
8/18/09 BC Good Sci-Fi but be warned, very graphic 5 stars
8/18/09 veddermatic Wow, good Sci-Fi without a tacked on "happy" ending. Great, great film 5 stars
8/18/09 SueR A terrific movie that has it all--great acting, script, message, and special effects 5 stars
8/17/09 Sully Well worth 100 can of cat food! 5 stars
8/17/09 Quigley An amazing, mind-blowing and suprisingly emotional sci-fi tale. A new classic has been born 5 stars
8/17/09 Flounder A rare combination of gritty sci-fi and food for thought. Best sci-fi flick since the 80s 5 stars
8/17/09 chiyoko Loved this intelligent, emotional sci-fi end-of-summer movie. A stunner! 5 stars
8/17/09 Social studies loco I really didnt want to see this movie at first, glad i did bcuz it is one of the best films 5 stars
8/16/09 The Great Lee Card My heart was pounding because it was so f-ing epic. 5 stars
8/16/09 Obi Wan Great Sci Fi Movie....story was on point! 5 stars
8/16/09 Darkstar Tied with Star Trek for my favorite movie of the summer 5 stars
8/15/09 sleestakk Blomkamp explained the Nigerians during my Q&A. Definitely pre-existing problem in S.Africa 5 stars
8/14/09 steve best movie of the summer 5 stars
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  14-Aug-2009 (R)
  DVD: 29-Dec-2009


  DVD: 29-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Neill Blomkamp

Written by
  Neill Blomkamp
  Terri Tatchell


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