District 9 is one of those films that took me completely by surprise, which most always a good thing and typically makes me a happy viewer. I was expecting a dark, gritty science fiction film, and it is that. But it has a wicked sense of humor that once I picked up on it made me almost giddy. This film is chock-full of cynical humor and some pretty darned good action. This will sound a bit out there, but if you mixed together various elements of The Office, Enemy Mine, Cry Freedom, Black Like Me, and RoboCop that’s kind of what we have with District 9.
I don’t think I’ll be giving away too much by sharing the most basic plot, which is simple: a gigantic alien space craft mysteriously appears one day hovering over Johannesburg that is teaming with creatures that some civilization somewhere in the galaxy is trying to get rid of, and therefore dispatches to earth. Evidently someone out there is sending these aliens to the galactic “projects.” And sure enough that’s what is pretty much what is done with them on earth–although it is worse than that, actually. It is collectively decided by all the world’s governments that the aliens are to be segregated in an internment slum (in Johannesburg, no less).
It starts with a documentary style that to me is vaguely reminiscent of TV’s The Office in its humorous undertones. The satire is hilarious, and elicited belly laughs from me. The scenes of the human protagonist serving eviction notices to aliens segregated in a Johannesburg barb-wired ghetto paid for the price of the blu-ray (in the Walmart bin).
I really don’t want spoil much more than that. But the story and action that follows is fun. It is hella violent of course.
There is within this film a more serious social commentary about how easily racism is stimulated, i.e., the notion that bigotry seems deeply etched into the core of the human psyche. However, the film still nurtures some positive and hopeful themes amidst all of its cynicism.
Sharlto Copley does a fine job as the human lead character, and the CGI animated extra-terrestrials are quite entertaining.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, aren’t bothered by heavy violence, and enjoy jaded humor, then give this film a go.