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Disctrict 9

October 1, 2010

District 9

This film is very well made in terms of the technical aspect, however, came across to me as heavy handed in how it presented the message against racial discrimination that it so heavily propagated.  This in turn removed a fair amount of the enjoyment factor from watching this film.  However, there are some good performances and in theory it is a very interestingly done film.

The story starts 20 years ago when a Prawn ship stops above South Africa.  No first contact is made until humanity breaks into the ship and finds the prawn living in terrible conditions, many near death.  The prawns are giving spots to live on earth and are watched over by a governing body known as MNU.  The integration of the prawns into society does not work extremely well and they are discriminated against and violence and tensions rise between the prawns and the humans.  So MNU comes up with a solution, take all the prawns to their own separate location away from the humans.  This relocation is to be led by Wikus Van De Merwe, but things go violently wrong as the eviction notices are served and Wikus finds that he needs to change his standing on how to handle the prawns.

The problem I have with this film, and with Crash which is similar in how it allows the viewer to think about the message it presents, is that it tells you what you must think.  It is very inflexible in its story and once you have figured that out, there is no real interest in the story because you can accurately predict everything that is going to happen and what emotions are going to go along with it.  This just removes much of the joy from watching the film.

The acting in this film is done primarily by unknowns, and for the most part the performances are simply average.  There is only really one to highlight and that is the main character Wikus.  Sharlto Copley gives a very good performance as Wikus Van De Merwe.  He comes across as someone who is very much out of his element most of the time and very much behind the regime as they try and force the prawn to move.  His change is gradual as to how he reacts as his views on the prawn change, and it isn’t a forced sudden revelation.

Visually is what makes this film work as well as it does.  Neill Blomkamp combines some very good CGI with a gritty world.  This film shows that sci-fi doesn’t have to take place 1000 years in the future and many galaxies away, but it works right now.  The time period doesn’t matter to have a sci-fi element to it.  The prawn themselves are very well created as they aren’t terrifying aliens or cliche looking aliens.  They simply are a race that looks as confused and fragile as the human race often looks.  The style that the story is told in is an interesting one, and one that works quite well.  The beginning and end of the story are done in a much more documentary style (this continues for a while at the beginning and only the last few minutes at the end) but regular filming is insert in between these bookends as well as during them every once in a while.

This could have been a really good film but it was too predictable in its story telling and too forceful in how it presented its ideals.  Visually it should be recognized as being a good film and Blomkamp, a relatively young director has a bright career ahead of him.  It is a film that is worth watching and that many will appreciate for the message that it presents, but it isn’t presented in a style that I feel would best suit its message.

Entertainment Grade: C

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B-

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