District 9(released Aug./09)is a film presented and produced by Lord of the Rings wonderkind Peter Jackson.Sony thought by putting his name conspicuously on the trailer credits it would entice the movie goers to give up their bucks at the box office...and it worked.What the tease trailer didn't show however was how long the film was going to be.I saw it on first release,and my opinion then,and after just having re-viewed it on DVD now,is the same...it is a little long.Having said that though,it is a compelling movie and if you stick with it you will be rewarded.
The story starts out in /82 when a huge spacecraft came to hover over Johannesburg,S.A.The locals waited and waited and finally moved on the ship and entered it.Inside they ran into alot of ETs...in fact over a million of them.They put them into nothing more than interment camps below,which was overseen by the MNU,a private security firm.
20 years come and go and the aliens,referred to as prawns because of their facial resemblance to them(they are bipedal),are rubbing the human population the wrong way.Finally comes the day when the MNU goes into the alien slums and tries to evict them for relocation away from the capital city and the peoples wrath.One Wikus Van Der Merwe(Sharlto Copley)is the desk jockey put in charge of the entire operation by the big boss of MNU,who just happens to be his father in law.Der Merwe is totally green and ill at ease at trying to deal with the situation.As we follow him and MRU around vis a vis a you-are-there type of camera style,we see and learn alot about how the aliens survive in the camp and how they are exploited not only by their own kind but by hard human outsiders,specifically a local band of Nigerian thugs who buy,sell and exploit them ad nauseum for their own wicked ends.
During what was supposed to be just another alien eviction Der Merwe encounters a father and son alien.Inside their shack he discovers a cylinder containing an unknown liquid.It accidentally sprays him in the face and after wiping it off he goes on with his job.The cylinder is bagged as evidence and sent to MNU headquarters for examination.As Der Merwe continues on he displays ever increasing signs of a terrible sickness coming on.After a couple of days his symptoms,such as losing fingernails and vomiting a yucky black ooze,he eventually finds he has grown an alien arm.The infection seems to be bent on turning him into a prawn.Back at the shack from whence the cylinder came from we learn that the father of the father/son aliens has been distilling a liquid for many years to be able to propel a spacecraft,which sits underneath his shack,up to the mother ship so they can leave.Der Merwe's confiscation of the cylinder has kyboshed his plans.
Der Merwe's sickness has not escaped the watchful medical arm of MNU however.In fact with his father in laws permission,they want to eventually dissect him and harvest his body parts.Before they do this however,they want him to try and shoot several alien weapons which have been bio-engineered to work only with alien DNA.Against his will Der Merwe is forced to test fire the weapons,even on an innocent prawn.When they start to try and cut him open he is able to break away from the table and escape the building.He returns to the father/son alien with his dilemma to ask for their help.The father tells him if they had the liquid they could take him to the mother ship to return him to normal.With the aliens help they plan a break in of the MNU facilities,and they actually succeed in regaining control of the all important cylinder of liquid propellant.
Returning back to the settlement,and when all is in place,the alien tells Der Merwe that the process to return him back to normal will take three years(a trip to his home planet and back!).Der Merwe is in shock and as MNU troops close in on them Der Merwe commandeers the ship,but it is taken down shortly after take off.Der Merwe is taken hostage by the Nigerians and at the same time the alien has activated the mothership to move and hover over the downed ship on earth.Both father and son make their way to the ship while Der Merwe barely escapes with his life from the Nigerians,with a walking alien battle machine.Der Merwe battles the MNU troops,protecting the alien as much as he can.The aliens reach the ship and the mother ship,right on cue,lifts the smaller ship into the air until it is safely inside.
The battle ends and the film comes to its conclusion as we see Der Merwe,now fully turned into a prawn,sitting on a junk pile making flowers out of bits of scrap metal,which he deposits on the front doorstep of his home,for his wife to find;waiting for the three years to end.
The film is a definite metaphor for apartheid,coincidentally(?)situated in the very country it originated from.As the film opens we see the tell tale signs throughout Johannesburg of Humans Only or No Aliens Allowed. But this theme has a twist to it,as the very black population which was oppressed by the white minority,which resulted in the apartheid term in the first place,is now oppressing,along with Afrikaners,a new minority in the aliens.
When we first encounter the desk jockey Der Merwe,now put in charge of an operation which is clearly out of his league,we see him as a weak kneed and condescending company man,smiling and talking uncomfortably as the camera follows he and his team from MNU HQ and into the alien ghetto.When he gets violently ill and eventually starts to change into an alien,our original feelings,along with Der Merwes condescension towards the aliens,also changes.In other words as he becomes more compassionate towards them(in fact turning into one),we become more compassionate towards him.Finally,as I stated earlier,it is an overly long movie and it is this along with the directors slight over attention to details(that possibly should otherwise have been left out) that are the two main things that I find that work against it.The rest;the story,the pace and the S/Fx,is all good.
Technically speaking the film is clear and crisp in its original a/r of 1:85:1.Extras include deleted scenes,commentary and a three part featurette on the making of the movie.
In conclusion,though a long and at times an unnecessarily detailed film,the movie as a whole is pretty good and if you stay with it it is worth watching.Recommended.