District 9 Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 19th, 2009 at 4:17 pm,

Short Version: With its unique story, fantastic visual effects and real-world look, District 9 is sure to be a future Sci-Fi classic.

district 9 reviews District 9 Review
Screen Rant reviews District 9

District 9 is probably not what you’re expecting.

The trailers and clips that you may have seen so far don’t really tell you what the movie is about – and that’s a good thing.

20 years ago, an alien ship appeared over (of all places) the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. That’s a pretty matter of fact statement made within a couple of minutes of the start of District 9, which starts off in documentary fashion, complete with behind the scenes types of shots that wouldn’t appear in the final cut of a documentary film.

District 9 (and the documentary) revolves around the story of Wikus Van De Merwe (played extremely well by Sharlto Copley), a supervisor for mega-corporation MNU (Mutli-National United). When the aliens first arrived, an attempt was made to integrate them into the civilian population despite their radically alien, insect-like appearance. However there were issues between them and the humans including theft, murder and mayhem on a sometimes massive scale. Eventually things came to a head (evident by the numerous “no aliens” signs), segregation was imposed and they were moved into a huge refugee-type camp called – District 9.

While the film was produced by none other than Peter Jackson, director Neill Blomkamp was raised in South Africa until he was 18, and this film is a direct reflection of a similar camp/shantytown called “District 6″ which was used to segregate blacks until apartheid was finally lifted.

At the start of the film the discovery of the aliens is described along with the fact that over their 20 year stay (there was something wrong with their ship and they’ve been unable to leave) their number has grown from one million to 1.8 million. With the clashes with the local population the decision was made to move them all to a new camp over 100 miles away from Johannesburg, and this is one of the focal points of the film. Van De Merwe is put in charge of coordinating the giant migration (which must began with a legal eviction of the “prawns” as they’re derisively called) from their current homes.

MNU is tasked with this project – but another very significant part of the company is weapons manufacture. They want to figure out how to make the alien weapons work, but they are designed to be triggered only by alien DNA. Solving this problem would mean billions of dollars in profit for the company.

The story revolves almost exclusively around Van De Merwe, and it is hinted at very early on in the film that something happens which causes him to be eventually branded a traitor. We’re with him through the entire film and to say he goes through some tribulations and changes is putting it mildly. Watching him evolve as a character as the movie progresses is one of the best things about the film.

This film is a fitting movie for winding down the summer movie season – while it has its share of action and explosions, it also tells a compelling story and wraps it in social commentary (and don’t worry, it’s not remotely “preachy”). It has drama, action, violence, touching moments and even some comedy – but all these aspects seam together smoothly for the most part. Towards the end of the film there is something that will immediately call to mind the robots from Transformers, and considering what’s come before that does seem a little out of place and inserted just for the sake of a big action set-piece.

The documentary approach that opens the film starts out light and a bit funny, and it may throw you off a bit. As the film goes on eventually the obvious documentary approach falls by the wayside and we’re back in standard observer of what’s happening mode, with the sporadic news clip and interview inserted as a kind of narrative.

This movie is rife with tons of little details that all combine to add to the tapestry of the film – Van De Merwe’s clumsy geekyness at the start of the film, his wife reminiscing about him, the misinformation in news reports (that may take you back to Robocop just a little bit), the aliens’ obsession with cat food (of all things!), and it goes on and on.

District 9 is rated R and for good reason: There is a ton of gore and violence, and enough F-bombs that even if you tried you’d lose count. Now neither of those are a bad thing in the film – they both fit into the context perfectly (there’s almost a certain glee that comes with the amount and level of blood spatters that hit the camera lense throughout the film). I’m just letting you know that this is one where you might want to fork out the bucks for a babysitter.

I would dare say that the movie will take you in a direction you didn’t expect and that after you watch it, it may take a while for what you just saw to sink in. Is it perfect? No – there are a few things that I thought were a bit of a plot hole or stretched out time-wise that didn’t make perfect sense, and in the third act it seems to get a bit over-”actiony” just for the sake of it. But if you’re looking for a smart Sci-Fi movie to cleanse your palate of the fluffy Sci-Fi films that have been the hallmark of 2009, District 9 may be just the ticket.

Discuss your non-spoiler thoughts on the film below, or head to our District 9 spoilers page to talk about the film without worrying about ruining for people who haven’t seen it yet.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. This may sound bad, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing it. To me it just looks like a B movie that some how landed a actual budget. From what I’ve seen in all the trailers and clips I really can’t stand the way it’s filmed.

  2. Well you are close… it’s actually a short film that landed a budget… and yes, the short film had some B movie aspects to it.

    But you realize a B movie with a budget is not a B movie. So I’m not sure exactly where you were going with that.

  3. The fact that D9 was made for 30mil boggles my mind. Loved it, even though as Vic said, it has plenty of holes. Hopefully M$ and the studios that shut down Halo mid pre-production will punch themselves in the knee repeatedly after this weekend.

  4. Non-Spoiler review:

    This movie will revolutionize the way we think about film making. I just got back and it wasn’t like watching a movie, it was like living an experience. The way the idea is conveyed is flawless and I am at a loss of words to describe how incredible this film is.

    Anyone who is doubting it should see it, and live it.
    Anyone who has been waiting to see this movie, will not be disappointed, it is fantastic.

    I honestly can’t explain how great this experience was. Phenomenal.

  5. Hey now, don’t talk bad about MS, they are going to release Windows 7 in like 2 months and it’s going to rock our world, lol.

    I think they showed like a small clip of what you’re talking about the end having action that looks like it was put in for the sake of it, with some robot thing. If that’s what you’re referring to, I always thought that part of the trailer made the movie seem more corny.

    I don’t know when I’ll be going to the movie theaters next, but maybe if I get to go sometime this month I might check this out…

  6. @KenJ – 2 months? So I shouldn’t have a copy of it now? heh i kid. i kid. Looking forward to this movie, gonna check it tout this weekend.

  7. anyone know the UK release date cos it doesnt seem to be showing at my local cinema?

  8. dont worry, found it. but hey check this out small reveiw about distict 9 i wont post the whole thing just the last comment that kinda put me off watchin D9

    “If you liked ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and ‘The X-Files: I Want to Believe’, you’ll love ‘District 9’.

    ReallY?? those were terrible films is this really as good (bad) as those two films?

  9. @Daniel F… Giraffehead is right. After all, technically, “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” are both examples of “B-Movies with a budget.” I will admit that I’ve not been drawn to this movie up to this point. I might give it a chance, though. Certainly, it sounds rather interesting.

  10. I will definately see this in the theatre, give this film its due considering all the thought and work put into it while some movies.

    Hopefully word of mouth will help this film because I don’t see this being number 1 with that stupid Jeremy Piven movie out today. I hope this film is like Taken, always in the top 5 for a couple of weeks.

  11. @pumpkin_king
    Then I guess that’s two movies that will supposedly revolutionize film this year. cough* Avatar *cough

  12. Complainers of this movie are lost in space.

  13. I am fired-up for this movie and WILL see it this weekend.

  14. @Ken J

    Yes, that’s what I’m referring to.

    It really is a great movie, gang – as SK-47 said, you should go see it, support it and get the word out.


  15. The ads just kinda boggled me for a bit (the posters and what not around the theaters), but once a bit of the plot came out and the trailers hit I grew interest. I really want to see it now. The plot seems entirely the exact opposite of what most alien movies are about and I love that.

  16. Vic,
    I hear what you are saying But I just get no emotional feeling from what I Have seen of District 9 .
    And I saw the footage when I was in San Diego.
    I appreaciate Peter Jacksons passion for this project.
    I am just not feeling it.
    I hope people go see it and enjoy it though.

  17. Kinda sad seeing people not interested in seeing this.

    But GI Joe and G-Force debuted #1 in the box office. Sad sad sad.

    Give it at try guys. It’s a really refreshing movie that a lot of REALLY talented people feel REALLY passionate about.

  18. @Gary

    Dude, seriously, go check it out. You won’t regret it.


  19. @ Vic and others who have seen the goodness of this flick

    Definitely a good movie with many political undertones that are not overbearing and enough action and suspense to keep you entertained.

    A very well done movie, and definitely better CGI than GI Joe and rivals transformers CGI. Note the key acronym CGI.

  20. Have to work today and have a show tonight ( with an early load in.) I tried not to book anything this weekend but was over-ridden with the other techs. My schedule clears for 7 hours on Saturday before another show. I have waited a year and a half, so 26 more hours will be difficult at best. I love pumpkin king’s comment. That is the problem with many movie goers today. They take it for granted that we are living in the 21st Century and film making needs to take the leap. ( but so does the audience) We saw it with Cloverfield….a fresh and unique experience. Those who did not understand it’s brilliance blew it off and made poor un-educated comments. That has been the buzz about D-9 for this past year. This IS something different. I am so pumped. Thank you Vic for cementing our thoughts and hopes. I am on the clock………

  21. Giraffehead I’m mostly refering to the story and the performances that have been shown. I also really can’t get beyond the way this is filmed the camera style and everything just drives me crazy. I’m actually shocked Vic gave it a great review.

  22. @Daniel F – What about D9 would shock you that Vic gave it a good review? Seemed right up his alley to me…

  23. The best SF film in at least thirty years. Better than THE MATRIX. A game-changer on so many levels it’s astonishing.

    Folks, if you want good SF movies to be made, and not intelligence-insulting crap like Independence Day or whatever the latest “My Pet Alien” drivel the Nickelodeon people are putting out this week, you should go see this movie. Support it with your dollars and your eyes and your word of mouth. Take somebody who doesn’t like science fiction and tell them “See? THIS is the kind of thing that SF can do that other genres can’t.”

    Seriously, if this movie isn’t a big fat hit, there is neither justice nor good taste left in the world.

    (Like The Matrix was)

    Forget your GI Joe kiddy fluff! This is edge of your seat super realistic action. The CGI is the best I’ve ever seen in a film. (The Best)
    The final 3rd of the film has more suspense and action then Star Trek and Terminator4 combined.
    I just saw the mid-day show and everyone in attendance was absolutely stunned. After the film people were clapping and blown away,,,
    The story kicks ass all the way through and the ending was perfect.

    The flaws that some have expressed with a Transformer connection never entered my mind. (As I have no Transformer mental scars) the device in question isn’t even close to a Transformer.
    Anyone that thinks this sucks based on the trailer is in for a thrill ride the likes of Cloverfield when they finnaly do see it. (Daniel F)
    Best Sci-fi film of the year, hands down. I don’t even see how Avatar can top this,!!!!!!!!!
    Amazing!!!! 5.5 for me. :-)
    Tim your gonna love it. :-)

  25. Yes definitely better than GI Joe entertainment wise and visually. You know Im tired of people talking about oh its a Transformers rip off because that’s the only robots they know of. lets see Robotech, Gundam, Zone of the Enders, mechWarrior …etc all have influenced films besides transformers.

  26. Gary

    If the comments of the last 2 users don’t make you want to see this movie then you might be drinking to much hateorade.

  27. ogb,
    I dont know what hateorade is .
    Hate has nothing to with it .
    Disinterest is far from hate.

  28. @Gary

    ogb is not referring to the dictionary meaning of hate in the context of you drinking to much hater-ade. Its just an expression that can mean:

    you are being difficult or disagreeable about something

    dislike something due to jealousy

    dislike something due to disinterest


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