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. Okay we should end this

    It’s open to interpretation and as clear cut as we all think. That’s what makes it great. We’re discussing it right now. A discussion not about how good or bad it was, but about what actually happened.

    Hard to believe some ppl find this movie boring. When he picked up that gravity gun (Half Life 2 anyone?) and fired one off I almost jumped out of my seat, ppl around me were clapping and yelling “yeah!”. Great, great movie.

    Glad they got the mech suit right also. Probably the best Mech suit I’ve seen since Matrix 3

  2. As usual 790, believe what you want, lol.

  3. And has anyone played Prototype? This movie reminded me of that game also.

  4. Nope, all I’ve seen of it was all the different “cool” ways you can kill American servicemen. So no thanks. I want to blow up old Toyota pick up trucks with machine guns mounted on them, not HMMWVs. 😉

    The only games I’ve been playing recently are Left 4 Dead because you can’t kill too many zombies, lol, and Arma II to get myself ready for Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. :-)

  5. Sorry Ken J, but that’s a pretty terrible reason not to play a video game. It’s a video game. Set in a different “reality”. In that context, you kill all kinds of people, no matter the occupation.

    That’s like saying “I won’t see District 9 because there’s so much abuse of the aliens”


    Left 4 Dead was awesome, can’t wait till 2. Not a big fan of Arma 2 but can’t wait until Dragon Rising (the most realistic military FPS, or so they claim)

  6. OMG, do I have to give you a reason you find valid for me to not want to do something?? Do I expect you to like all of the same stuff I like?? Good god man! (I’m a doctor not a video game player! haha, just kidding) I can say I don’t want to play it because the guy wears sneakers, and you know what? That’s a valid reason because it’s my money and I can spend it (or not spend it) where I want to, geez, lol. Do I need to ask for permission before I go use the bathroom?? 😛

    Haha, anywho,

    Operation Flashpoint 2 probably won’t be more realistic than the original Operation Flashpoint or ArmA II since it’s made by Codemasters (The original was made by Bohemia Studios, published by Codemasters) and they tend to like more “balanced” games, which translates to games more accessible to all types of players, not just hardcore realism fanatics, so that usually means some sacrifices in realism are made for the sake of the “fun factor” or so they say. I find the realism fun, but that’s just me… But it still looks like lots of fun, especially compared to these other retarded shooters out now, so I’m in…

  7. Calm down lol. Just trying to give you a GENTLE push to play it because it’s an amazing game and an amazing experience.

    I’ve read about Flashpoint 2 and they say it’s definitely more realistic than the first. But we’ll see I guess. Looking forward to it either way.

  8. SIGH…

    I got home from a particularly hard day with a client (yesterday) & hubby was glowing like a child with matches, “Let’s go see this District 9″ he says. “Here is the trailer! hehehehe”

    We had 25 minutes to get there, get tickets, drinks and make it in time for the previews…DH drove, of course (I would have gotten a ticket), mach 5 all the way to the movie theater. I checked my panties for any sign of fear and went in to get the tickets.

    The movie was funny in spots but it is made to look like a sociological documentary. There is little action providing any kind of entertainment value. The plot is easy to follow & predictable. I looked at him about half way through to see if he was ready to leave yet. I was thinking about demanding my $16.50 back for being entertwangled into seeing this one.

    This movie should have been released straight to DVD.

    1 star

    If you are dead bored, rent it from Redbox for $1.00.

  9. ^ Lol

    This reminds me of a joke

    Why did the woman cross the road?

    Who the f**k cares, what was she doing out of the kitchen ?!?!

  10. Seriously though, looks like all the main points of the movie flew over your head

    “Straight to DVD” ?

  11. My husband and I went to see this and really enjoyed it. We ran into a sales clerk who said she and her son left the theater after 30 minutes, “because we’re sci-fi buffs and the movie was nothing like the trailers implied – it wasn’t making any sense…” I’m glad we went ahead as planned and watched. I think that if the sales clerk and her son would have stayed about 20 minutes longer they would have been pleasantly surprised. I liked the way the movie looked and although it did drag in some places the relationship between the aliens and the human in the second half of the movie justified the $20 we spent to see it. I look forward to a sequel.

  12. everyone in my theatre applauded and clapped at the end.
    OMG…They really saved the best for last the year eh? I really honestly thought D9 was going to be another “Snakes on De Plane” You know the kind of movie where the appetiser is better than the main course…But Immm almost tempted to go see it in the movies one more time. and thats something I rarely do. So I hope a sequal is in order…

  13. This is one of the best films I’ve seen in the theater this year. I was really pleased with the storyline, the acting and the special effects. The docu-drama style was a nice angle to play.

  14. Saw this today. I was totally blown away by this movie. Everything about it works: story, acting, music, characters, visual effects (wow), action, and the ending is just great.

    Easily the best film I’ve seen this year. I can’t wait to own this on home video. See it now!

  15. @Mark, I agree with most of the others, but visual effects? Really? I could tell it was a low budget film the whole way through, but enjoyed it for the story and the different approach to the film, but the visual effects were not very good… lol.

  16. I stand behind my comments on the visual effects – they were great. The budget was $30 million, but it was all used to full effect.

    Compared to all the CGI excess and awfulness of some recent movies (G.I. Joe, TF2), District 9 is way ahead of the rest.

  17. I know it was done on a budget, I’m not knocking it, just saying that it was obvious it was on a budget. I think the story is more important than the CG anyway. And you can’t say the CG is better than TF2, lol, not by a long shot, but TF2 is a much crappier movie, and I haven’t seen GI Joe yet but I heard the CG in that is pretty horrible…

  18. @Mark

    you’re lost if you think the visual effects rivaled those other movies you mentioned. i don’t care what kind of budget it had. watch again.

  19. I Saw D9 when it first came out and it blew my mind this movie was so amazing it made my head blow up too!(the one guy towards the end who got shot in da head wit da robot and his head esploded)anyway when i saw this movie i thought about all of the other movies i’ve seen and the only one that is as good was The Dark Knight. considering that TDK came out in 2008 it’s safe to say that D9 is the best film by far this year!!!

    To all of the people who already saw D9 “i’ll be back in 3 years, I promise” D10 release date 2012

  20. reply plz i b back on latr

  21. I disagree with Mark on the visual effects part. Great movie, great plot and characters…. but the visual effects don’t really come close to some other stuff we have seen. But i loved the movie.

  22. good movie… loved it.

  23. Yah, I hope my comments are not suggesting I’m saying the movie sucks because the visual effects sucked, the movie was good, the effects really did suck though, lol, but it didn’t take away from the movie since we already knew it was all CG, the movie was good enough so you can focus on the plot despite that…

  24. Get over the special effects,this is a South African film. We don’t have access to good equipment like you Americans do. compared to other South African films this is a huge leap forward and i am really impressed. Seriously stop laughing at my the work of my home and i if i wanted i could really show some of your work which is terrible.
    One last thing. I take it you all saw the backround and the township/homestead/district it was set in. That place is real and there are people who live there and place like that. It was real, people live in that poverty.

  25. @Ike – Um, I don’t remember anyone laughing at the special effects. What are you talking about dude? And it was filmed and set in South Africa, the studio backing it (Peter Jackson) is from New Zealand, so I don’t see how you claim it as your own. Just because Whiteout was set in Antarctica does taht mean it was done by Antarcticains?

  26. The movie was unwatchable past 30 minutes because the jerky camera was making me motion sick, and this is from someone that plays FPS games. The main character was annoying and I felt like I had nothing to look forward to.

    Thumbs DOWN.

  27. Oh no, you’re not allowed to not like it, here comes the the mob…

  28. Amazing movie.