Prawns, Guns and Cat Food


DISTRICT 9 takes a well-worn plot, gives it a new setting and a cheeky political message, in the process managing to give a shot of adrenaline to a flagging genre which includes such cinematic excrement as Transformers and anything else Michael Bay has ever directed.

From the outset, we know this film isn’t going to quite to be your normal faire. When the aliens came, everybody expected them to hover over New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but over sunny Jo’burg? When the aliens are forced into a shanty town and segregated from the human community, the scene is set for a clever political allegoric tale. Oh yeah, turns out there’s some action in there too.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is one action flick that has just a smidge of brains to it. The fact that it’s probably one of the standout if not the standout action-eer (it’s a word now) is a sad indictment on the rest of the field. If anything, the hype about this movie isn’t really proportionate to the quality of the movie, but more about the quality of the movie compared to others in the genre.

Our tale begins with a neat documentary style-plot device which actually does a great job of articulating the society in which this is taking place, and introduces us to the hapless civil servant Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who now has the task of getting the ‘prawns’ to sign eviction notices so they can spend the rest of their days in a concentration camp outside Johannesburg.

From there, Wikus accidentally gets some alien fluid on him (it’s less disgusting than it sounds) and slowly starts to turn into one of the prawns, leaving him an outcast with the humans. From there he allies with some of the aliens to get them back home so that they can cure him and blah, blah, blah you know the rest.

Human corporation acting like dicks? Check. Sympathetic aliens? Check. Stoic leader of aliens reluctant to help outsider? Check. Cute, impossibly child alien? Check. It’s all pretty standard stuff but some nice touches set it apart.

At its core though, District 9 is a really simple allegorical film dressed up as an action flick.  What takes this to the next level is some effective acting by all concerned, some really nice set-pieces but above all the clever social commentary going on here.


The two disc edition of the DVD comes with a three-part filmmaker’s log which takes you over several areas of the production (including appearances by Peter Jackson), your usual commentary track and plenty of features on the visual design and special effects.

They’re actually pretty damn fascinating insights (nothing like ‘dangerous days’ though), including the revelation that Copley actually ad-libbed large parts of his role. It also gives a good account of the film’s original concept, and the short film it was spawned from.

It’s a really impressive package, and it’s clear that both Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp know their audience. That is, 20-something male nerds who love nothing more than special edition DVDs and video games.



- James McGrath