I’m not supposed to review District 9, so this isn’t a review. But Sony
has said that I could share my reaction to the movie, so this is my
It’s pretty fucking awesome.
Neill Blomkampk’s directorial debut is assured, exciting, funny, gory,
fun and heartbreaking. It’s the kind of movie you keep thinking can’t
be made in the modern age: a film with deep characters, a film that has
something on its mind and a film with kick ass alien weapons and
astonishing special effects.
But here’s the thing about District 9‘s special effects: you’ll barely
even notice them. The film’s aliens are pretty much photoreal (there
are no practical creature shots in the film, including close-ups that I
would have bet were CG-assisted animatronics), but they’re characters.
They’re not spectacle and they’re not shot like they’re the stars of an
FX reel. They’re shot like real characters and real creatures,
interacting with a real environment. The aliens we get to know (they’re
colloquially called ‘prawns,’ for obvious reasons) have all the
dimensions of real people, despite not speaking our language and
looking more than a little Lovecraftian. It’s a real testament to the
script, by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, as well as the FX work.
I almost find myself slipping into review mode and transitioning into
telling you how great Sharlto Copley, an unknown South African actor,
is as the film’s incredibly unlikely hero, or about the sheer magnitude
of world building that’s on display or about the delightful heapings of
gore that are splashed throughout (alien weapons really do a number on
people). Instead I’ll wrap this up by saying that District 9 is part of
a new golden age for smaller scifi cinema (believe it or not the film
cost 30 million dollars. I think the CGI here looked miles better than
the cartoony CG I saw from Avatar). It’s a golden age where thoughtful,
smart, well-made films tackle intriguing science fiction concepts that
go beyond laser guns and explosions.
Is District 9 the best film of the summer? Quite possibly. It’s
certainly the best science fiction film released by a major studio in
some time. I loved District 9.