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‘District 9’ Film Review: Thinking man’s sci-fi

“District 9” is a hybrid of a film: a Hollywood material that looks like a successful anti-Hollywood venture and a brilliant social commentary.

Produced by the people behind the “Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) franchise including its helmer Peter Jackson, this motion picture delivers its universal message about ethnic tolerance through the tale of a doomed extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, mainly in a South African ghetto, until these beings suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology.

This sharp-edged, down and dirty science-fiction work incorporates a great deal of big-budget elements in a part-fake documentary, part-body horror, and part-robotics flick. As a comparably smaller piece than the usual Hollywood sci-fi offering, it is still utterly reminiscent of the failed alien and mechanical warrior sequels of similar franchises such as “Terminator,” “Aliens vs. Predator,” “Transformers,” and “G. I. Joe.”

Director Neill Blomkamp packs this gritty tale with compellingly bold and imaginative pop elements. People have already seen too many alien invasion Hollywood flicks before, but nothing anything quite like “District 9” has come before it, especially in terms of its carefully merged dramatic story, biting satire, low-key CG inventiveness, tightness of editing, and carefully rendered set details. The special effects don’t overwhelm the harrowing story, which helps make the storytelling more emotional. The gross and the drama, together with the big guns, chases, and explosions, remain appropriate to the storyline. Thus, paving the way to a fresh franchise potential.

The good thing about “District 9” is that it is both intelligent and entertaining. There is clearly no need to dumb down the audience just to be able to get that combination of funny, violently gross, and wildly enthralling speculative movie that exudes genuine emotional resonance.

Unlike many other movies in the sci-fi canon, this motion picture doesn’t target those who don’t find psychological and physical gore favorable — they would probably feel a little uneasy in a couple of scenes. Some may find certain shots kind of stressful to watch. But sitting through it has its price: a fresh and thought-provoking story, if not groundbreaking, making a good point about racial prejudice and posing a number of serious questions about the state of humanity.

“District 9” is a superb realization of a poignant satire, irony, humor, violence, and drama that is not afraid to examine the essence of what it actually means (and what it might cost) to be human. It is an edgy, provocative commentary on the human condition. It has a heart and soul to its piece. It keeps up with its own technical challenges. As a sci-fi actioner that entertains mercilessly, it opens up a certain compassion and humanity to its audience. It is a swift and subtle movie that trusts its viewers to do some of the work — and it’s quite effective at that. It serves as a pop allegory for the racial tension of apartheid, issues on mass immigration, and man’s inhumane ways to both humans and non-humans.

A modestly budgeted project with an actual idea in its head, this cinematic offering aptly combines breathless action, political satire, and poignant drama that can generally hold the viewers’ attention from start to finish.

This piece of cinema proves that sci-fi flicks don’t always need star-studded or mega-budgeted requirements to be visually intense, remarkably executed, and thoroughly entertaining. Its relatively unknown cast works very well. Lead character Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe puts the right dose of pathos for the film through grit, charm, naivete, and humor.

People have seen many aliens coming to earth in movies. Many have seen the finest use of computer-generated imagery on the big screen; but it is rare to see an intriguing sci-fi fable that is consistently gripping through its own unique touches. This makes “District 9” an original classic in its own right.

Check Out the Trailer and the Film:
Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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