The film opens with a series of interviews that introduce the story: twenty years earlier, an alien ship arrives above Johannesburg, South Africa. It hovers above the city for three months without any contact, but eventually humans go up and cut into the ship. They discover a large group of aliens who are malnourished and sick and they bring them down to a holding camp (district 9) which eventually turns into a slum. Difficult relationships emerge between the population of Johannesburg and the aliens (which are referred to as ‘prawns’ by the locals.) Eventually the government bring in a task force to relocate the aliens to a different location, away from the city.
The head of the task force is Wikus van der Merwe. He is a type of bumbling geek (imagine a character from The Office, and you won’t be far off). He also has no respect for the 'prawns’, or their welfare. His only redeeming quality is that he has somehow managed to marry the beautiful daughter of his boss (which is also the only reason he was given the job).
While issuing eviction notices he finds a silver canister which then sprays him in the face with a black fluid. Immediately something is not quite right, and what follows is the type of transformation that takes place in the movie, The Fly. Wikus quickly gets sick and not long after discovers he has grown an alien arm.
Suddenly Wikus is the man everyone else wants. Because of his transformation he can work the alien weaponry that previously could only be used by the aliens, due to their DNA. He finds refuge in the only place he can, the alien slum. Here he strikes up a relationship with an alien called Christopher Johnson, who also has a small son. Together they try to stop Wikus’s transformation and, in turn, find the fluid needed to get the aliens back home again.
I had expected this movie to be scary, but, even though it wasn’t (and wasn’t supposed to be), it was still a really good film. I started the movie really disliking Wikus, but by the end I was really rooting for both him and the aliens. The aliens at the start aren’t shown to be particularly intelligent or humanoid, but this is turned around by the introduction of Christopher and his son. The bad guys are the government agency, and they really are horrible – conducting experiments on the aliens and even prepared to cut Wikus open while he was still conscious!
At some point during the movie it stops being in a documentary style and is just normal ‘movie-style’, but I didn’t notice when this happened, so I guess it worked well enough! The start is a little slow, but it quickly sped up and then it is fast paced right through to the end. It was also a really original storyline, and, as I said, not what I had expected. I guess I had expected something more like Cloverfield, but it was completely different!
As with all Peter Jackson films, the effects were really good, and towards the end I could even see a bit of Avatar influence on the effects creeping in.
Overall, District 9 is a really good movie - even if it’s not scary! Something Wicked 8/10.