By Peter Covino
After mediocre hits such as G.I. Joe and Transformers 2, it becomes too easy, I guess, to latch onto a science fiction film that actually has something to say besides “Look, we spent more money on CGI effects than the last science fiction film.”
District 9 certainly has a lot more to say than the routine explosion-fest that is the norm for films such as this. But after only one viewing at least, District 9 just isn't all that amazing either.
District 9, with its roots in Independence Day and Alien Nation, gets at the heart of the human condition or the lack of it with species or anyone else we deem inferior.
Twenty years ago, a giant space craft (think Independence Day) has apparently ended its journey and just hovers over Johannesburg, South Africa. After months of hovering, a crew goes up to the craft, opens it and finds thousands of half-starving aliens. They are all evacuated and put into District 9.
Twenty years pass, and the aliens have grown tired of their confinement (think apartheid) and sometimes can be found rummaging the trash heaps of humans looking for better other culinary delights, including cat food, which is something they apparently cannot get enough of.
Most of this is told in documentary fashion and an unlikely civil servant with the tongue-twisting name of Wikus van der Merwe (well played by newcomer Sharlto Copley) has the job of heading up the transfer of the aliens from District 9 to District 10. Having aliens so close to the city has lost all of its allure, especially since there are now more than a million of them.
Wikus has the same built-in prejudices that most humans have for the alien residents. They are obviously inferior and are referred to as “prawns” by the populace because they are thought of as bottom-feeders.
But in one his televised documentary sessions to help with the transfer, Wikus comes in contact with a mysterious metal tube (the contents gathered by a father and son alien) and he slowly beginning to take on alien characteristics himself.
The movie goes into high gear from here as everyone in control now wants to use Wikus at any cost because he is now worth more to humans as an alien clone — alive or dead. He escapes and flees back to District 9 becoming allies with the guys who created the substance that is turning him into an alien. (He conveniently understands their clicking language).
The last 40 minutes will thrill Transformer fans as Wikus commands a Transformer kind of alien bot with all sorts of weapons and battles the bad guys in a grand climax, which of course, paves the way for the inevitable sequel.
And that makes District 9, which will probably be District 10 for the next go round, not so different after all.
Critic's rating: B-