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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: June 14: District 9


June 14: District 9

"An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology."

District 9 is going to be one of the films we look back on in ten years and see it as not only a sci-fi classic but as a game changer in the genre itself. It is a perfect example of how far a small budget can go when it's in the right hands and that a great story does a lot more than fancy special effects. Luckily, however, District 9 has both as the effects in this film are some of the best I have ever seen. No exaggeration, it's shocking how good this film looks. The special effects are mind-blowing for being in a fairly cheap film and certainly heighten the movie to a level never seen before. District 9 is certainly a masterful achievement and deserves all the praise it has been given, including a Best Picture Oscar nomination in 2010. 

You know, the category that was expanded because a certain little movie WASN'T nominated the year before.

District 9 is one of the most original films to come around in a long time. It follows Wikus Van De Merwe (first time actor Sharlto Copley), an officer of a weapons and arms company, who is sent into a slum called District 9, whose inhabitants are aliens that came to earth 20 years ago. The extra terrestrials, or "prawns" as they're called, made the slums their home after their arrival and have become bottom feeding scavengers who have become a "nuisance" to the local South African people and the government. Wikus' job is to have the prawns sign eviction notices, as they are planning on displacing the alien species into a smaller internment camp where they will most likely be exterminated as the pests they appear to be. After unfortunate events befall Wikus, he goes on the run, avoiding government agents while trying to clear his name for things he did not do. The ideal hiding place is District 9, and the creatures he was sent to evict turn out to be his only hope of freedom. 

District 9 is a very human film. Wikus reacts as anyone would in his situation and you can't quite root for him or even hate him. He's conflicted with his decisions and does some things he would probably hate in retrospect, but only did in the desperation of trying to clear his name. The main prawn, seen above, is a father and scientist, and his desperation to get home parallels Wilkus' own and creates an extremely dramatic part of the film that is very unexpected. It's heart wrenching seeing the same struggles happening between two entirely different species and the conflict that it presents. This drama would not be able to be as captured as well as it is without the incredible performance of Sharlto Copley (who never even wanted to act), the motion capture acting of Jason Cope, and the amazing special effects that give so much life to the alien visitors. 

Epic on a budget. 

I can't recommend District 9 enough. I saw it in theaters upon its release and immediately knew I was witnessing something special and its only having seeing it again I know how special it is. It is an absolute masterpiece by director Neil Blomkamp and I eagerly anticipate whatever he makes next. It's much more than a sci-fi film and crosses into all different genres. It is incredibly emotional and even political and raises a lot of questions about how we not only interact with the unfamiliar, but how we operate as a society and the lengths we will go to not only survive, but keep to our darkest secrets. 

The Good:
an incredible story that doesn't drown in the special effects and makes for one  hell of a movie
The Better:
the performance of first time actor Sharlto Copley
The Best:
captivating special effects that perfectly blend real environments and people with gorgeously rendered, well designed alien creatures

Overall: 9.6/10


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