District 9 Review: Slumprawn Extraordinaire

August 30, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews

DISTRICT 9: On General Release across the UK from Friday 4th September 2009

Aligning a fledgling movie with the name of a big-shot director is a tenuous, cheeky and arguably disastrous move.

The Orphanage
gained instant global recognition for its alliance with Guillermo Del Toro, but suffered from a tonal difference that resulted in many feeling duped into what was essentially a shameless marketing trick.

So shoehorning Peter Jackson’s globally recognisable moniker onto every bit of promotional gear going left me somewhat dubious about District 9.

After watching it however, I have a sneaky suspicion that it may well be Mr Jackson who’ll soon need to start preceding his movies with ‘Presented by Neill Blomkamp’, because District 9 is the pulse-cannon fired shot in the arm this summer needed. A film so confidently and exquisitely put together, it blows every other big budget Hollywood movie stratospherically skyward.

Set in a world disconcertingly close to home, District 9 opens with the matter of fact retelling that twenty-eight years ago an Indepedence Day-alike space cruiser came to hover over Johannesburg, South Africa.

It was soon apparent that these were far from invaders. Rather, the Prawns (as the human locals call them) were refugees of the most recognisable kind. Malnourished and desperate for asylum, they’re soon corralled into living within a slum on the outskirts of the city. Now, after two decades of rising tension and xenophobia (should that be prawnophobia?), they’re about to be relocated far away from human eyes.

Except it seems, the aliens, tolerance and a giant can of sci-fi whoopass beg to differ.

Artistically, first-time director Neill Blomkamp immediately impresses with such a seamless blending of narrative styles. It’s not uncommon to have a ‘to camera’ piece or vox pop merge into documentary-style, ground level shaky-cam segments, before flowing into beautifully scenic, urban tracking shots – and there’s absolutely no viewer detachment whatsoever. It’s an addictive mixture that’s invigoratingly immersive and that manages to offer up the best of a wild array of movie genres (Slumdog Millionaire, [Rec], Children Of Men).

The relatively budget CGI is offset by clever puppetry and animatronics, and the dirty, grimy and ramshackle feel of the slums swiftly misleads the viewer into underestimating the scope and audacious vision that’s underpinning the entire production. The pacing is beat perfect and before you know it, the intimately human story has exploded into a series of ever-escalating, giddily produced setpieces.

It’d be a disservice and huge enjoyment-spoiler to discuss specific moments, but the imagination and videogame-esque alien weaponary lends itself to some intensely gory, visceral battles of electrifying energy.

Yet it’s true success derides from its ability to anchor the human in the wake of the fantastical, and the paper-thin racial analogy lurking behind the alien claws and rayguns is clear for everyone to see. Johannesburg – a city tarred with such a social and environmental duality – is as central and important to the movie as the spaceships.

In the District 9 reality humanity may be united irrespective of colour or creed, yet as the story opens the everyman through whose eyes we view the story is able to stand and watch a whole hive of ‘prawn’ eggs burn, sizzle and eventually pop with disconcerting nonchalance. Rarely do you find a film so transparent in its subtlety yet unpreachy in its message.

It’s no doubt fitting that this year’s most accessible yet enlightening piece of cinema is fundamentally focused on the prejudices of segmentation and the bigotry of enforced separation.

Sci-fi fan or not, this is simply one of the most enjoyable, disarmingly thought-provoking and expertly crafted movies you’re likely to see this year.

Matt Risley

But that’s not the only stonking movie out this summer, oh no. You absolutely HAVE to check out our(500) Days Of Summer review – the warmest, most intelligent and creative romcom for years. Or for more sci-fi goodness, head on over to our Top 10 Confusing Sci-Fi Crushes – guaranteed to confuse and arouse in equal measure….

StumbleUpon It!


  1. Gemma says:

    Spot on. Couldn’t have said it better.

    Loved that it actually had a valid point behind all the lasergun blasting.

  2. Eddie Jessup says:

    ‘Rarely do you find a film so transparent in its subtlety…’

    what a stupid sentence. haven’t seen the film, don’t like the review nonetheless- typos don’t improve the situation, neither does stating the obvious theme of the film three times in the tritest possible way. good intro though. good withholding of plot too, all too rare in movie reviews nowadays i think. actually i’ve changed my mind, good review. sentence above still sucks ass though.

  3. Alex says:

    By far one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time…

  4. James says:

    Brilliant film. At first I weren’t sure how it would turn out but, boy, was I proved wrong. Possibly one of the greatest films of 2009.