We’ve already started discussing District 9 down at the Box Office Round-up. Here’s a review and an invitation to continue talking.

Title: District 9

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Neil Blomkamp .
Written by Neil Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell.

Production designer: Philip Ivey
Special Effects Coordinator: David Barkes

Cast

Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe
Louis Minnaar as Piet Smit
Jason Cope as Grey Bradnam
William Allen Young as Dirk Michaels
Jed Brophy as James Hope
Greg Melvill-Smith as Interviewer
Nick Blake as Francois Moraneu
Vanessa Haywood as Tania Van De Merwe
Marian Hooman as Sandra Van De Merwe
Vittorio Leonardi as Michael Bloemstein
Mandla Gaduka as Fundiswa Mhlanga
Eugene Khumbanyiwa as Obesandjo
Johan van Schoor as Nicolas Van De Merwe

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Premise:

Twenty years ago, an alien spaceship arrived, bringing with it a lost and dying crew. The forced relocation of their Johannesburg ghetto coincides with a critical development by an alien scientist.

High Points:

I really liked the first third, a documentary-style exposé of what oppression does to the oppressors. Sharlto Copley initially plays Wikus Van De Merwe as a cheerily evil bureaucrat with a banal yet profound moral blindness. This man would have matter-of-factly sent people off to the gas chambers or blithely enforced apartheid. The film’s commentary on various manifestations of prejudice, from the casual (“You can’t say they don’t look like that.”) to the genocidal (concentration camps, ghetto social dynamics, and Mengelian experiments) are accurate, if not subtle.

Low Points:

A major plot element involves mad science of the sort I’d accept with a few eye-rolls but few questions in a comic-book movie, but not in something as gritty and real-world-bound as this film. I get both the metaphor and the plot function, but they’re asking us to buy an awful lot.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. The basic premises have been handled in SF before, although this film gives its own twist. The most obvious echoes include Alien Nation, Enemy Mine, Alien, Metamorphosis, and even, I suppose, Rambo. (One may also note hints of Elijah Mohammed’s Mothership/Motherplane).

Effects: 6/6. The film features excellent visual effects, which allowed viewers to engage the movie. I spent little time thinking about how the filmmakers achieved any given image.

Story: 4/6. Nemesis has PMS here. The story is compelling, but grows increasingly Hollywood as it goes along, and it does not quite live up to the expectations created by the introduction. My main object: we’ve got a few plot holes which, even given twenty years of unexplored history, require some explaining. For example: given the number of weapons in the District, weapons humans cannot use (and given how devastating they prove to be), why have the aliens not accomplished more?

Acting: 5/6 Sharlto Copley, on whom much of the film hangs, gives an outstanding performance. The film features solid acting with a certain documentary realism. They’ve hired actors who can play their roles, not underwear models. Few characters have been developed, however.

Production: 6/6. District 9 features a strong blend of conventional narrative and faux documentary techniques.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6. District 9 goes from SF-as-social-commentary to Kafka-as-comic-book to explosion-filled action movie. It’s a good film, but I felt it could have been so much more.

In total, District 9 receives 34/42.

Additional Comments

So, Our main alien is Spock/Scotty, its kid is Wesley, and the rest of the settlement are Red Shirts or Outer Rim colonists?