District 9

district9_poster-689x1024I love a movie that doesn’t just serve up passable or forgettable entertainment, but one that gets me giddy about movies–a sort-of recharging of the batteries after suffering through some big disappointments this summer: Transformers 2, Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, The Taking of Pelham 123, G.I. Joe.  The only saving grace for big budget action this summer seemed to be ‘Star Trek,’ a movie I really enjoyed that revived a lacking franchise, and also the latest ‘Harry Potter’ installment which might not exactly qualify as big budget ‘action’. Neill Blomkamp’s ‘District 9’ doesn’t just revive a franchise, or a genre, but it revives a seasonal drought.  I admit to falling under its spell early on with some intriguing high-concept trailers, but for the most part the movie remained under the radar, with most of its marketing stemming from that of the viral sort.  Nothing prepared me for how suspenseful and nail-biting this Peter Jackson produced feature would ultimately be.

I’ll try to remain vague with the plot. The story sets up the concept that an alien spacecraft came to earth twenty years ago on accident, having run out of fuel. The aliens inside were discovered starving, and thus, a camp was set up for them to live in known as District 9, located in Johannesburg, South Africa, mostly separating them from humans. The population of the alien species, known as prawns, grows over two decades to roughly 1.5 million, which brings us to present day where a government outfit attempts to relocate them to a type of concentration camp that will further distance them from humans.  More developments ensue, but I’ll stop there.

‘District 9’ is a flat-out masterpiece in every regard, surpassing even high expectations amongst the isolated hype surrounding it.  The movie is socially conscience with something to say, generating strong and interesting conflict in its approach to the age-old alien invasion film.  The movie also looks incredible, and this is done with a budget of only $30 million, a staggering decrease from Transformers’  and ‘Terminator Salvation’s’ $200 million.  The intensity of the film is uncompromising, and it has some incredible, violent action.  Neill Blomkamp is already quite a talent, and an interesting name to watch for.  His observation of the alien creatures and human reactions to them call upon great controversy that helps give the film an added weight that most films of this subject matter would easily dodge.  The special effects, I can’t stress enough, are just remarkable at their cost.  The aliens looks great, the action looks great.  All the right elements combine to make the best, most ambitious and engrossing movie of the summer.  I can’t recommend it enough.

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