In August 2010, Wikus Van De Merwe’s life changes forever. He is chosen to head up the effort by MNU to relocate a population of aliens to a new settlement. Since their ship appeared in 1982 in the sky over Johannesburg, South Africa, the aliens – generally known by the racial slur “prawn” – have been corraled into an inner city ghetto known as District 9. Johannesburg’s human residents have finally railed against the aliens enough that a very expensive and very risky resettlement has been undertaken. During the search of one alien residence in District 9, Wikus is exposed to some sort of seemingly makeshift biological weapon. Initially it only makes him nauseous, but within 36 hours of his exposure, he’s no longer entirely human. This is of particular interest to MNU, which is also one of the world’s largest arms dealers, and has long been frustrated by the inability of any human to use the aliens’ advanced weaponry. Wikus demonstrates – under duress – that he is the first human who can activate the aliens’ weapons. This makes him a hot property at MNU – though his employers now want to dissect him so they can corner the market on alien weapons, even if it means genetically re-engineering those who will wield them. Wikus is left with no choice but to escape, and now the only place where he has any hope of hiding is District 9 itself…but neither fully human nor fully alien, friends and allies will be hard to come by.
Cast: Sharlto Copley (Wikus Van De Merwe), Jason Cope (Grey Bradnam, UKNR Chief Correspondent / Christopher Johnson), Nathalie Bott (Sarah Livingstone, sociologist), Sylvaine Strike (Dr. Katrina McKenzie), Elizabeth Mkondawie (Interviewee), John Summer (Les Feldman, Mil Engineer Team), William Allen Young (Dirk Michaels), Greg Melvill-Smith (Interviewer), Nick Blake (Francois Moraneu, Civ Engineer Team), Morena Busa Sesatsa (Interviewee), Themba Nkosi (Interviewee), Mzwandie Ngoba (Interviewee), Barry Strydom (Interviewee), Jed Brophy (James Hope, Police Officer), Louis Monnaar (Piet Smit), Vanessa Haywood (Tania Van De Merwe), Marian Hooman (Sandra Van De Merwe), Vittoria Leonardi (Michael Blomstein, MNU Alien Civil Affairs), Mandia Goduka (Fundiswa Mhlanga), Johan van Schoor (Nicolas Van De Merwe), Stella Steenkamp (Phyllis Sinderson, MNU Alien Relations), David James (Koobus Venter), Kenneth Nkosi (Thomas), Mampho Brescia (Reporter), Tim Gordon (Clive Henderson, Entomologist), Marne Erasmus (MNU Medic), Anthony Bishop (Paramedic), David Clatworthy (MNU Doctor), Mike Huff (MNU Doctor), Anthony Fridjhon (MNU Executive), Eugene Khumbanyiwa (Obesandjo), Kengiwe Madiata (Sangoma), Slyabonga Rodebe (Obesandjo’s Lieutenant), Melt Sieberhagen (Anton Grobler), Andre Odendaal (Mike Van Kerland), Jonathan Taylor (MNU Doctor), John Ellis (MNU Medical Scientist), Louise Saint-Claire (MNU Medical Scientist), Alan Glouber (MNU Operating Room Doctor), Nicolas Herbstein (MNU Biolab Technician), Norman Anstey (MNU Lead Medical Technician), Nick Borain (Craig Weldon), Robert Hobbs (Ross Pienaar), Sibulele Geliltshana (Gunters Woman), Mahendra Roghunath (SABC Anchorperson), Phillip Mathebula (Meat Stall Seller), Claudine Bennent (MNU Office Worker), Michelle Ayden (MNU Office Worker), Antony Sorak (MNU Office Worker), Billy Somogoca (MNU Office Worker), Ryan Whittal (MNU Office Worker), John Jacon (MNU Office Worker), Yashik Maharaj (MNU Office Worker), Fernando Soroiva (MNU Office Worker), Sharon Waugh (MNU Office Worker), Brandon Asret (MNU Mercenary), Jacques Gamboult (MNU Mercenary), Justin Strydom (MNU Mercenary), Simo Magwaza (MNU Mercenary), Theumis Nel (MNU Mercenary), Sonni Chidebere (MNU Mercenary), Matt Stern (MNU Mercenary), Danny Datnow (MNU Mercenary), David Dukas (MNU Mercenary), Daniel Hadebe (MNU Guard), Wisani Mbokota (MNU Guard), Craig Jackson (MNU Guard), Justin Duplessis (MNU Guard), Rodney Downey (MNU Guard), Den Antonakis (MNU Guard), Bongo Mbutuma (Nigerian Gangster), Johnny Selema (Nigerian Gangster), Mashabela Galane (Nigerian Gangster), Mlazwe Sekobane (Nigerian Gangster), Nicholas Ratiou (Nigerian Gangster), Saint Gregory Nwokedi (Nigerian Gangster), Donalson Rabisi (Nigerian Gangster), Zephania Sibanda (Nigerian Gangster), Gideo Thodane (Nigerian Gangster), Mdu Mfhabela (Nigerian Gangster), David Mikhemi (Nigerian Gangster), Jeffires Simelane (Nigerian Gangster), Shafique Allan (Nigerian Gangster), Wendy Mbotha (Nigerian Hooker), Leigh Mashupye (Nigerian Hooker), Beauty Setai (Nigerian Hooker), Nklyase Mondlana (Nigerian Hooker), Kuda Ruslke (Soweto Resident), Morena Setatsa (Soweto Resident), Mpho Molao (Soweto Resident), Ntombi Nkuva (Soweto Resident), Absalom Dkane (Soweto Resident), Monthandaso Thomo (Soweto Resident), Norman Thabalala (Soweto Resident), Siphiwe Mbuko (Soweto Resident), Shiela Nene (Soweto Resident)
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
Review: District 9 is truly a movie of the moment – very much a product of its time. It cuts relentlessly fast between various fictitious footage of the movie’s protagonist (if, indeed, it can be said to have any one single clear-cut hero) before the events of the movie unfold, “news footage” which cleverly lays out the backstory of the alien presence before it slyly starts to slip in some foreshadowing that something has happened to the main character we’ll be following. Throughout the movie, the perspective shifts with little or no warning between handheld documentary cameras – probably there to document events in case MNU needs to pull a CYA maneuver – and fixed “security cameras”. We’re well into the movie before we see any “God’s eye view” that doesn’t directly address the fourth wall, and eventually the bulk of the movie switches to that omniscient, omnipresent camera out of necessity. But at all times, District 9 is gutsy and visceral – there isn’t much in the movie that’s pleasant to see.
It would actually be difficult to follow, if not for the skill of Sharlto Copley, who increasingly winds up in nearly every shot. There’s no one in the cast who’s actually subpar, but so much of District 9‘s impact is down to Copley, and he’s certainly up to the task. The local casting lends the movie tremendous authenticity and its biggest challenge to the audience, just in terms of understanding some of the heavily accented English. The location shooting also gives the story a great deal of credibility, and the blending of CG with live action is simply jaw-dropping, especially considering how much the camera is moving most of the time.
As much acclaim as District 9 has accumulated in very short order, what I’m about to say here may not be the most popular sentiment in the world, but I’m about to present you with the recipe for making this movie:
Alien Nation x Laserblast + Blair Witch Project x Cloverfield = District 9.
Now, that’s not to say that District 9 is bad – far from it, in fact. But if you’re expecting something shockingly original in terms of plot development, it may be time to lower the bar ever so slightly. Elements of the story became very familiar very quickly, and to a certain extent those elements dictate very early on what’s going to happen in the movie. At the same time, there are a few instances where the geographical and cultural differences mean that an obvious influence “reads” completely differently; Alien Nation presumed that a stranded alien population near L.A. would assimilate into American culture slightly, in a somewhat crude analogue of Latino assimilation. District 9 paints a completely different picture with a different set of assumptions: rather than assimilation, the prawns are treated to an interspecies form of Apartheid, in which it becomes politically expedient to relocate the aliens, en masse, by force if need be (and frequently when it isn’t). It’s an interesting alternate perspective to Alien Nation‘s assumption that the aliens would pick up English in a flash, take up jobs and start families.
Between the graphic gore, violence and language (expect an F-bomb every couple of minutes or so once you’re about half an hour into the film), not to mention that the moral ambiguity begins to pile on pretty thick as the story progresses, District 9 isn’t for the whole family. And not every movie should have to be – between its foreign filming and the all-important Peter Jackson seal of approval (the Lord Of The Rings director served as a producer on District 9 and lent it some street cred with the words “Peter Jackson presents…”), it’s interesting to see a movie that hasn’t had to compromise its creator’s vision. Even if it is wearing its influences – almost all of them – visibly on its sleeve, District 9 combines them all into a very effective combination that doesn’t let up.