District 9 - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

District 9 Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 11, 2009
A gory sci fi smorgasbord with an amazing message.
Super Reviewer
½ January 11, 2010
When a malfunctioning alien spaceship strands over a million of its inhabitants on Earth, they find an unlikely champion in the shape of a previously self serving weapons manufacturer exec who starts to metamorphose into one of them after exposure to an unknown chemical. District 9's plot takes a lot of cues from cult 80s sci-fi, most obviously the racism allegory of Alien Nation and the genetic mutation premise from Cronenberg's The Fly. However, unlike something like Doomsday which simply ripped off old films with no wit or subtlety, this film actually develops upon its ideas. The production design is fantastic and the action sequences extremely well done, particularly the brilliantly handled climactic battle and the film has a great deal of momentum that meant I enjoyed it more and more as it went on. But easily the strongest aspect of the film is Sharlto Copley's central performance who is quite brilliant as the selfish corporate bastard who unwillingly finds a cause to fight for. It would have been nice to learn more about what happened to the ship and the aliens in the first place and why these obviously technologically advanced creatures had degenerated into a bunch of filthy, scavenging animals but as a whole it is a hugely enjoyable piece of action sci-fi with an intelligent twist.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2009
Besides the clichés, plot holes and the incoherent use of the camera, any allusion to Apartheid seems dishonest, since it is hard to believe that anyone could ever be tolerant if an alien spacecraft arrived on Earth carrying over a million of those repulsive giant lobsters uninvited.
Super Reviewer
January 14, 2010
"District 9" strays far away from formula in this greatly entertaining futuristic sci-fi feature. In the future, aliens have inhabited an area of the earth, their ship can not move and humans are stuck, preserving alien life forms and getting to know them. It has come time to take a stand and try to shift their living space to a more controlled environment. Once Wikus (the main character, who studies these life forms) is infected, he begins to become one of them and all hell breaks loose. The action in this film is off the charts, it has just the right amount of emotion, and the visual effects are great for it's lower scaled budget. I absolutely love every second of this film!
Super Reviewer
½ June 13, 2011
A stone cold modern sci-fi classic that functions near perfectly as a raw and intensely-bloody action flick with deep layers of un-compromising geo-political/xenophobic commentary. A piece of entertainment that is aggressively original, thrilling, bold, deeply involving thanks to the great acting, and thought-provoking.
Super Reviewer
August 12, 2009
This film is quite an achievement. It ranks up there with Blade Runner, The Matrix, and some of Paul Verhoeven's works as one of the best sci-fi action films loaded with substance. Take the substance away (specifically the socio-political, racism, Apartheid type stuff), and this would still be a decent action film. Adding in all of that heavy stuff makes it more than just a fun piece of entertainment. With that stuff, it retains its entertainment value, and also avoids being too heavy handed, preachy, or pretentious.

The way the film is constructed is brillaint. The faux dosumentary hand held stuff is done well, and isn't annoying or distracting. It puts the viewer in the middle of the action, adding to the intensity of things, and, by being a faux-documentary, the film can unveil the backstory and exposition in a unique way which doesn't bring things to a halt.

My only nit-pick is that, of the humans, Wikus is the only character that is fully developed. The rest are barely developed, and come of as cliches. Not a big problem, but it is one of this films (very) few faults. Sharlto Copley has, at the time of my review, already hit the mainstream U.S. market with The A-Team, but this will stand as his breakout performance. He is terrific. You are not supposed to like the guy. He is an incompetent, ineffectual corporate tool, but you come to care about him and root for him. His faults are endearing one minute, and aggravating the next. The transition between these two feelings is subtle, and done well, as it should be.

I love intellectual anything, especially sci-fi, but I also love my violence, and when the two are combined, and done so in a way that works, the results are usually amazing. It can be hard to mix these types of things, but it works here. Speaking of which: the alien weapons are awesome, and I love that their technology has a catch to it. I think it would have been cool had the prawns been done with animatronics, but it would have been pretty hard to pull off. The CGI though, thankfully, looks fantastic, and this is one of those cases where I support how it is used. The effects for the transforming, gross as they are, look outstanding. It reminded me of Cronenberg's The Fly, and I'm happy that it didn't come off as a rip off of it.

Obviously I recommend this, How could I not with all the praise I've given it? I also think that, if done right, sequel is actually warranted. If not, that's ok though. The concept of this film, and how the arrival of aliens is handled, is really ingenious. Unfortunately, I fear that what happens in this film is probably close to what would take place if the same thing happened in real life.

When you really look at this movie in broad terms, it is true that it borrows from some classic tropes, but it puts it's own neat spin on things, so I think that can be forgiven. Definitely give this a watch.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 2012
In my review of (500) Days of Summer, I spoke about how film enthusiasts are always on the lookout for innovation, whether it be drastically moving the goalposts or taking something well-worn and presenting it in an interesting light. In the same week that (500) Days of Summer failed to live up to its hype as a modern-day Annie Hall, District 9 comes along and makes a much better fist of things. The result in an impressive, ideas-laden debut which displays great promise even as it falls short of greatness in and of itself.

Much attention has been given to the involvement of Peter Jackson in District 9's production history. Jackson had originally intended for director Neil Blomkamp to helm an adaptation of the Halo video game series, having been impressed by his short film Alive in Joburg. Considering Jackson's own fortunes with The Lovely Bones, it is tempting to view this film in the same vein as Super 8, i.e. a case of a great filmmaker attempting to recapture his past self, using an apprentice to make the kind of films he is no longer capable of making.

District 9 does score over Super 8, for a couple of reasons. One is that it is not as overtly self-conscious; while J. J. Abrams went out of his way to pay tribute to Spielberg, at the cost of not saying anything new, Blomkamp draws on a wider range of influences of which Jackson's early features make up a small but recognisable part. The other is that District 9 makes a more forthright and ambitious effort to tell a new story with existing components, something which Super 8 attempted but never accomplished to an entirely satisfying degree.

District 9 is primarily a film about xenophobia, exploring that theme through the language of science fiction and eventually the conventions of the action genre. Blomkamp draws clear parallels between the prawns' predicament and those of the black South Africans under the Apartheid regime. The film's protagonists are a white minority, who have the law in their favour and military might behind them, and who treat the prawns (read 'Blacks') somewhere between second-class citizens and no better than animals. The title refers to the infamous District Six in central Cape Town, which was declared a 'whites-only zone' in the 1960s and from which all inhabitants were forcibly evicted.

Having established this parallel, District 9 digs a little deeper to look at the transition from military containment to legal control of the prawns. The film has two different personalities at its heart: the timid, mild-mannered Wikus van der Merwe and the macho, aggressive Colonel Koobus Venter. Venter represents the old order, being akin to the first men to board the alien ship; he views the prawns as scum who are only safe to deal with when dead. Wikus' barbarism comes with a smile: instead of forcing the prawns to obey him at gunpoint, he manipulates them into jumping through legal hoops, giving his company and government a veneer of legitimacy and democratic credibility.

The film uses Wikus' character arc to explore the irrational nature of racism. Being a science fiction film with prominent horror and action elements, Wikus' transformation does not come about through a series of polite conversations, shot in glowing close-ups and backed by uplifting music. Instead he literally transforms after being infected by an alien fluid, and the less human DNA that he possesses, the more humane he becomes. This transformation is made all the more convincing by the performance of Sharlto Copley, who improvised every last word of his dialogue.

There is also a sadly underdeveloped idea about governments relying on private contractors and multinational corporations in law enforcement. We have suspicions that MNU's intentions may not be entirely transparent, which are confirmed when we discover that Wikus' boss has been experimenting on the aliens. There is potential within this idea, either for a revamped Frankenstein story along the lines of Day of the Dead, or a more in-depth political commentary about the changing nature of state and police power. As it is, the idea is introduced to an extent that it makes sense, but it leaves us wanting a little more to chew on.

For fans of sci-fi, horror and action movies, it won't take much effort to pick up on all the films to which District 9 owes a debt. Blomkamp didn't credit any one film as being a source of inspiration, saying instead that he considers the film to be in the same vein as the "hardcore" action films of the 1980s, such as Aliens, Predator and RoboCop. The rough-edged documentary aesthetic was in part an attempt to move away from the glossy, slick look of modern action blockbusters. The end result is an interesting mix of the two looks, with the cutting-edge CG effects integrating surprisingly well with the grungy, dingy sets.

The film incorporates a number of different genres or sub-genres into both its story and visuals. There are clear hints of Jackson's early work in the more organic effects: the alien sick and gruesome, rubbery effects in Wikus' transformation nod directly towards Bad Taste and Brain Dead. The central plot of the aliens attempting to get home is very close to E.T., particularly in the scene where Wikus is shown the machine the aliens have constructed to get them back to the mothership. For a while we expect a Close Encounters-style ending, in which the aliens manage to leave and Wikus chooses to go with them.

The action elements of the film take heavily after Alien and Aliens, from the scene of the alien eggs being burned right down to the shape of the mechanical contraption Wikus used to fight off the Nigerians. But by far the biggest influence on District 9 is the body horror of David Cronenberg. Much like The Fly, Rabid or Videodrome, the film focusses on the painful physical transformation of its main character, who undergoes the torment of gradually mutating into something a lot less human. The black sludge dripping from Wikus' nose, fingernails snapping off, teeth falling out and the ability to operate alien weapons are all used to drive home the scale and agony of this change, matching physical to mental deterioration.

Unfortunately, the prominence of body horror also sheds light on District 9's main problem. There are so many different influences colliding in this breezily-told maelstrom of a film that it never follows through entirely with any of them. All the interesting allegories raised in the early sci-fi sections are eventually swept aside in the more action-based third act. The body horror elements are enjoyably gruesome from a make-up perspective, but we don't get the same level of emotional tragedy or ambiguity that Cronenberg achieved. While he would have focussed on the blurring of boundaries between alien and human a lot more, Blomkamp prefers to give us a whizz-bang climax, and not for the first time that's rather disappointing.

This feeling of complacency is reinforced by the film's aesthetic. It begins in a documentary fashion, with Wikus being followed around by a cameraman when evicting the prawns. But soon after he has become infected, Blomkamp abandons the aesthetic and the film plays out in more conventional fashion until the closing minutes reminds us that we supposedly watching a news report the whole time. You could argue that we're interested in the story to such an extent that this doesn't matter, but it does undermine the suspension of disbelief when you stop and think about it.

If you do stop and think about the story of District 9, elements of it begin to feel decidedly less clever. Much like Chronicle, it's a case of the ideas not being developed to a great enough extent, or of promising characters being married to a clunky or clichéd environment. Calling your multi-national organisation Multi-National United is downright lazy, and there are moments in which the conversations about MNU's secret programme drift into the sillier end of spy thrillers. Like Chronicle we could chalk this down to the inexperience of a first-time director, but surely someone of Jackson's calibre would have spotted these inadequacies and dealt with them.

District 9 is an interesting and engaging debut effort which suggests that Blomkamp has a promising career ahead of him. While the film doesn't deliver on all of its ideas, and wears its references very much on its sleeve, it is an enjoyable and reasonably thought-provoking romp which will satisfy a mainstream audience. Blomkamp has more streamlined and original films in him, but this is enjoyable in the same ramshackle way as Bad Taste. Here's just hoping that his next feature won't be his equivalent of Meet the Feebles.
Samuel Riley
Super Reviewer
July 21, 2012
Very underrated. Very clever. Very,very good. 'District 9' has fantastic visuals,a strong story and plenty of jaw-dropping moments. At the same time, it contains some smart elements that link with some social/political matters of today. A must watch for any Sci-Fi fans.
Super Reviewer
½ November 26, 2009
Wow. The story is original and creative, a rare gem in Hollywood these days. It's shot in documentary style at first, slowly grows into something much deeper (with its racism and apartheid allegories) and scarier (the aliens are not exactly eye candy) by the minute.
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2012
District 9 is a brilliant film from director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson. With great characters, great CGI aliens (or Prawns), a fantastic score, and a fascinating, original storyline, District 9 is one summer film not to be missed. Wikus van der Merwe is the main character here, and is so relatable in many ways, it's hard not to feel for him and connect with him almost right away. It's emotionally wrenching to watch what he goes through, but at the same time, we feel for the Prawns that are being so mistreated. We get both sides of the highly imaginative story, and don't feel like we've just sat through 2 hours of clashing metal and ear-splitting noise. It's quite the contrary actually; we feel breathless, shaken, and most of all (for me at least) shamed.
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2010
This movie is a must watch. It's an incredibly captivating story of a man that is shaken outside of his comfort zone to collide into the harsh realities of a political oppression going on between the human race and the alien race. I've gotta say, this movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Watched it at a midnight showing, watched it again. The character development of this movie, though focused on only one character, is incredibly engaging. You'll hate this person, you'll love this person, you'll disagree and root him on. The acting, cinematography, the score, the direction, the CGI, the editing, all exquisitely done to bring a great popcorn adventure that addresses a popular issue, that has been repeatedly done, in a different form. An excellent movie.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
November 1, 2011
District 9 is an excruciatingly deep, sad and moving film, and an outstanding one by first time director Neil Blomkamp. Everything a good sci-fi movie should have is in this film plus a lot of morals.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2012
Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkampp gives us a look into a new type of documentary. Its visually stunning and has an original story to support it. Not really an action film but more of a drama with a touch of blood and violence.
Super Reviewer
½ August 1, 2010
This film really surprised me. I had high expectations, but I did not know this would be great. This film is brilliant!The thing that caught my attention right away was the documentary sections. I did not think it could be so appealing, but the mockumentary strategy really sets this film apart from every other lame alien movie. It makes the entire story feel so real. Brilliant filmaking! For a relatively low budget, indie film, I was surprised by how great the special effects were. The action scenes were awesome, as were the aliens. I also really liked the gory parts of the film, it works. I was also very surprised by the acting, particularly by first time actor, Sharlto Copley. He gives a very strong and emotional performance that really carried the film and added a great level of emotion and intensity to the film.This is an absolutely fantastic movie. Right alongside Avatar as one of the best films of 2009!
Super Reviewer
October 22, 2010
When I wrote my first "review" for this film, all I wrote was "Go and see this now. And that is all." It was, in retrospect, an incredibly underdeveloped review, considering how bloody good this film was. The setup is brilliant, tackle the issue of apartheid and racism in South Africa by telling the audience it's a sci-fi action film. But it's a bit more than that. The plot and characters are surprisingly gut wrenching. Who knew that you could have empathy for a CG creature that can't speak English and looks like a prawn? But that's one of the big lessons in this film, empathy and understanding. To say the least, Wikkus (the "protagonist") learns what it's like to be a prawn the hard HARD way. It's a brilliant set up. Now, there are plenty of arguments against this movie (the constant use of the F-bomb, the lack of focus on the aliens towards the end and more on Wikkus), but I'm willing to let these slide. For starters, intelligent sci-fi is hard enough to find, but to make it this thrilling and jaw dropping WHILE keeping intelligent themes is a borderline art. Plus, this is the director debut for Neil Blomkamp, and if this film is any indication, his next film ("Elysium") has lots of potential.
Super Reviewer
February 27, 2011
District 9 is an incredible sci-fi film that is probably one of the most original alien films I can think of, and really made me think about the alien genre of film in a whole new way. The plot is great, I was hardly ever bored and they create characters that are interesting, mostly because they either aliens or turning into one, and it shows that they truly were trying top make an original story. The cast was probably my main problem, its not that they were really bad but I saw no performances that were memorable or fun really, but that was just a minor problem to such a great film. The special effects were pretty incredible and they did not try to make it like Avatar great but just made it great, and even though the aliens looked pretty disgusting, for all we know they could look even worse if aliens were real. District 9 is a movie I did not enjoy the first time, but time passed and I watched again and I realized what an masterful piece of film this was.
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2011
Avatar has been nominated for Best Picture at The Oscar's but so has District 9. District 9 is a great piece of film. For a first time feature by Neil Blokamp, it is a very good achievement. The mix of documentary and linear storytelling techniques is an excellent choice. Is better than Avatar in almost all forms, apart from special effects but the special effects of District 9 still are very close to Avatar. I highly recommend it, for the excitement and thrill and for the pure emotion. For the main character, the actor is a friend of the director and it is his first time. In three words excellent motion picture.
**** 4 Star
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2011
Good sci-fi filled with some cool scenes, that seem pretty damn real.
shahmeer h.
Super Reviewer
½ June 19, 2011
District 9 Is a movie that has it's ups and downs. Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, this film proves to be what it's supposed to be. Nominated. Not winning. The true fact is that the whole thing isn't good, only the beginning and the end. At the beginning, the documentary style captivated me COMPLETELY. But after a while, suddenly it starts going to the "normal" style. Thats what I hated. But then, it turns back to documentary, then back to "normal", and so on. For like half an hour. Then, the story becomes interesting. It captivates me. And at the beginning, I have total DISGUST for the aliens. But somehow, the movie does it, and I realize they have feelings, and I also feel for them, as well. But that's not the best part. The middle might have been a lot of "what the?!", but the end makes up for it quite well. The intensity and sudden "Whoa." is just half of what the ending does for your entertainment. The emotional alien attachment and the truth about the lead is the other half. If you put those halts together, you get a spectacular 2/5ths of a film. So an excellent first 2/5ths and then the last 2/5ths added together makes 4/5ths of enjoyable film time, and the other 1/5ths, eh, plots the film, i guess. But all in all, District 9 fell just short of the "9" in the title, and it receives a 70/100
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