I wish I could say that District 9 is an us vs. them alien movie because that would mean I could easily quantify it – but it’s not. Sure, the whole us vs. them theme is in there, but it quickly gets turned on its head as the typical protagonists and antagonists trade traditional roles and instead just become engaging characters.
What makes District 9 so unique are the two lead characters. Wikus is a private industry drone who gets promoted by his father-in-law within an organization called MNU which has been in charge of the aliens who reside within District 9; Wikus is spineless, dorky and just a wallflower – his redeeming factor is that he is naively innocent and madly in love with his wife. Christopher on the other hand is one of the aliens (aka prawns) in D-9 who is considered a gangster, he desperately wants to go home and is also a father. Christopher and Wikus dislike each other equally and both trade places as the sympathetic lead and the hostile one.
District 9 is partly so original because of how Neill Blomkamp decides to present it. Blomkamp intersperses documentary footage and interviews through the narrative of the film, a technique one could say he borrowed from Cloverfield if it wasn’t how his short film was told. I also must say that Blomkamp used the documentary technique much better than it was used in Cloverfield. Perhaps what struck me most about the technique was the Blomkamp wasn’t married to using the cinema verite/documentary technique for his whole film. He masterfully switched between that and the third-person story telling that we as an audience are so familiar with and he did it flawlessly.
I may not be able to define District 9 in any traditional science fiction way but that in no way decreased my opinion of it. Quite the contrary in fact, it makes me respect and love it more. Good sci-fi should always be different and should always be breaking barriers, that’s part of what the genre is about and Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp understood this perfectly.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
Wikus Van De Merwe: Sharlto Copley
Dirk Michaels: William Allen Young
Tiana Van De Merwe: Vanessa Haywood