District 9 (2009)

district 9

“When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.”

The Scoop: 2009, R.  Directed by Neill Blomkamp and starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and Nathalie Boltt

Tagline: You are not welcome here

Summary Capsule: (Bleep) phoning home.  Christopher Johnson wants to go there.


Lissa’s rating: 10 cans of cat food

Lissa’s review: I have to be honest – I’d heard nothing about District 9 until a few weeks back, when all of a sudden the worlds I inhabit on the internet exploded with how awesome this movie was.  Couple the internet buzz with a certain weekly entertainment magazine (gee, wonder which one I mean?) actually giving the movie an A, and I was genuinely curious.  Put in “apartheid allegory in a sci-fi setting”, and when I had a chance to see a movie for the first time in months, I took my 8.50 and got a ticket to see District 9, not Harry Potter.

And I don’t regret it one little bit.  It was that good.

I don’t want to say a whole lot about the movie, because frankly, it’s best that way.  Previews these days seem to tell too much, and when you have the impression you’ve already seen the movie, what’s the fun in that?  So, let’s see… plot summary.  Aliens — and really ugly ones, too, none of these near-human elf-like types — land on Earth.  And they’re in trouble, malnourished, and their technology is broken.  As a result, the aliens are stuck on Earth.  And Earth… well, let’s just say that it’s a fairly cynical take on how the people of Earth respond to that situation, and sadly, probably pretty realistic.

How much do I love this movie?  Let me make you a list, because it needs one.

1.) I love that this movie took place in South Africa.  Wait, you mean the aliens didn’t land over Manhattan or DC?  There are OTHER places in the world?  That’s right!  Right there we have a major cliché buster.

2.) I loved that the main character Wikus was actually complicated.  He was kind of pathetic in his way, so I had an underdog vibe going for him.  He was good at his job, really.  He was prejudiced against the aliens, in a way that generally seemed realistic but at one point made me literally almost throw up.  He had a sort of charisma… and yet a humanity that was rather repulsive, too.  Awesome character.

3.) The little kid actually wasn’t annoying.

4.) The character of Christopher Johnson was interesting, and again, a cliché buster.  It was amazing how much emotion they could convey through a mask and CGI.

5.) Where did the aliens come from?  What was their home world like?  What was their culture like?  Couldn’t tell ya, and I loved that.  I’m so glad they never filled those gaps in, because it really works for this movie, and filling them in would have been a mistake.

6.) I loved the relationship between Wikus and his wife.  It was such a humanizing aspect, making it so clear that just because someone can be a jerk in one area of life doesn’t mean they are without any redemption.

7.) The movie sure didn’t pull any punches, and oh, some of it hurt.  There was one scene I nearly lost my lunch, not because of the gore, but because of what was being said.  And what hurt was that I’m positive that would be the attitude if this situation was real.  A souvenir, indeed.

8.) I love the fact that this movie was done on a small budget.  If you really sit down and think about it, it shows.  Aside from the aliens, there aren’t a ton of effects, and they keep to a very few locations.  I’ve never heard of any of the actors before.  But it doesn’t look cheap – it just looks real.

9.) The aliens actually had distinct personalities.  Go figure.

10.) I love that this movie took a message that could have come out as something that’s been said time and time again, and yet it didn’t.  Yes, this was a movie that urges us to open our eyes to how we treat others different from ourselves, and how terrible humanity can really be.  But the message was delivered in a creative, entertaining way, and while it came through strong and clear, the movie didn’t whack you over the head with it, either.

In fact, it’s that last thing that really made me enjoy the movie.  I read an interview with Neill Blomkamp, the director and creator of the film, and he said something to the effect of he didn’t want to make a story with a message, but tell a story in a way that might really happen.  He accomplished that, and that’s precisely what makes this movie so incredibly good.

This one’s a must see, folks.


  • All the shacks in District 9 were actual shacks that exists in a section of Johannesburg which were to be evacuated and the residents moved to better government housing, paralleling the events in the film. Also paralleling, the residents had not actually been moved out before filming began. The only shack that was created solely for filming was Christopher Johnson’s shack.
  • The idea of the prawns being obsessed with cat food came from two inspirations. In impoverished areas of Johannesburg, Neill Blomkamp would see people selling cheese poofs and other snack foods out of large 3-foot tall bags and wanted the aliens to have a similar cheap food. The decision to make them cat food came from one of the producers who used canned cat food to bait hooks when fishing for prawns in Vancouver.

Groovy Quotes

Automated MNU Voice: When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.

Wikus Van De Merwe: [Points out Alien graffiti] This is basically a guy, and there’s 3 humans here, basically trying to make a warning, you know, saying “I kill 3 humans, watch out for me.”

James Hope – Police Officer: I mean, you can’t say they don’t look like that, that’s what they look like, right? They look like prawns.

Wikus Van De Merwe: Could you go a bit slower with the clicks there, it sounded like you said *three years*…

Wikus Van De Merwe: This whole’s thing’s under your shack? For 20 years, you’ve had this thing hidden out here? This is, this is very illegal, I mean, this is… this is a fine.

Christopher Johnson: I thought you said not to kill them?
Wikus Van De Merwe: He shot at me!

If You Liked This Movie, Try:

  • Children of Men
  • Men in Black
  • The Power of One


  1. […] The thing about focusing on the ethics and relationships (or a thing, anyway), is that you don’t need special effects so much.  Sure, they’re nice, but too many movie makers get carried away.  (George Lucas and James Cameron, I believe it’s time for your CGI Addicts Anonymous meetings.)  And when that happens, so often the story suffers.  But turn it around, go for the better story and the lesser effects, and you get movies like District 9. […]

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