© Key Creatives
The AM Take
Not all aliens want to invade Manhattan, and the crustacean-like extra terrestrials in District 9, dubbed the “prawns,” are a case in point. Their spaceship hovers over Johannesburg, where they squat for more than two decades without any obvious purpose. Unable to settle among humans, the prawns are subject to an aggressive relocation program, carried out by the government agency in charge of alien control, MNU, and their wily front man, Wikus (Sharlto Copley). A chemical mishap during the relocation — read: raid — leaves Wikus contaminated and mutating into a prawn. Harboring the link between human and alien DNA, Wikus goes fugitive, running from MNU, the research-oriented agency that wants to conduct experiments on him.
AskMen.com score: 100 An alien movie hasn’t been this cleverly conceived since… well… Alien. Far from your average monster debauchery or invasion extravaganza, District 9 operates as an allegory for apartheid, xenophobia, corporate malfeasance, gentrification, and the dog-eat-dog nature of living in poverty under hostile and oppressive conditions. Producer Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp divert resources from their scrapped Halo adaptation to piece together a story about aliens that live in shantytowns, kill for scraps, barter with ruthless Nigerian gangs to survive, and try as best as they can to keep the government off their hard-shelled backs. Most of this information is delivered in a blistering and brilliant prologue, which combines verite footage with “newsreel” reports to bring you up to speed on the growing, racially charged turmoil. Blomkamp never entirely abandons this documentary aesthetic, similar to that used to lesser effect in Cloverfield, but District 9 quickly accelerates into a more conventional chase movie and “E.T. go home” adventure that doesn’t quite measure up to the promise of the opening. The problem is that cultural and political metaphors in a movie this gonzo — with its unrelenting pace, aggressive shifts in direction and surplus of exploding bodies — are a lot to chew on.