David: Peter Jackson produced writer-director Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 – a alien/monster genre movie of incredible originality. Wikus Van De Merwe is a company operative who is put in charge of relocating a slum on the outskirts of Johannesburg with military backup. The twist is that the slum occupants are aliens, whose mothership was stranded floating above the city 20 years earlier. In the process of carrying out the eviction, Wikus has an accident with dramatic consequences, which gives him a radical new perspective on the aliens.
Cathy: Initially, I found the documentary style at the beginning of the film quite engaging, but ultimately I found this an extremely difficult film to watch. While I appreciated the message about segregation and alienation of those who are different, it was an extremely grim film with much graphic violence. At one stage, I felt like I couldn’t watch any more.
David: Well, it was certainly visceral. Body parts and fluids everywhere. You could almost smell it, at times. I liked the “documentary” conceit too, but it was not consistently followed through, with much of the later part of the movie in more of the traditional “action” style. Everything else in the film was entirely consistent and narratively satisfying. Setting it in South Africa is rather obvious given the theme, but also made the movie work on an intellectual level.
Cathy: I found it difficult to connect or empathise with any of the characters. The aliens were pretty gross, although I did feel some connection for the alien “Christopher Johnson” through his relationship with his son. Wikus (although extremely well-played by Sharlto Copley) had no sense of compassion or understanding for the plight of the aliens.
David: By not using well known actors we get to see the characters as real people. Wikus undergoes several transformations in the film which redeems his character by the end. But despite the serious social comment in this film, District 9 has more in common with “Frankenstein” than “Cry Freedom”.
Cathy: The trouble is, despite the alien element, the scenario is not too far removed from a shameful reality. I can see that it is a well made film – it just didn’t appeal to me. I’m giving it two and a half stars.
David: It appealed to me greatly. I’m giving it four stars.