Five Reasons Why DISTRICT 9 is Frickin’ Awesome

Last night I watched the movie DISTRICT 9 on Blu-ray. It was, in a word, amazing. I knew very little about the movie before watching it, and beyond knowing it was about aliens in an internment camp-type scenario, I had no idea what it was about. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t read any further – go rent this movie.

Here are five reasons why I think this movie is absolutely fantastic.

1) The story is gripping and realistic; other than the fact that it’s based on aliens landing on planet earth, everything about the plot and characters is extremely realistic. It has a documentary feel that draws you in. The writing team of Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell is responsible for some great stuff here. It helps that one Mr. Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson lent a hand as a producer.

2) It moves you emotionally; at the beginning of the movie when humans are spouting racist remarks, many of them black South Africans themselves the victims of institutionalized racism, it’s shocking and repulsive. The movie doesn’t shy away from the inherently tribal nature of human beings; the fear and dislike we have of outsiders, of “The Other”. I felt very emotionally invested in the movie – I went from disliking the main character, to feeling pity for him, to hating him, to cheering at his redemptive act. The movie will move you.

3) The computer animation is jaw-droppingly realistic; never in my life have I seen computer animation this realistic. If you look at a lot of movies heavy with CG, much of it is done in dark scenes; CG is easier to pull off when the unpredictable nature of sunlight isn’t scattering across every inch of the scene. There was only one time in this entire movie when I saw something that didn’t look realistic with the CG: a dust cloud kicked up when one of the aliens was thrown into the ground. The rest? Amazingly real. In fact, watching this movie made me a little mad at every other CG-heavy movie for being so painfully obvious about the CG. I really had no idea that CG could be done in such a realistic fashion. The CG in this movie isn’t gratuitous – every scene that has it needs it, and it all feels very real. When watching this movie I kept saying “It looks so…real!” over and over again. The aliens in bright sunlight looking like actors in a costume – a freakishly realistic costume – were very life-like.

4) It was made on a budget of only $30 million dollars; that’s small change in the mainstream movie industry today. $30 million is the budget for a romantic comedy with mid-level Hollywood stars. The fact that this movie was created at a level of such perfection, and for only $30 million, makes it all the more impressive. To date, it has grossed $204 million dollars. How would you liked to have been an investor on this project? I know I would have!

5) It was created by 30-year old, first time writer/director Neil Blomkamp; he’d never created a feature-length movie before this one. Previous projects include the Hal0 3 Landfall short, and Tempbot, another short. For a first-time feature length effort, calling this movie a home run is like saying Babe Ruth just swung a stick at a ball. If I could buy stock in a human being, I’d invest heavily in one Mr. Neil Blomkamp. Assuming he doesn’t get destroyed by the Hollywood machine, he has a very bright future. It’s a shame the funding for the Halo movie fell through; he was set to helm it, and he could have done something amazing with it. He has an un-named project set to come out in 2011; I know I’ll be watching for it…

  • On the first viewing, this movie jumped into my list as one of my favorite movies ever and I don't even have a problem saying it might be one of the best movies ever made. It really is that good. Story, special effects, acting… Just an all-around amazing accomplishment, especially with a budget of $30m.

  • Janak

    Part of the reason it's so good is because they had a rich local history to mine, of course: apartheid. But, yes, it's a well-produced movie and deserving of praise. I had to cover my eyes at a few moments (as I tend to embed “gross” visuals and they mess with my sleep), but very well-done overall. It makes Avatar's plot feel like a very cheap imitation, to be honest.

  • Frankly, I don't really get all the comparisons to Avatar – only on the most superficial level (aliens & humans) are the movies similar. Plot-wise, they're nothing alike. I quite liked Avatar, but for completely different reasons.

  • janakj

    Really? Both are quintessential tales of colonization. Two populations, dominant and subjected. Dominant folks (humans on both sides) visit the subjected folks' home territory, misunderstand them and push them around. It takes an entity from the dominant group to “migrate” to the subjected group to better understand what the dominant group is missing in broad daylight.

    In any case, of course it's not the same. Avatar was a fictional happy ending where the subjected group won, which never really happens in the real world. There's also an appalling lack of attention to detail: for example, when Jake was first accosted by the Navi, he sticks his hands up in a gesture of peace. That's a decidedly human gesture. Why would the aliens interpret it as such? And so on. Avatar is also nothing new; it's a cross between Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas… in space (… was one of my favorite examples of this).

    Compare to District 9, where there is an amazing level of detail. Heck, the protagonist (Wikus) goes into minute detail about the property, customs, behavior of the aliens. There's huge and gorgeous irony in the fact he knows about so much detail about the aliens but totally misses the point. And, no one wins, except perhaps bureaucracy, which keeps on churning (and misunderstanding). I also found District 9 far more poignant in its small touches.

    I suppose I feel more strongly about these two movies as, while I'm a US citizen and American-born one at that, I'm not Caucasian. I'll give you that Avatar had gorgeous graphics, but I really rather disliked the movie. I freely admit I'm the exception, not the rule, but I tend to be really picky about movies.

  • We also liked District 9.

    Also on our lists of great and recent movies is Moon and The Time Traveller's Wife