Oh my, isn't it nice to be surprised once in a while? That's what District 9 was to me, a complete and utter surprise.
It's edgy, it's brutal, it's original, it's disturbing and it keeps you guessing. I purposefully avoided all the film reviews, online articles and magazine interviews and just went to watch a movie.
At first I didn't know how it was going to go, with its docu-style approach and handheld camera realism (reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project and most recently Cloverfield fare), but it soon turns into a pure sci-fi gem.
So the story is that twenty years ago alien refugees arrived on Earth over the skies of Johannesburg in South Africa, which is refreshing in itself that it's not in America or Britain, and you see the tale told through the eyes, accent and South African perspective.
Much of their negative attitude to these alien visitors is especially hypocritical considering their history with apartheid in the past, obviously a parallel we're supposed to draw.
Naturally fearing anything different, humans treat the aliens (who are malnourished, diseased and not your typical benevolent, intellectually advanced Star Trek type civilization) as unwanted immigrants.
Dubbed 'Prawns' due to their non-human appearance and made to live in District 9, a sectioned off slum-land, they certainly don't integrate as well into Earth society as the 'newcomers' in Alien Nation did.
And can you believe, the aliens seem actually, well, alien. Through fantastic CGI they are rendered as something we've not seen before and they have a different language, different culture and set of ethics.
Plus their technology works differently and exclusively for their genetic code (which probably explains why their spaceship still floats over Johannesburg twenty years later without being reverse engineered to death for the sake of weapons and 'technological advancement').
Through the actions of the humans we realise that at times we don't show much 'humanity' towards other lifeforms, let alone our fellow humans. Greed gets in the way and we have no qualms about dissecting aliens and living people alike when money is involved.
The fun really starts when the one-million-strong alien refugees are due to be forcibly relocated to new concentration camp settlement. Interestingly enough this is not a film about an alien uprising though.
District 9 does borrow from other films, like the main human character, Wikus' transformation ala Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, but the refreshing approach to film-making and a story which sees the aliens as the true heroes keeps you wondering what happens next (both in the film and in the possible sequel).
Can I just say it's also nice to see an alien child (or any movie child for that matter) which is not designed to be sickeningly cute (although he is a bit).
District 9 blows other supposed summer blockbusters like G.I. Joe and Transformers 2 away. It's almost like the anti-blockbuster, with no Hollywood stars to speak of, the hero isn't particularly 'heroic' and mankind is the villain instead of hordes of invading aliens.
I give District 9 a stellar four **** stars.
Roll on three years...