By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 8, 2009 at 10:05AM
District 9 is a terrific, gutsy film that combines superior filmmaking, cutting-edge technology, and the time-tested tradition of dealing with social issues in the guise of science-fiction. The canny use of motion-capture technology that producer Peter Jackson helped to pioneer for the character of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings brings amazing life...
to an entire race of robot-like aliens (nicknamed “prawns”), who become the unwanted underclass in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the course of the film, two of these grotesque-looking creatures acquire subtly expressive human body language and expressions...and as a result, we begin to care about them. This represents a perfect marriage of technology and storytelling that producer Peter Jackson learned from the 1933 King Kong; he obviously transmitted the lesson to his protégé, this film’s director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp.
District 9 grabs you right away with its reality-TV-style approach, quickly establishing the necessary exposition of how an alien spacecraft came to earth and deposited a race of creatures here. Then it introduces our unlikely protagonist, a nerdy, naïve functionary (Sharlto Copley) who works for a powerful paramilitary corporation in South Africa. As he carries out his assignment of issuing eviction notices to the aliens who have been living in a refugee camp he is sucked into the larger conflict surrounding their existence, becoming a victim as well as a hero. Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell take us on an amazing, visceral and emotional journey over several days’ time. The film works on two levels, issuing a punch to the gut but also giving us food for thought, proving that summer-movie entertainment doesn’t have to be brainless to be successful.