It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I suppose there’s no reason the first alien race to reach the Earth shouldn’t look like what the cat threw up. After all, they love to eat cat food. The alien beings in “District 9,” nicknamed “prawns” because they look like a cross between lobsters and grasshoppers, arrive in a space ship that hovers over Johannesburg. Found inside, huddled together and starving to death, are the aliens, who benefit from a humanitarian impulse to relocate them to a location on the ground.
Here they become not welcomed but feared, and their camp turns into a prison. Fearing alien attacks, humans demand they be resettled far from town, and a clueless bureaucrat named Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is placed in charge of this task. The creatures are not eager to move. A private security force, headed by van der Merwe, moves in with armored vehicles and flame-throwers to encourage them, and van der Merwe cheerfully destroys houses full of their young.
Who are these aliens? Where did they come from? How did their ship apparently run out of power (except what’s necessary to levitate its massive tonnage?). No one asks: They’re here, we don’t like them, get them out of town. There doesn’t seem to be a lot to like. In appearance, they’re loathsome, in behavior disgusting and evoke so little sympathy that killing one is like — why, like dropping a 7-foot lobster into boiling water.
This science-fiction fable, directed by newcomer Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter (“The Lord of the Rings”) Jackson, takes the form of a mockumentary about van der Merwe’s relocation campaign, his infection by an alien virus, his own refuge in District 9 and his partnership with the only alien who behaves intelligently and reveals, dare we say, human emotions. This alien, named Christopher Johnson — yes, Christopher Johnson — has a secret workspace where he prepares to return to the mothership and help his people.