The newcomers are, in a word, gross. A million of them showed up on South Africa’s doorstep 20 years ago. They steal. They’re violent. They breed like insects. They have vile dietary needs.
And after two decades in a vast walled-in shantytown, the government and “the people” have had enough. They’re to be forcibly evicted by “contractors” — 1.8 million beings sent to a concentration camp.
Nobody seems to mind. When you’re grotesque creatures the locals have nicknamed “prawns,” restrictions on movement, breeding and land ownership are the best you can expect in “District 9,” a splatter-happy sci-fi film that slides a sociology lesson in between the exploding heads.
Johannesburg native Neill Blomkamp’s film is equal parts “Independence Day” and “Alien Nation,” but it really aspires to be a sci-fi “Black Like Me.” Only when Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), the bureaucrat in charge of the evictions, becomes hunted like the aliens can he feel their pain. Corporate skulduggery, medical experiments and trigger-happy mercenaries conspire to open Wikus’ eyes to the inhumanity of this situation — even if the creatures he’s dealing with aren’t human.
As allegory, “District 9” isn’t all that, despite the racism parallels. But as straight sci-fi action, it packs a punch, once you get past the ick factor.