A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gritty, buzzworthy sci-fi epic filmed in South Africa (and produced by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson) is full of extremely realistic, bloody violence, including severed limbs, lots of bodies, piles of high-tech weapons, and even torture. The movie's aliens aren't cute or appealing in any way -- they're scary-looking, insectoid creations with complex biologies and lives. Expect constant strong language (especially "f--k"), as well as some drinking, smoking, and discussion of sex.
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What's the story?
Set in an alternate present, DISTRICT 9 takes place in South Africa, where, 20 years ago, an alien ship came to rest in the skies above Johannesburg -- with more than a million workers and near-slaves aboard. Now, after two decades of uneasy co-existence, the local government is moving the alien "Prawns" from their ramshackle slums in District 9 to a new camp 200 kilometers away. But as part of the forced relocation, a government bureaucrat discovers that District 9 has secrets of its own.
Is it any good?
Produced by Peter Jackson, District 9 is a rarity -- a lower-budget science-fiction film with amazing effects, thrilling action, and, most importantly, emotional and intellectual depth. Turning the plight of marginalized groups into science fiction is nothing new, but District 9's dark vision of the apartheid years is somehow brain-bendingly exciting and painfully real.
Director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp makes a few mistakes -- some of the character arcs have a few rough edges, and the film's middle section is a bit interminable -- but, at the same time, District 9 is a welcome antidote to "science-fiction films" like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which, of course, have no science in them whatsoever). The movie's willingness to take on complex political and moral questions is an equally welcome change from the bloodless, thoughtless gloss of big-budget action films like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And, of course, it's just plain exciting -- full of action, comedy, eye-popping effects, and tricky stunts. District 9 is a bloody, brutal action-science-fiction allegory served up rough and raw, but that's what makes it worth getting excited about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. Is it meant to be realistic (in that, yes, high-tech alien weaponry could be this horrible) or is it just eye candy for action fans? Does it have more or less impact than the violence in a movie like G.I. Joe?
How does the movie's news footage/documentary-like style compare to that of other large-scale sci-fi films? Does it seem more realistic? Does that make it scarier?
How does the movie's setting echo the real-life conditions of poverty and prejudice during South Africa's apartheid era? Even though it's a sci-fi film, what messages does the movie send about that period?
Can you think of other sci-fi movies (or other types of media) that have tackled tough political ideas through metaphor and fantasy?