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Review: 'District 9'

In an apartheid parable of sorts, extraterrestrials forced to live in slum conditions on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, find a human ally.

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A scene from Sony Pictures' "District 9."

Sony Pictures/AP

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The ad campaign for the sci-fi thriller "District 9," with mysterious billboards touting aliens among us, is highly creative and amusing. So, in patches, is the movie, which is a thinking man's, or man-boy's, "Transformers." It's about what happens when a spaceship filled with human-sized, four-legged prawnlike extraterrestrials comes to rest in the sky above Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years have passed and the "prawns," as they are derisively called, have been ghettoized on the ground by earthlings and ruled over by military types eager to figure out how to use the aliens' space-age weapons. When one of the operatives (Sharlto Copley) who is hired to oversee the prawns becomes part prawn himself, the plot thickens into a regular bouillabaisse of bam-pow pyrotechnics. Peter Jackson was the producer, and aficionados of his early ghoul movies, like "Dead Alive," will detect his handiwork here. The first-time director was Neill Blomkamp, a native South African who, no doubt, is attempting, not altogether unreasonably, to draw a line between alien confinement and apartheid. Grade: B+ (Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language.)