I went to see District 9 yesterday. The movie has enjoyed critical and financial success so far, and I guess my expectations were fairly high.
I can't exactly say that I enjoyed the movie, though. It was definitely an original mix of elements, though it borrowed heavily from a lot of SF source material. The plot, as many have pointed out, was similar to the movie/TV series Alien Nation. It also had influences from Cronenberg's version of The Fly, RoboCop, and others, especially the recent technique of making the unreal seem more real by employing a pseudo-documentary style, e.g. Blair Witch, and Cloverfield.
The film definitely kept you engaged. It was alternately grotesque and action-packed. But the acting was relatively poor; the plot was fragmentary and incomplete; and the characterization was pretty much 2D. The bad guys were a favorite villain of modern cinema, the multi-national corporation, and they're portrayed without even a hint of conscience. The middle-level bureaucrat at the center of the film seems to have a change of heart, literally and figuratively, but it was pretty heavy-handed, and when all was said and done, the film seemed more like a set-up for a sequel than a self-contained film.
The production values were great, though, and the aliens and their tech were interesting and well-developed. Strangely, though, a major scene from the trailer, where an alien is being interrogated about how his weapons work, was not in the film. Weird. The movie had a number of striking images, and was actually cringe-worthy in a lot of scenes. But great SF is about ideas, and even though there were parallels between the 'prawns', as the aliens are called, and other refugee populations, I didn't see their plight used as much more than a set-up for gross-outs and action. I'm not sure what the point was, and part of this was because the movie didn't really resolve anything.
I've heard people comparing the other smaller-budget SF movie that came out at the end of the summer, Moon. There are definitely parallels, especially the use of corporations as the bad guys. But Moon was a much more thoughtful picture, and was ultimately a much better film. Still, I'd marginally recommend District 9, if only because there are scenes that you simply won't see in any other movie.