15 Years Ago, This Sci-Fi Smash Hit Already Rode 3 Body Problem’s Hype Train

15 Years Ago, This Sci-Fi Smash Hit Already Rode 3 Body Problem’s Hype Train
Image credit: Netflix, Legion-Media

A non-traditional take on Earth’s encounter with Them is quite a forgotten gem.


  • The theme of aliens coming to our planet has long been the one which interested sci-fi writers and filmmakers most of all.
  • The given hit movie gives a surprising vision of it, combining spectacular action elements with a clever social commentary about segregation.

The question of what consequences an alien invasion would bring to humanity is running like a red thread through Netflix 's 3 Body Problem, adapted from Liu Cixin’s sci-fi bestseller. However, a certain 2009 action movie already fantasized about it, presenting quite an interesting variant of people’s potential encounter with other civilizations.

Set in Johannesburg in 1982, this sci-fi gem starts off by showing an alien spaceship all of a sudden landing there. It turns out that the aliens, later called the prawns, had to stop on Earth due to their sick and malnourished condition, not to conquer humankind.

The South African government decides to confine the uninvited guests to an internment camp, which becomes a prison for them. 20 years later, their improvised settlement transforms into a slum, which bleeds human resources and gets claimed by the locals, who employ a bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe to head the aliens’ relocation.

15 Years Ago, This Sci-Fi Smash Hit Already Rode 3 Body Problem’s Hype Train - image 1

While developing the story of the people’s confrontation with the alien race, the movie demonstrates the high-quality visual effects with extremely impressive practical elements, blending it with a deep social commentary. The truth is that it is partially inspired by the events of the apartheid era of racial segregation in South Africa.

By featuring aliens not as octopod or steel smooth humanoids, but as nasty, initially helpless creatures, this film breaks the cinema canon, presenting a non-traditional vision of the future contact with alien civilizations. Besides, its mockumentary sequences, including fictional interviews and news footage, also add to its peculiarity.

As for the depiction of humans, this action movie, starring the talented Sharlto Copley as a mild-mannered governmental figure, explores people’s xenophobia and ignorance towards those who don’t belong to them, which can create more risks to the Earth’s population than alien invasion.

Sci-fi fans can recognize here the plot of Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut with the title District 9, which evoke Cape Town’s historic inner-city residential area, District 6, which was known as a "whites only" neighborhood.

Thus, it brilliantly mixes reflection on South Africa’s history with bright sci-fi elements.

“It's one of those rare movies where it really is as good as your brain remembered it,” concludes Kettle_Maker in a recent Reddit discussion of the movie’s timelessness.

District 9 can change all you know about science fiction and what you can imagine of the aliens. Stream this hidden gem of the genre, as it’s available on Netflix and Prime.

Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment