If, like me, you’ve found the summer movie season somewhat disappointing with the anticipated “surefire” sequel greatness of the Transformers or Harry Potter franchises falling short of your expectations, there’s still hope for Hollywood yet. I’ve been a fan of Peter Jackson’s ever since I saw Heavenly Creatures, which also introduced the world to an then-unknown Kate Winslet. This time around, Jackson steps into the role of producer and has discovered a talented new fellow filmmaker in South Africa’s Neil Blomkamp. Blomkamp was initially tapped to bring an adaptation of the video game Halo to the big screen. When that deal tanked, they opted to expand the 6-minute short film which earned Blomkamp Jackson’s seal of approval in the first place (Alive in Joburg, which can be viewed here). The end result is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year.
District 9 is a film that utilizes a lot of tried-and-true devices to earn that much needed word-of-mouth momentum that makes a “small” movie a “surprise hit”. First, there was the viral campaign that served to build curiosity in the general public leading up to the film’s release. Of course, it probably also helped that it had “From the producer of Lord of the Rings" attached to it. It also employs the familiar mockumentary technique that hooked audiences onto The Blair Witch Project. I also couldn’t help finding its depiction of corporate conspiracies amidst tense social situations echoing The Constant Gardener.
This is, however, obviously a sci-fi action flick at its core, and in that respect it definitely delivers. From start to finish, I was completely captivated by the story and the style in which it was presented. Of course, I could feel that it derived certain basic elements from sci-fi classics I grew up on like The Fly or even Aliens, but it’s also an effective discourse on xenophobia, and the deplorable as well as redemptive qualities of human nature. Instant cult classic.