A couple years ago the über successful, Oscar-winning Peter Jackson sought to make a movie version of the Halo video game. He picked friend Niell Blomkamp, who had never made a feature film, to direct it. After scrapping together 200 million bucks, the project fell through. So Jackson gave Blomkamp 30 mil and told him to make whatever movie he wanted. Not bad.
Blomkamp decided to adapt a short film he’d made a few years earlier, about semi-friendly aliens that land in Blomkamp’s hometown of Johannesburg, into a feature length production. Setting his film far away from the Hollywood hills, Blomkamp stretched the 30 million into the hype-worthy District 9.
As we’re told, in extreme cinema vérité style, an alien spaceship parked itself directly over the South African city decades ago. Soon after it appeared, the government went in and sawed their way through the ship, only to find a million malnourished aliens in desperate need of help.
They put the aliens, soon dubbed Prawns for their shrimp-like appearance, into a quarantined section of the city, known as District 9. Present day, a commonplace government worker Wikus (newcomer Sharlto Copley), is sent into the alien slum to inform them that they will be evicted to a new settlement, District 10. On his day-long spree of serving eviction notices, something goes very very wrong for Wikus, thus giving us our film. To tell you what happens is to ruin the fun, so I urge you to go find out.
District 9 turns from a gimmicky, humorous sci-fi delight into some serious drama with badass effects to boot. It’s a wonder how Blomkamp stretched that 30 million to deliver such awesome effects. Shit blows up, limbs are forcefully removed, guns are a-blazin’, the whole shebang, yet I can’t figure out why this film looks so much better than Transformers 2, and for so much less money. I suppose quality of film and quantity of money aren’t linked after all. Who knew?
You haven’t heard of anyone who stars in the film, but don’t worry, Copley is stunning in a desperate role, making great use of his bombastic range of emotions.
Not a sci-fi fan? Me either. Which is great, because Blomkamp has proved that you actually can make an intelligent science fiction film (which most contemporary filmmakers have forgotten). One that is multifaceted with noble causes and entertaining drama. Still not convinced? You may be in the dark soon enough, as I’m sure there will be a District 10. B+