D9 reviews to add to your background reading

Here is a review of District 9 from Variety:

Upon the ashes of his aborted “Halo” vidgame adaptation, producer Peter Jackson has erected “District 9,” an enjoyably disgusting sci-fier set in and around a rubble-strewn war zone where extraterrestrial refugees have taken up indefinite residence. Better conceived and executed than one might expect from a low-budget rebound project, this grossly engrossing speculative fiction bears Jackson’s blood-splattered fingerprints but also heralds first-time feature director Neill Blomkamp as a nimble talent to watch. A viral campaign reminiscent of the more gimmicky “Cloverfield” should draw hefty hordes initially, but positive notices and buzz will be required to sustain a B.O. invasion.

Shot and set in Blomkamp’s native South Africa, “District 9” imagines a present-day scenario in which humans and aliens are forced into an uneasy co-existence and, predictably, bring out the violent worst in each other. As scripted by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, the result reps a remarkably cohesive hybrid of creature feature and satirical mockumentary that elaborates on the helmer’s 2005 short “Alive in Jo’burg,” borrows plot points from 1988’s “Alien Nation” and takes its emotional cues from “E.T.”

The film’s faux-verite visual style, however, is very much a thing of the present, blending handheld HD camerawork with ersatz news coverage (complete with CNN-style text scrolls) and talking heads, plus actual archival footage from local news agencies, so as to suggest an urgent dispatch from the front lines of an interspecies war.

The introductory 15 minutes are swiftly paced, making modest demands on the viewer to keep up with the jiggly aesthetic and the particulars of the premise: Twenty years ago, an enormous spaceship came to rest over Johannesburg, now a sun-scorched urban wasteland. Since then, the ship’s inhabitants, referred to as “prawns” — four-legged insectoid beings that walk upright, secrete black goo and speak in subtitled grunts and gurgles — have been moved into the titular ghetto and placed under the control of Multi-National United, a private corporation bent on cracking the secrets of the aliens’ ultra-powerful weapons.

Read the rest here.

This one is from Guttersnipe:

The story goes like this: District 9’s director, Neill Blomkamp, was set to direct the film adaptation of Halo. Halo’s producer, Peter Jackson, had faith in the fledgling director, whose resume thus far was a string of commercials and shorts based on the Halo universe. But when it came time to get to work, the studio ran out of money (and, some say, faith in the untested young director).


And then Blomkamp, a Vancouverite who’d spent his childhood in apartheid-torn South Africa, gave Jackson the script for District 9: A grandiose, Johannesburg-set, film expanding on his own short, Alive in Joburg, about aliens coming to earth and being forced into slums by a frightened populace. Jackson said yes, signed on to produce, and set about creating the aliens in his New Zealand Weta workshop (Jackson’s Industrial Light & Magic; the birthplace of many a Lord of the Ring orc and Gollum).


The result could have been catastrophic: an unknown director helming a huge genre film – with a long and storied blockbuster tradition – that doesn’t have a bankable star nor a Washington, DC or NYC backdrop. Nor do the aliens come ready to war. Nor are there muscle-bound heroes.


Instead, at its heart, District 9 is a grand apartheid allusion – and for those of us only semi-familiar with South Africa’s murky past, the feeling of disconnect from the subject matter and lack of a sense of place (I had never seen the Johannesburg skyline before, never mind spent two hours keening my ear towards that accent) only further works to help hit the points home: Why does the human race shrink from or rail at difference? What does it mean to be “alien?” Are we not alike, deep down? Is cruelty easier to perpetrate (and stomach) if the victim does not look like us, speak like us or live like we do?

Read the rest here.



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