“Peter Jackson Presents” is a bit of a cop out, as although his fingerprints can be seen on District 9, all of the credit should go to Neil Blomkamp for producing what is by turns a funny, exciting and thought-provoking Science Fiction Film that seems like a throw back to when they used to make you think. That this is the first full length film that he has produced, and that the principal lead is not a trained actor makes it all the more extraordinary.
Aliens arrive on Earth and are ghetto-ised in Johannesburg is the starting place for a film that never falls into the trap of shouting “Look, segregation is bad!” but instead points out some of the problems (crime, disenfranchisement etc.,) that it creates and the way that displaced people are manipulated for the agendas of others. There’s a subtlety to the way that it’s all done that hasn’t been done for a long time, which makes it all the more refreshing.
The faux-documentary thing has been overdone a little of late – for every Cloverfield there are a rash of similar films that don’t understand the format. District 9 breaks the format a little (no documentary crew would be able to participate in the way that is filmed) but then it isn’t tied to it as part of the plot. Nothing is a certainty in the film and the fate of pretty much every character remains an unknown until the very end.
On the strength of this Blomkamp’s second feature may well be worth a look.
Back to Jackson – his fingerprints are clearly over the design of the aliens (nicknamed “Prawns” in as insulting a manner as possible. Careful attention has been paid to the way they move to make them as alien as possible whilst still being a recognisable form, with this design also carrying over onto their technology. This basic care means that even with a limited budget (under $30 Million) the digital effect work sits flawlessly alongside the more old school physical effects.
Elsewhere there’s a satisfying yuck factor to the levels of gore that the film descends into at times – fingernails fall off, bodies explode in a cloud of thick red mist and the (anti) hero becomes progressively more beaten as the film continues. The edge is taken off the gore with a sense of humour – the astonishing end sequence features a very different use of a pig than is normally seen.
Very much recommended.