One of the biggest things coming out of this past weekend’s Comic-Con was the new film District 9 from newcomer Neil Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. All through the weekend there were an endless number of tweets that all said things that were along the lines of “this movie is f***ing sweet!” Now some legitimate reviews have come in from the two big Hollywood trades and they seem to echo the Con-goers’ enthusiasm.
Justin Chang of Variety praises the film for its ability to blend the classic sci-fi attitude with modern filming techniques:
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.
He goes on to point out that the film is not about creating fear like so many science fiction movies attempt an fail at:
Though compelling throughout, “District 9” never becomes outright terrifying, largely because Blomkamp is less interested in exploiting his aliens for cheap scares than in holding up a mirror to our own bloodthirsty, xenophobic species.
Chang also has high praise for newcomer Sharlto Copley:
Copley makes the most of the only substantial human role — and not an especially likable one at that — with a twitchy, blustery, shifty-eyed performance of ferretlike intensity. Dropping F-bombs in Afrikaans-accented English, he ably conveys not only Wikus’ physical transformation but also his mental deterioration and subsequent moral awakening; it’s to the pic’s credit that when Wikus is shown on the battlefield, his half-mutated body covered with festering wounds and alien protrusions, he has never seemed more profoundly human.
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter calls the film “a genuinely original science fiction film,” which is a phrase we haven’t heard in far too long. He also praises the character development of the central human character:
What the film runs away from though is well-rounded characters. Wikus stands alone as the only fully developed character, a human who has little choice but to become a traitor to his own species. Everyone else leaves a fleeting impression, and the film’s villains are too cartoonish. When the decision is made to harvest Wikus’ organs — by his own father-in-law, no less — there isn’t even a hint of a moral dilemma.
His review ends with some of the warmest praise that a movie can get:
Maybe no one thinks straight in the blur of events. Most of the action takes place over 74 hours. Blomkamp catches its frantic activity with all the raw authenticity of a documentary, egged on by the rhythmic drive of Clinton Shorter’s magnificent score.
“District 9” is smart, savvy filmmaking of the highest order.
Consider my interest in the film further piqued. District 9 will be released in the U.S. on August 14, 2009.