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Four out of Five Dangers
(DM) — When it comes to movie reviews, how do you top Alien as the top sci-fi horror ever? The answer is be original. District 9 is entirely unique making it modern classic sci-fi horror. Every disturbing element in production is authentic. This is a big achievement for a little film. You won’t believe this was made for a meager 30 million dollars. The story of how District 9 came to be is as interesting as the film! And oh yeah, we go there.
You’ll Be Amazed District 9 Was Even Made
Imagine you are three months into pre-production of one of the most elaborate movies of all time. It’s big, but not as well known as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but just as big.
Can you guess the film? Stick around for the reveal because this part of the story shouldn’t be interrupted.
Where were we? Yes, a huge summer blockbuster is being made and has everyone buzzing. Sizzle reels have been leaked, fanboys are excited…
Pre-production is well under way. Full on special effect props, even vehicles are made. Short films are produced to raise excitement! Then due to issues between the studios and the property owners of the story, the plug is pulled on the entire project. It really does fall apart. It’s over!
What do you do?
If you are lucky and smart you get District 9.
The Roots of District 9 Come From Alive In Joburg
District 9 is the child of 29 year old director Neill Blomkamp. District 9 is entirely based on the concept from a short video Alive in Joburg which Blomkamp directed and Sharlto Copley produced in 2005.
Both Alive In Joburg and District 9 are truly original ideas. Alive In Joburg is what elevates District 9 to sci-fi horror film to greatness — yes its genre is horror. When District 9 isn’t extremely graphic it uses inference. For instance in a scene displaying bodies being blow up, the action is so fast you are not left watching grotesque images.
What Major Film Got Scrapped to Pave the Way for District 9?
The film that paved the way for District 9 was none other than Halo. It’s a major blockbuster you never knew could have been made. You have to be a video game nerd to know this but it was based on the Bungee studios video game built exclusively for the Microsoft Xbox game consoles.
If you are aware of Halo’s story line it’s entirely possible to envision District 9 as the precursor to Halo. In the story Halo, earth is at war with an alien race. A back history question you could ask is what caused the war? Generally wars are provoked and story of District 9 could be that provocation towards an alien race that drives Halo.
The Peter Jackson Connection
Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson was slated to head up the Halo movie. He brought in Neill Blomkamp to direct. When Microsoft (owners of the Halo property) and Universal brought a premature and sudden end to the Halo movie (some say due to the big budget in a unstable economy) it left Jackson and Blomkamp knee deep in production assets. With Blomkamp’s unique storyline of Alive In Joburg in hand, the Jackson felt not only did he owe Blomkamp a movie, but the story was ideal.
A Unique Setting
While none of the weapons in District 9 are Halo weapons, a few are strikingly similar. Another ironic point is where the story takes place. In Halo the earth action takes place in a fictitious city of South Mombasa in Africa. District 9 takes its name from the holding area for an alien race that without reason bring a large mother ship to hover over Johannesburg South Africa.
District 9’s Original Plot
At this point District 9 takes on its own unique identity, one that offers movie goers something different to chew on with so many re-hashed stories in film today. The alien’s appearance is a cross between insect and animal.
They bring with them a clear superiority of fighting machines and weapons, but refuse to share that knowledge with humans for obvious reasons. Instead they opt to live out their lives in a forced segregation camp known as District 9.
A Fresh Face As Our Protagonist
The story revolves around the central character Wikus van der Merwe. He works for a weapons manufacturer and security force named Multinational United (MNU). MNU is hired to manage the alien race population who are stranded below their hovering mothership in Johannesburg.
Without crossing the line into spoilers, Wikus finds himself in serious trouble. It all happens because he was a company man taking on a task for MNU. The aliens he is hired to move about like cattle become his sanctuary and only hope for resolution.
During the story you find yourself both sympathetic to Wikus and upset with him as you witness his flaws. He is a simple man put in an extraordinary circumstance and a pawn to MNU’s greater goal of finding a way to enable humans to operate alien weaponry.
There is an element of political and human rights lesson within the story but it’s only used to drive the story. It doesn’t preach.
A Big Film on a Small Budget
The visual effects are stunning considering the budget was approximately 30 million. Perhaps it’s because the effects are used only when necessary and while District 9 is visually compelling the Computer Generated Illustration (CGI) is hardly noticeable. That’s a big plus in today’s film world. It could be that CGI has come along a great deal, or that Peter Jackson’s Weta team is just that much better than the Star Wars film crews.
District 9 Hits Top Film Status with a Great Ending
Another major plus for the story is the ending. In can serve as a pure ending or operate as a vehicle to a continued story. Continuation fits more than sequel.
District 9 is its own story and one that you can’t repeat. At the end of District 9, you know the true fate of Wikus is sealed.
If you’d like to get a taste of District 9’s remarkable setting, check out Alive In Joburg (short for Johannesburg).
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka
Kenneth Nkosi, Eugine Khumbanyiwa, Louis Minnaar, William Allen Young
Release Date: August 14, 2009
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Run Time: 1:52 (112 minutes)