What's often lost in summer's rush of big-budget, action blockbusters is the fresh vision of a dreamer.
More often than not, studio action films don't start with a story to tell but a concept—a concept for big explosions, thrilling sequences, and big box-office gains. Last year was an exception: Big, studio-driven franchise vehicles (The Dark Knight, Iron Man) were fueled by story and character. But this summer, the big-budget, big box-office action blockbusters are pulling up empty. The genre's lone fresh breath has come from an out-of-nowhere alien movie made by a rookie director from South Africa.
The story behind District 9 is fascinating. Based on some short films he made, Neill Blomkamp was chosen by producer Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson) to direct his film adaptation of the video game Halo. Five months into preproduction, though, the studio canned it. The young director was devastated until someone suggested that Blomkamp—and the team assembled to make Halo—just make a different movie, his movie. Blomkamp started writing, Jackson financed it, Sony eventually picked it up, and the result is what a Chicago Tribune article humorously dubbed "the world's first autobiographical alien apartheid movie."
The movie begins as a supposed documentary about District 9, a refugee aid camp built for aliens who arrived on Earth almost 30 years ago. We learn through news clips, interviews and other assembled footage that when their massive space ship appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa, humans expected an attack or a message from a higher intelligence. Neither came. Eventually, humans made the first move which led to an encounter of the third kind unlike anything we've seen in alien-invasion films. ...