First Wolverine, then Transformers 2, even Harry Potter was a disappointment. This summer gave me the blues and each year I find myself getting more and more depressed by summer’s end. Growing up in the Midwest, for me summer wasn’t about going outdoors, hitting the beach, pool or skateboarding, it was about that one major movie that was going to rock my summer. I remember films like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park changing my life, and spending the entire summer talking with friends about how cool the “big summer movie” was. I brought the toys, the collecting cards, the McDonalds/Burger King toys or even the collector’s cups – I became consumed by the film. It just doesn’t happen anymore and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m older or if movies just suck ass now. While Hangover and Drag Me to Hell were great flicks, they hardly can be considered summer blockbusters, and I keep struggling to find that one film that consumes me the way Spider-Man did back in 2001. While my hope kept dwindling, everything in me was revived thanks to the Peter Jackson produced sci-fi thriller District 9.
My recommendation at this point would be to stop reading and go see the movie, simply because the less you know will only add to the experience as a whole. But for those of you who need to know more, the basic plot follows an extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth that suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.
Peter Jackson has been developing the Halo feature film with Neill Blomkamp, who ended up getting behind the camera for District 9 as nearly a time killer. What he delivers is quite possibly some of the most remarkable and jaw-dropping special FX ever used in a feature film, along with a look that defies its (reported) budget. The scope of District 9 is massive as we’re taken through a continually escalating plot that gets larger and larger as the film progresses. This is all thanks to a beautifully crafted screenplay co-written by Blomkamp and Terri Tachell.
While the story is a reflection of the hard times our planet is going through, the duo doesn’t kick it in the viewer’s face, nor preach at them. It simply gives them a direct relationship to the film that immediately grabs their attention. The story itself builds and builds until a thrilling climax that is guaranteed to have you cringing to turn on your cell phones and Twitter about the experience (yes, you’re a nerd). But the real reason the writing duo deserve a massive gold star (or smiley face sticker, whatever you prefer to give them) is the development of their protagonist. I wish I could scream this from the rooftops – a lesson that should be taught day in and day out at film school – what makes a good protagonist is ensuring that he is fallible. There is absolutely nothing worse than following a character that is perfect in every way (especially good looking) and indestructible. There’s nothing to lose. Every character should be modeled after Ripley from the Alien films and John McClane from Die Hard. InDistrict 9, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a hard working “everyday” man, just trying to move up the corporate ladder. While trying to do his job, which by the way makes him look like a real stickler, he contracts a virus that starts transforming his DNA into the alien’s DNA. He is thrust into a situation he can’t handle and doesn’t want to be part of and is forced to become a hero to save himself and the aliens being prosecuted. The audience learns to love him, and by the end of the film you’re not only rooting for his plight, but you’re also praying for the potential destruction of the human race!
It’s a remarkable film that’s fresh, invigorating and inventive. It takes many queues from classic filmmaking while creating it’s own identity. District 9 is movie making perfection that stems from one obvious ingredient – heart. While Sam Raimi continues to produce garbage with his Ghost House Pictures (Boogeyman, Messengers, The Grudge – sans the exceptional 30 Days of Night), Peter Jackson has shown that he is determined to produce quality films, along with making his satchels of cash. It’s understood that investors want to make their money back, but wouldn’t it be a better world if that was done by making a good movie instead of making one that is generic, and appeals to all audiences?
District 9 is hands down the best film of the summer and has made me love movies all over again. It’s engaging, explosive, and pure nonstop awesomeness – it’s what big summer movies are supposed to be. Drop everything and go see this, I guarantee satisfaction.