ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 9/24/09
"District 9" is a South African SF film that is garnering mostly-good reviews, and good buzz. Made for a fraction of the cost of a normal H'wood effects film, and bullied in to wide release pretty much entirely on the strength of producer Peter Jackson's good name. Between it and "Moon" (Neither of which I've been able to see, dammit), the summer of 2009 has been lauded as a "Return to Thinking Man's Science Fiction." But is it?
Hell, I don't know. I haven't seen either movie, though I really want to see both, it doesn't look like "Moon" is gonna' go in to wide release any time soon (The nearest theater playing it is a three hour round trip for me), and repeatedly PITA logistical problems have cropped up to prevent me from seeing "District 9" every time I've attempted to go. That said, both of the movies would appear to be exactly what I've been yearning for: some SF built around ideas rather than just your typical cool-looking shoot-shoot-bang-bang-explode-explode stuff where boobtacular brunettes run in slomo in the foreground.
Curiously, though, the reviews of some of the people who's opinions I generally respect have been a bit 'meh' on the whole "District 9" thing. Our own Republibot 1.0 http://www.republibot.com/content/movie-review-district-9 didn't find it to be a bad film, but thought it was still unfulfilling, and let you feel that to be some kind of Republican crypto-fascist bias, the Big Dumb Object site over in England kinda' felt the same way http://bigdumbobject.co.uk/2009/09/district-9.html
What I'd wondered about for quite a while, though, was how Jackson got involved in this project, since he obviously feels quite strongly about it. I hadn't realized that the whole thing began as a short film made in 2005. Here's the details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive_in_joburg
And here's the actual short film itself:
If that link doesn't work, then just go here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDKI1tG8Gdk
Thing is, I like it. It's rough, there's some obvious CGI here, and a lot of the visuals appear to be pretty obviously inspired by other sources - the lumbering aliens in powered armor would seem to be derivative of the "Cyclone Armor" from Robotech, the big alien ships hovering over Johanesburg are straight out of the 1980s V, or maybe Independence day. Still, a lot of haunting images, particularly the power cables sticking up out of the ground.
It never quite finds its center, it's more like a demo reel for a concept than the concept itself, but it works pretty surprisingly well, don't you think? I can see why Jackson was smitten with it, and I do hope to someday see the movie it gave birth to.