CON: D9 screening!
If you'll remember about a week or so ago, I was lucky enough to invite 14 JoBlo readers (and their guests) to the first ever screening of DISTRICT 9 at Comic-Con. I just got back from that very screening and while I will refrain from giving a formal review at this point, I'll say that it's an incredible piece of filmmaking from a first-time director.
Peter Jackson quickly introduced the film and mentioned that he wanted to make a sci-fi film on a low budget but if this was a low budget film it looks as expensive as any studio blockbuster (it was in fact made for $30 million). I was almost positive that some of the alien shots were a mix of practical FX and CGI and was astounded to learn later that all the alien FX were 100% CGI. Jackson said they tested a practical alien but wound up cutting it from the film. But here you're getting FX that are as good as anything you'll see in TRANSFORMERS 2.
But to compare DISTRICT 9 to TRANSFORMERS on any level is completely unfair to D9. They are both summer movies but that's about where the comparison ends. DISTRICT 9 is a movie that's about something. I was worried that the "message" would get a little heavy-handed and dilute the fun factor but while the film certainly has a message, it doesn't bash you over the head with it. The tone is set early but for all the metaphors to pre- and post-apartheid South Africa, it's an exceptionally effective sci-fi/thriller/action flick.
As Jackson later explained, they knew they couldn't beat films like TRANSFORMERS 2 or GI JOE in scope, so he decided early on that he wanted to beat them at being R-rated. And that is pulled off to gruesome effect. There's a particular alien weapon in the film that...well, I don't want to give anything anyway but let's say the result is messy. But there is plenty of splatter and a number of decapitations, torn limbs and more to keep the genre fans really satisfied.
To help keep the budget low and allocate the most amount of funds to what you see on screen, the film's star is director Neil Blomkamp's college buddy Sharlto Copley who was allowed to improvise off a more generalized script. The film starts off with a very "Office" like/documentary vibe (with Copley even playing a vaguely Michael Scott character) before it settles into a more traditional film in the 2nd act. But Copley does a fantastic job and the fact that he's an unknown primarily improving his dialogue really helps lend to the authenticity of the film.
I'm not going to officially rate or review the film (we'll have that on the site soon enough) but it's right up there with the best films of the summer. If the summer wasn't already chock-filled with solid genre fare like STAR TREK and DRAG ME TO HELL, I'd say it was the best. But DISTRICT 9 holds it's own and, actually, comes off like a hybrid of both of those movies put together. Make sure you see it this August.