District 9 (USA/ New Zealand/ Canada/ South Africa, 2009)
Directed by Neil Blomkamp
Starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Louis Minnaar
IMDb Top 250: #210 (26/12/12)
In my review of (500) Days of Summer, I spoke about how film enthusiasts are always on the lookout for innovation, whether it be drastically moving the goalposts or taking something well-worn and presenting it in an interesting light. In the same week that (500) Days of Summer failed to live up to its hype as a modern-day Annie Hall, District 9 comes along and makes a much better fist of things. The result in an impressive, ideas-laden debut which displays great promise even as it falls short of greatness in and of itself.
Day of the Dead, or a more in-depth political commentary about the changing nature of state and police power. As it is, the idea is introduced to an extent that it makes sense, but it leaves us wanting a little more to chew on.
Aliens, Predator and RoboCop. The rough-edged documentary aesthetic was in part an attempt to move away from the glossy, slick look of modern action blockbusters. The end result is an interesting mix of the two looks, with the cutting-edge CG effects integrating surprisingly well with the grungy, dingy sets.
Alien and Aliens, from the scene of the alien eggs being burned right down to the shape of the mechanical contraption Wikus used to fight off the Nigerians. But by far the biggest influence on District 9 is the body horror of David Cronenberg. Much like The Fly, Rabid or Videodrome, the film focusses on the painful physical transformation of its main character, who undergoes the torment of gradually mutating into something a lot less human. The black sludge dripping from Wikus' nose, fingernails snapping off, teeth falling out and the ability to operate alien weapons are all used to drive home the scale and agony of this change, matching physical to mental deterioration.
Chronicle, it's a case of the ideas not being developed to a great enough extent, or of promising characters being married to a clunky or clichéd environment. Calling your multi-national organisation Multi-National United is downright lazy, and there are moments in which the conversations about MNU's secret programme drift into the sillier end of spy thrillers. Like Chronicle we could chalk this down to the inexperience of a first-time director, but surely someone of Jackson's calibre would have spotted these inadequacies and dealt with them.