Aliens. Spaceships. Earthly invaders. They are themes that have been made into hundreds of movies — many ripping each other off in the most brutal ways. And while some might sit around wondering if life exists in outer space, others ponder a different question: Is there anything original left to say on the topic?
As a matter of fact, there is. Online buzz has been steadily building over the past few weeks for [movie id="372771"]"District 9,"[/movie] a staggeringly original slice of sci-fi that explores a scenario where aliens arrive on Earth — only to be enslaved by us. The E.T.'s are as creepy as anything in the "Alien" movies, the moments of levity are funnier than both "Men in Black" films put together, and it was made for about one-sixth of your average Hollywood blockbuster.
Currently earning a rare 100 percent "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes.com, it's the debut film from South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp — with a huge assist from producer Peter Jackson, who made the flick with Blomkamp after their movie adaptation of the "Halo" video game fell apart.
" 'District 9' is hands down the best film of the summer and has made me love movies all over again," Brad Miska wrote for Bloody Disgusting. "It's engaging, explosive and pure nonstop awesomeness — it's what big summer movies are supposed to be."
Yet the film — which opens Friday — was made for a mere $30 million. To put that in perspective: The sleeper hit of the summer was made for $170 million less than the underwhelming "Terminator: Salvation."
"Even in the movie's most conventional stretches, Blomkamp puts things across with terrific verve," wrote Scott Foundas of The Village Voice. "[He is] using action and computer effects to enhance, rather than trump, story and character."
The plot of the film is simultaneously simple and complex, thought-provoking and mindless entertainment. The aliens who invade us are too weak and stupid to take us over — so we put them in low-rent concentration camps, but the bureaucrat in charge begins to have second thoughts. To give anything else away would spoil the film, but what follows is fueled by eye-popping visuals, gut-busting depictions of alien invaders who seem like perps on a "Cops" episode and a heart-tugging finale.
"This is one intense, intelligent, well-crafted action movie — one that dazzles the eye with seamless special effects but also makes you think without preaching," wrote Christy Lemire, a critic for The Associated Press. " 'District 9' has the aesthetic trappings of science fiction, but it's really more of a character drama, an examination of how a man responds when he's forced to confront his identity during extraordinary circumstances."
To further amaze, go see the film and think about this: The star, Sharlto Copley — who begins the film like a goofy character from "The Office" and leaves it quite differently — is a first-time actor who ad-libbed virtually every line out of his mouth.
"With a vivid imagination and a taste for gore, Blomkamp dreams up a whole arsenal of alien weapons that fry, blast and dismember human beings in all kinds of awesome ways. The film uses faux-documentary footage, news reports and security cameras combined with traditional photography to create its own kind of realism," marveled Katie Rich at CinemaBlend. "It's impressive not just as a debut, but as a new example of how to use original sci-fi as a mirror to our own world, and without $200 million budgets and space battles or even hobbits. Peter Jackson took the money he made making a faithful and beautiful adaptation and has used it to fund something truly, remarkably original."
Check out everything we've got on "District 9."
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