ShoWest First Look: Blomkamp & Jackson’s District 9

Day 2 of ShoWest in Las Vegas kicked off with a special presentation from Sony Pictures, showcasing their Summer 2009 line-up, but among the new and previously-released footage shown, the clear standout was the first look at footage from Neil Blomkamp’s District 9, produced by Peter Jackson, which comes out on August 14.

Not a lot has been revealed about the plot of the movie except that it deals with aliens living among us, but the film clearly has a feel not unlike Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men if it were mixed with Men in Black. (Incidentally, earlier in the presentation, Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution, mentioned that another installment of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ “Men in Black” series is on the way, probably shooting for 2011, along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 and a third installment of “Ghostbusters” that had already been in the pipeline.)

The District 9 footage opens with an aerial shot of slums that look not unlike the Brazilian favelas from City of God with various people being interviewed as they talk negatively about immigrants (seemingly) with taglines stating “They are not accepted” and “They are not welcome.” The footage, mostly shot using handheld camera to make it look like a documentary ala Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, continues for a few minutes before it cuts to a shot of an enormous alien spacecraft flanked by helicopters hovering over the slums and the next title card reads, “They are not human.” (“Human” is colored in red for added effect.)

A voiceover tells us that this slum is District 9, an area where aliens have been separated from the humans after arriving there 28 years ago, since people are still scared and can’t trust them. We then meet Sharlto Copley’s Wikus, a government agent with the “MNU” (Multi-National United) traveling into District 9 with a number of armed men. He knocks on one door which has a piece of paper stapled to it, the door opens and there’s a large insectoid alien creature with a face that looks somewhat “Predator”-like. Lucas tells him that he has to leave. Yes, apparently, that’s an eviction notice on the door, but the creature is not too happy about it, squealing at the men then leaping up to the rooftops.

A little later, Wikus is showing some alien weapons to the cameraman filming him and among them, he finds a canister with alien writing on it, something he’s never seen before. He doesn’t think it’s a weapon, but he then accidentally sprays himself in the face with a black substance from within the can. He’s doing another on-camera interview later and black stuff starts coming from out of his nostrils, and we learn from the voiceover that he’s become infected by alien biotechnology, as government scientists begin to study and probe Wikus, knowing that the biotech within him is an invaluable discovery. They seem to be less concerned with his survival, as they are about harvesting from him anything they can.

We then start to see Wikus changing and evolving into something more like an alien, and he is talking face-to-face with another older-looking alien creature about how he’s starting to see first-hand how they’ve been treated and he’s going to do something about it. These aliens look very cool, by the way, CG for sure, but more insect-like than the typical “little grey men.”

The latter part of the footage involves a bit of action, more shots of that giant alien spacecraft and way too much to keep track of, but it was all cut together using familiar music from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (Godspeed You Black Emperor’s “East Hastings”). In fact, that’s probably another viable comparison that could be brought to the mix, as this seems like a similarly intelligent twist on an overused sci-fi genre that deals realistically with how humans might interact with aliens among us. Wikus looks to be our eyes into this world, a human who suddenly finds himself changing into an alien and discovering what they’ve had to face all those years. The footage ends hauntingly with him saying, “I want everyone to learn from what’s happened here.”

Earlier, it was announced that there would be a teaser or trailer appearing very soon, presumably with Angels and Demons in mid-May.

District 9 opens on August 14.

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