It seems kind of unusual for one of the best films of this (or any) summer to be released in mid-August but I for one am grateful that District 9 waited until this past weekend to land in theaters; otherwise, and largely thanks to big budget, big name, ultimately big disappointment blockbusters like Wolverine, this spectacular sci-fi movie from producer Peter Jackson may not have found the audience it deserves. It could very well have been lost in the summer’s cinematic shuffle. I’m so glad it wasn’t.
I’m admittedly terrible at providing neat synopses of films but IMDB’s sums up District 9’s storyline quite succinctly: “An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.” Sounds like a heartstrings-tugger (and to some extent it is) but don’t be fooled. Additionally it serves up some kick-ass action sequences, insane CGI effects AND provides the audience with a Hollywood summertime rarity: THOUGHT-PROVOKING ENTERTAINMENT. Simply put, District 9 delivers the goods on many levels. Go figure.
Speaking of figures, it’s fascinating to me how an amazing sci-fi action flick like District 9 could cost a mere (by Hollywood standards, at least) $30 million, something it easily made back in its first weekend domestically ($37.4 million), when in wrong—er, I mean other hands (and/or featuring an over-rated, over-priced star) it could have easily have had the same budget as other sci-fi summer options as Terminator Salvation ($200 million budget, a disappointing $125 million domestic box office) or one of my other unexpected fave flicks of the summer, Star Trek ($150 million budget, $256 million domestic box office). Even if District 9 “only” makes $100 million domestically, it will still be considered a big hit. It’s all about the bottom line…
It’s true that one of the refreshing things about District 9 is its ability to effectively tell a story without the assistance of a huge budget or big paycheck star; The Hangover ($35 million budget, $266 million domestic box office) is also a shining example of that. I’m reminded that the talent behind the camera (ie: screenwriters, directors, editors, cinematographers, composers, etc…) serves as much (sometimes even more) of a vital role than the so-called talent appearing on the silver screen.
I’m sure to some industry people that concept is as alien to them as the inhabitants of District 9.