What Is Peter Jackson's 'District 9?'

As any of you avid Peter Jackson fans out there will know, Peter's had his eye on a newcomer called Neill Blomkamp for a couple of years now - to the point where he was once the frontrunner to helm the promised Halo movie. What has he directed before, you ask? Well, nothing actually - at least not on the full-length feature film front. He's directed some short films (including the series of Halo shorts known as Landfall), but apart from that he hasn't done anything cinematic.

Well, word has been floating around for over a year now of a mysterious new sci-fi alien film entitled District 9 which will be produced by Peter Jackson himself. Who's directing it? That's right, you guessed it... Neill Blomkamp. Not much was known about this project when it was first announced (via the viral marketing that was presented at Comic Con last year), but at ShoWest recently, Sony revealed some footage for it.

Before we get to the details about the footage itself, let's take a look at the general stuff about the film. It is based on Blompkamp's short film called Alive in Joburg, and the general gist of the plot is as follows (thanks to our friends over at

The concept involves aliens who have landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, and are living as refugees there. It has a very Cloverfield feeling to it, and is shot like a documentary, following around the MNU (essentially, the local government-run police) who are trying to keep them contained in certain areas of the city.

FirstShowing got a chance to see the footage at ShoWest, and so give us the following detailed description:

The footage started out like any typical documentary on third world conditions and refugees, with locals talking about how they don't like them. Above the city a giant alien space ship sits dormant, which is what they originally arrived on. But what are their intentions? Well, in one scene where we finally see the aliens as the MNU police attempt to tell them they must leave their shanty home, they find some sort of odd device. It's not a weapon, which is what they're usually all about. But in looking at it, it explodes and some liquid flies into the face of the man holding it. He's taken to a hospital and things begin to go crazy.

The aliens, which we got a few glimpses of, reminded me a lot of the Turians from Mass Effect. They were much taller than most humans and came in different sizes and colors. We saw some actions scenes with explosions and the MNU police attacking the aliens, but all in small scale (a lot like 'Cloverfield'). And that liquid that sprayed into that guy's face - it turns out that it starts converting him into one of the aliens. The rest of the trailer plays out with scenes of him going crazy and bleeding black liquid and being strapped down to a hospital bed while he starts to mutate. And that's really all we were shown so far.

Wow, it sounds like something pretty damn awesome. I'm intrigued by the combination of an alien invasion film done in that documentary, perhaps even "Blair Witch Project" style. We got some of that recently with Cloverfield, but some "monster movie" enthusiasts might say not nearly enough. What's surprising is that it seems to go a totally different way than normal alien-involved movies do by concentrating less on huge special effects and more on the results of these mysterious aliens interacting with the humans - what threat do they pose to us in this particular alien story, if any?

That part about an odd device that sprays some sort of converting spray on a man's face that causes him to appear crazy certainly sounds interesting. Maybe it's just seeing the premise and details as described, but it sounds like it has the potential to be pretty out-there.

Want some more details on the film? Well, there's a website that's been launched for it which is insanely detailed and well thought out. Even though word is that this film has a small production with an even smaller cast, it's still strange to see it have so much time and effort put in without more details emerging by now. You'd think with the type of film that it is, and with just who the producer is, that they'd be bombarding us with marketing by now.

The image above is a screen grab from the "Human" menu page of the official site (you can choose that or the "Alien" option - which is similar but with a different, more sinister voice over tour). That's just a taste of the creativity of the very slickly designed website.

It's hard to know what to make of a movie when all you have to go in is some tidbits about a little bit of footage that was shown, some viral marketing images (one of which is shown below) and a mysterious website. Nonetheless, I am very intrigued to see how this one turns out - who knows, it could be a lot of hullabaloo over nothing, but the amount effort that seems to have gone into it, not to mention the fact Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson is producing it, that seems unlikely.

One thing that seems strange is that Blomkamp is directing (as well as writing it, along with first timer Terri Thatchell) this sure-to-be-a-big-deal film. Despite the fact this is based on his short film, let's face it, he hasn't really directed anything full-length before, so I'm just wary that such a project has been put in his hands. However Jackson seems to have taken a shine to him as a filmmaker for some reason, and taking into account just who Jackson is, there's simply gotta' be a legit reason for it.

Blomkamp could very well blow us away with his full-length feature film debut, and I'd welcome such a thing with open arms... but I'll believe it when I see it.

Screen Rant will keep you up to date with this one as more stuff gets released, but for now what are your thoughts on it? Are you like the sound of what it's all about?

To help you out on that front, you can visit the District 9 website here, but beware, you might get sucked in by such things as all the snazzy info signs and the thorough tour. But be sure and come back to tell us your thoughts!

District 9 is currently scheduled for an August 14th, 2009 release.


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