It chills my blood to report the box-office results for the weekend. American moviegoers have chosen to throw love and money at a bunch of talking guinea pigs and hamsters (G-Force) and a Katherine Heigl romcom gone piggishly wrong (The Ugly Truth). Instead of dwelling on the invasion of the summer brain snatchers, I’d like to point to good news that happened on the weekend. At San Diego’s Comic-Con geek fest, producer Peter Jackson offered fanboys a sneak peek at District 9, an alien movie that delivers all kinds of awesome. Jackson and South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp have made District 9 a monster mash that trades in —get this — ideas! Of course, District 9 also goes seriously whupass on your nervous system, as a spaceship stalls over Johannesberg for three decades and its alien inhabitants are segregated, exploited and denied inalienable rights.
I’ll do a full review as District 9 nears its nationwide opening on August 14th. But know this: D-9 will sneak up on you. And I’m not just referring to the subtext of racism and xenophobia that comes from Blomkamp’s roots in South Africa. The movie is as rich in character as it is in thrills. You’ll be wowed by Sharlto Copley as a government agent infected with an alien virus. Copley’s heart-rending tour de force deserves comparison to the miracles Jeff Goldblum performed for director David Cronenberg in The Fly. And to me, that’s high praise. District 9, with a chump-change budget of $30 million, soars on the imagination of its creators. This baby has the stuff to end the movie summer on a note of dazzle and distinction. Wait for it.