District 9 is the newest look at a potential alien invasion from a new vision of cinema. American aliens tend to go either the Communion route or some H.R. Giger derivative. South African Neill Blomkamp devised a more insectile visitor from another world for D9.
Blomkamp's District 9
“I knew that I wanted them to be insect-like but that was only after a lot of design and experimentation,” Blomkamp said. “There’s one thing about the film which is that their society and the way that the aliens operate on earth is dictated by this kind of pyramid hive structure that they have. So if they are more like a termite hive and you remove the top of their society, they’re different to us biologically in that they have no sense of guidance. They’re like drones, right? So they’re actually a different biological society. I really liked that idea because it’s just a cool science fiction kind of idea. So the idea is they arrive on earth and the operational ends of their society have died off. So that is by nature very insect-like or ant-like.”
The South African government isn’t exactly hospitable to the visitors. They segregate them in ghettos and even plan to move them to camps. Easy to persecute bugs, right? “I really wanted to stick with the idea of them being insect-like but also obviously, because of the nature of the film, you have to sort of empathize with the alien characters. That threw a whole other, like a spanner into the works because now all of a sudden, they have to be alien but then you have to empathize with them so they need that human psychology of the face that we can recognize or that we can at least extract the emotions from. The\y probably have to be anthropomorphic. They can’t be like a dog shape or a cow shape. So that’s how the design came about but it wasn’t easy. It was quite a long process. I also was trying to be aware of what I thought would work well in the visual effects realm with a kind of limited budget, which is typically like hard surface stuff. You can put dirt on it and it reflects light well.”
Most of the film is set in the district, with a sojourn to the government facility and a brief look at the alien ship. “I think everything we came up with was pretty much designed to work within the sort of perimeter that we had said. But that doesn't mean that we weren't thinking about big ideas. Everything felt attainable, I think because the film, even though the scope and the ideas are big they're kind of presented in not an epic way, it's kind of a smaller contained story with an epic background so I think, if you deal with it that way then most ideas actually become achievable. I guess a whole story on the mother ship probably wouldn't be achievable with our budget. Everything was on the table, everything. It was just whatever the best story is.”
Now after the hype of “Humans only” bus stops, Comic-Con’s preview and producer Peter Jackson’s endorsement, it’s time for District 9 to speak for itself. “Well, I’m excited. I’m nervous as hell though because I just hope it does well. Obviously, I guess every director just wants their film to be received well but I’m anxious and I want it to get out there and I just want to see how people respond to it, but the good news is I’m really proud of it which is as much as you can ask for.”