A movie with a first-time director and relatively unknown cast used a creative marketing campaign to snag the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend.
It’s not good news for big-name stars who have been nervously watching their clout diminish and the big bucks drift away.
“District 9,” the quirky sci-fi flick, took in $37 million; this according to studio estimates. Not a bad three-day take for a movie with a $30 million budget.
The film did have a well-known producer, Peter Jackson, who directed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. And it had director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp, who cut his teeth creating 3D effects on the TV show “Smallville.”
Blomkamp actually grew up in Johannesburg when South Africa was still practicing apartheid. He has woven a conspicuous political theme throughout his sci-fi tale.
Extraterrestrials in the movie live in destitution in a South African place that’s a cross between an Indian reservation and a ghetto. The not-so-cuddly E.T.s are about to be moved into what the main character calls a “concentration camp.” All the while the nefarious government busily carries out its clandestine agendas with assistance from some ruthless power drunk state officials.
Part of the film’s attraction may have to do with the political tensions we are experiencing in our current national climate. This is a film with political metaphors that invite audiences to take with them symbolic messages, which individuals can later reflect upon and find personal relevance; that is, someone may draw from the movie notions about the consequences of intolerance while another might view it as a parable about the dangers of the misuse of government power.
The marketing of the film demonstrated the fine art of buzz creation. Prior to its release there were bus bench ads that spelled out how the seating was exclusively reserved for humans. There were posters, too, asking citizens to snitch on the extraterrestrials.
The movie is rated “R,” and there are scenes that are definitely unsuitable for children. Other folks who are sensitive to violence may also want to take a pass.
All in all, though, for a summer sci-fi flick “District 9” does something unexpected for its genre. It makes people think.
And for that it deserves popcorn with extra butter.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a media analyst, teacher of mass media and entertainment law at Biola University, and professor at Trinity Law School. Visit: Newsmax TV Hollywood.
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