If you guys don’t know by now I am very passionate about films, as well as its attributes . For one of my posts I decided to share thoughts about one of film’s greatest technological innovations, computer-generated images. In my post, I will be touching on the uses of CGI within Neil Blomkamp’s film District 9.
District 9 is a film about aliens who arrive on Earth, not to conquer or give aid, but to find refuge from their dying planet. Separated from humans in a South African area called District 9, the aliens are managed by Multi-National United, who is more or less unconcerned with the aliens’ welfare but will do anything to master their advanced technology. When a company field agent by the name of Sharlto Copley, contracts a mysterious virus that begins to alter his DNA, there is only one place he can hide and that is District 9. I find it interesting to see how movies use CGI in different ways in order to bring complex images to life. For example, in the film Jurassic Park, it uses CGI in a way to recreate our society’s idea of dinosaurs through gritty realism. By portraying how it may look or feel to be chased by a man-eating animal on-screen, gives more life to the film in its entirety. The movie feeds on the common fear that people have of being hunted and chased. I feel that this task is much easier in comparison to films like District 9, only due to that fact that we have found things like fossils throughout history, which makes it possible to generate and produce images of what a dinosaur would have actually looked like.
In District 9, I can appreciate the amount of effort it took to capture such realism through CGI because the images being used are merely based off myths and ideologies given to us by our culture. Throughout the history of movies, we have seen a shift in alien. For example in Steven Speilberg’s E.T., you are given an image of a small bald alien who looks almost harmless. In contrast, when we think of films like Alien Vs. Predator, we get an entirely different conception. In District 9, CGI was used in order to capture and establish a new perception of what aliens may look like. This can be a difficult task especially when dealing with the many other faces that Hollywood has given aliens. Visual Effects Executive Producer for District 9, Shawn Walsh, explained how they focused mainly on the shot sequence in relation to the CGI. “The goal was to create simultaneously natural and seamless shots while placing unnatural images within them,” stated Walsh, “ we thought, ‘hey if we can nail that cinema verity feel with something that’s obviously foreign in a shot, we have done our job right’.”
In addition to amazing CGI technology, District 9’s creative team explained that they were mainly focused on using unique camerawork to turn the movie into a much more “persuasive” science fiction film. They also discussed how they were told to not rely on CGI, but the elements that contribute to it, like the costume designs for the aliens. Referring back to Jurassic Park, the audience received images of fast moving, breathing, and ferocious dinosaurs. Ultimately, these images have no sort of basis or foundation in any photographable reality. However, in retrospect these movie experiences remains “realistic” to the viewers. Weta Digital Director Joe Letteri stated “viewers routinely make assessments about the perceived realism of a film’s images or characters, even when these are obviously fictionalized or otherwise impossible.”