SDCC: Fans call District 9 the next Blade Runner

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Peter Jackson's first-ever Comic-Con appearance guaranteed that Hall H would be packed Friday night when he came to discuss District 9, the upcoming sci-fi action drama he produced for fledgling director Neill Blomkamp. But just as important as what happened inside the auditorium when the two presented a preview clip was what happened outside afterward—the buzz from thousands of fans anxious to talk about what they'd just seen.

The consensus: They were pleased that the duo had delivered an intelligent sci-fi flick that had a message mixed in with the action.

"It looked like it actually had a story and it wasn't just totally focused on the effects, which is good," said Tom. "Of the previews I've seen here, that looked not only the most intense but the most well-written and well-acted."

According to Joey, "It's got a sci-fi appeal to it, but it's also got very dramatic aspects that I can relate to as far as an underlay of being stereotyped, and prejudice, so I think the story as much as the whole sci-fi aspect is going to make for a really good movie that anybody can enjoy."

"I liked the focus on the social context," added Monique. "And they used that as the foundation for the science fiction to be placed on, rather than just 'What can we blow up today? And then let's make a story to round it out.'"

But don't get the impression that the movie's message overwhelms the excitement.

"I thought it was going to be about the alien as the new minority, showing how we treat minorities," said Karla. "So I was surprised it's going to be more action-packed. I'm looking forward to seeing it."

Mary said that she was pleased to see "real science fiction for a change. Isaac Asimov would be proud. ... It's not a space opera. It's not bosomy babes bouncing off of situations. It's real people, it's real acting. ... We've got real bug-eyed monsters for a change, instead of imaginary bug-eyed monsters. They're insectoid, they're not humanoid, so it's a totally alien concept. One of my favorite books was Murray Leinster's The Spiders, in which humans contact arachnoids."

"It looked a lot like Cloverfield," said Mark, a point echoed by a number of audience members. Others thought that an unfair comparison.

"I compare it more to a movie like Children of Men," said Marni. "It was more of that style to me."

"So you feel like it's a documentary," added Michelle. "But you don't feel like it's a bunch of kids running around New York with cameras."

As for how District 9 ranked with the other film previews people had seen, according to Robert, "I saw Avatar yesterday. I think I'm anticipating this more than Avatar."

"I'd say it ranks number two for me, at least from the ones I saw today," said Jamiellin. "Legion blew me away. That was my favorite of the trailers I've seen, and District 9 was number two. I liked the documentary style of it. It looks like it's going to be really intense, and I liked that it's got a bigger message as well as the sci-fi and the action. I was X-Files fan, and the conspiracy thing is always an interesting aspect."

One audience member had actually gotten a chance to see the entire film the night before.

"I saw the whole thing," Jeremy Canceko. "I thought it was really amazing. My jaw was literally dropped the whole time. I wasn't alive during Star Wars or Blade Runner, but I would imagine that's the kind of feeling it was like. I really felt it brought a whole new generation of filmmaking. ... [Blomkamp] used all these inspirations from previous directors. You see Cameron, Cronenberg, George Lucas. You see all these great directors in it, and you can see all his inspiration, and maybe a few homages, but he's really making it his own. I feel that if it doesn't get a critical and box-office reception that it rightly deserves, it's going to be the worst upset ever. I think it's a film that deserves a lot of credit and a lot of acclamation, because I really felt it's that strong. ... It's an awesome collaboration between Peter Jackson and Neil. It's going to bring the whole sci-fi genre to a whole new level."

Of the dozens of people interviewed for this piece, only one had a negative comment:

"It was too violent for me," said Cathy. "There's a lot of blood and guts all over the place. I'm not a big blood and guts person."