Tomorrow will see the nationwide release of one of this summer’s most anticipated movies – J.J. Abrams’ alleged homage to Steven Spielberg of old, Super 8. The film centers on a group of white kids in a small Ohio town in the 1970s whose adventures into film-making with their Super 8mm camera are interrupted by a train crash carrying an alien life form. Naturally, chaos reigns in the aftermath.
But there’s another “alien attacks” movie also centered on a group of kids coming soon to a theater near you (hopefully) that you may not yet be aware of, but really should be. And this one is of special importance because its story features that rare onscreen occurrence in which the alien, or aliens in this case, invade a predominantly urban (read: black) neighborhood.
The film’s tag line, which you can read on the poster above, says it all: “INNER CITY VS OUTER SPACE.” Or, as I like to refer to it: the “Aliens attack da hood” project. For once, right? They almost never do! And the often vilified, bureaucratically-victimized young black boys and girls who live in “da hood” actually save the day for a change! It all sounds quite revolutionary, doesn’t it?
Sarcasm aside, the film I’m talking about is a British-produced horror movie titled Attack The Block, brought to you by the producers of the hilarious zombie spoof Shaun Of The Dead, and the not-so hilarious graphic novel adaption of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.
The movie, in brief, pits a group of mostly black kids against an invasion of alien monsters, turning a an inner city London tower block into a fortress under siege, and a ragtag group of armed teenagers into heroes.
Since its North American debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival this past March in Austin, Texas the critical and commercial buzz around the movie has been near-deafening. It was released in the UK last month and although it has a North American distributor, an official release date for those of us on this side of the Atlantic has yet to be announced. Given all that I’ve heard and read about the movie (from film critics and general audiences) it sounds like perfect summer fare – an exceptional combination of spectacle and story. You’ll get the thrills and chills, but also plenty of heart.
Here’s a small sample:
“… enormously appealing debut feature, “Attack the Block”… Pitched as “inner city vs. outer space,” pic sees a quintet of teen street hoodlums defend their tower-block home in the projects from an invasion of shaggy-haired aliens with Day-Glo teeth. Set over one wild night in South London, this zero-to-hero tale will play gangbusters in its native Blighty before a rich ancillary career.”
“Attack The Block Could Be The Best Action Movie Of The Year… finds a balance in scope to keep the action moving while showcasing the brilliant, hilarious and realistic teen actors. There’s a surprising amount of smaller-scale, alien attack action in Attack the Block and Cornish’s crack team of make-up and visual effects artists pull out all the stops. The film is quickly paced and never lets up… The result: an alien invasion where you actually give a damn about the folks being invaded.”
And from IndieWire:
“The violence is frenetic and visceral, but Cornish shoots these sequences with clarity and intensity, suggesting he’s an action director ready to bloom. And if you live by the adage that 90% of directing is casting, then Cornish’s job was fairly easy, as a group of total unknowns completely carry this picture. Credit must be given to the young John Boyega, a possible future star, who plays Moses, the de-facto leader of the pack. Boyega has a face that reveals both anger and strength in regular doses, the type of attitude that just cannot be taught in acting classes. As such, our designated hero, Boyega, with an expressive upper brow that reflects the character’s intelligence beyond these circumstances, is believable as both a defiant tough guy and as a teen who theorizes that the aliens are a government program meant to eliminate lower-class citizens. He’s compellingly watchable.”
As the last snippet notes, the cast of Attack The Block comprises of mostly unknown actors who bring a realism to the film, ensuring that, despite its fantastical tale, remains fairly grounded.
And the last line about the aliens being government inventions meant to wipe out the working class, indicates some political and allegorical subtext, speaking to a universal and warranted paranoia amongst black people that’s rooted in a mistrust of government, and people in positions of power in general. History is littered with incidents that instruct those fears.
Taking all of the above into consideration, Attack The Block is a film we should all be watching for down the road. There has even been excited talk of an American studio purchasing the film’s remake rights and producing a Hollywood version of it!
Let’s hope Sony Pictures does release the original first, and soon, rather than shelve it in favor of an Americanized version of the movie.
So, after you’re done devouring popcorn and smoothies at the theater this weekend, watching a group of white kids take on a nasty extraterrestrial in Super 8, get ready to “Attack The Block” sometime later this year… we hope.
The film’s trailer follows below for those who’ve yet to see it:
Tambay Obenson is editor of Shadow And Act on the indieWIRE Network, which can be found at http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact.