The Joe Cornish-directed alien invasion film Attack the Block has landed at Comic Con. Though it’s on the small end of the budget scale when compared to summer blockbusters, it may very well turn out to be the best bang for your buck in 2011. After receiving praise at SXSW and earning critical supporters both in England and stateside, Attack the Block is now only one week away from limited release in the states. The involvement of executive producer Edgar Wright and Big Talk Productions, known for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, have led many people to draw direct comparisons to these movies. However, I think that while Attack the Block might have the same popcorn appeal and light-hearted character as these other films, it stands apart from them in many other ways. Hit the jump for my thoughts as well as a Q&A from Cornish, Wright and principal actor John Boyega.
Attack the Block, which is Cornish’s directorial debut, is about a group of anti-hero youths in South London who make a living through petty theft and, eventually, drug dealing. Their normal routine is interrupted one night when a meteorite crashes into a nearby car, having brought an alien life form with it. After they deal with the initial threat, all hell breaks loose as dozens more meteorites fall to the Earth, all within the confines of their block. I won’t go into a full review here as we’ve already posted two:
However, I want to make a few quick points and tell you how much I absolutely loved this film! If you’re a fan of vintage monster movies like Critters or Tremors or the cheap-scare slasher movies like Halloween, you’ll find something you love in Attack the Block. If you miss the days of kid-centric adventures like The Goonies or even E.T., you’ll get a sense of nostalgia when watching this movie (more than I did from Super 8, at least). If you like a high concept plot with social commentary, expert pacing and flawed characters (District 9 comes to mind), then you’ll appreciate this film. In a sense, Attack the Block samples the best parts of these different genres and puts them in a package that just works. The young cast rarely has a moment of overacting and you really get the sense that they’re just having fun and doing what they’d normally do…if aliens landed in their neighborhood. The creature effects were unique, at times frightening and practically achieved throughout the film, which stands up against CGI nine times out of ten. Add to it all a soundtrack that drives the action while ratcheting up the countless moments of tension and Attack the Block becomes a near perfect movie, coming in at a lean 88 minutes.
If I have one complaint about Attack the Block, it’s that Cornish didn’t allow quite enough time to develop some of the characters a little more fully. He slows the action just enough to let Moses (Boyega) or Sam (Jodie Whittaker) make some comment about social injustice or the necessary evils of living in the slums. While these scenes work, I would have welcomed another minute or two here or there to give these characters a bit more depth.
After the screening, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and John Boyega took some questions from the crowd. Or rather, Wright gave audience members direct questions for Cornish and Boyega to keep the session moving along. The most interesting questions revolved around Cornish’s inspiration for the story and his focus on social injustices between the police and lower-income residents. Cornish basically said that his inspiration came from the neighborhood he grew up in and that the cast was acting how they would on any normal day, just in the presence of abnormal events. Cornish also stressed that he prefers to use ambiguous and flawed characters in his films because they don’t coddle the audience and they show that any person, anywhere has the capacity for doing good or doing harm.
Cornish mentioned that it was important to him to use practical effects for the creatures in Attack the Block because they move in sync with human actors much better and that difference comes across on screen. (In my opinion, the creatures were great and had enough uniqueness to them to earn a spot in my memory next to Graboids and Dementors.)
While I could talk at length about all the things I loved about Attack the Block, I’ll leave you with these final words: go see it! Go laugh and get scared and root for the hero! Then tell everyone you know to see it too!
Click here for all our Comic-Con 2011 coverage.