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'I don't want to do high-budget films'
January 6, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Neill Blomkamp talks to the LA Times Hero Complex blog about what's next after District 9, making science fiction films and why he is turning down big budgets to make better movies: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
posted by Artw (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
And in case you haven't seen it already Tempbot. Which shows that Mr. Blomkamp is not a one trick pony.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:50 AM on January 6, 2010


Interesting that he mentions doing without effects shots, and the interviewer brings up Jaws as an example of what you can do when you don't want to see the shark because it can't be done perfectly. I've always said you could do a monster movie without a monster. All you need is a dark shadow and footsteps.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:06 AM on January 6, 2010


I liked this bit...

GB: There can be an interesting freedom in the restrictions, too, even though that sounds contradictory. If you look at “Jaws” and “Alien,” the limitations on the visual effects led to ingenuity and better films. And there are many films today that go wild with visual effects and it leads to entirely forgettable films.

NB: It’s so true. From a pure audience perspective, it may yield a more interesting result. Think of “Alien,” if they made it now you would probably get “Alien vs. Predator.”


Which, well, yeah.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also look at the works of Peter Jackson - I probably shouldn't dump on him because he's responsible for bringing Mr. Blomkamp to the party, but to me something like Brain Dead (AKA Dead Alive) is way more energetic and inventive than King Kong even though it was made on a fraction of the laters catering bill. That old Peter Jackson is probably gone forever now though.
posted by Artw at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2010


I watched DIstrict 9 a couple of days ago. It was pretty good, but kind of forgettable. You could see that the director has some vision though, so I'm interested in seeing what he comes out with in the future.
posted by elder18 at 10:35 AM on January 6, 2010


I think it completely depends on the subject matter. LOTR would have been completely lame without the Cave Trolls and Oliphants and Ents.
But that's fantasy, not Sci-Fi/Horror.

I did like M. Knight Shamalan's use of "can't see the alien" in Signs. Well, until the very end, but even then the creature was hard to make out and I think that made it even more creeptastic. He tried to do it again in Lady in the Water, but that didn't work out so well (mostly due to the subject matter I think).

Neill Blomkamp however is very good at using the "documentarian camera" to obscure the subject matter. You can't always get a properly framed subject in the field, so his use of shaky cam and other effects to deliver a realism that isn't found in other movies. Though were you to do that with other movies, like Alien or many of the other "great" sci-fi movies where they were limited on their effects capability/budget, you would end up with Cloverfield. Sadly, an unmemorable movie once you've seen it. I can watch Alive in Joburg over and over again though. So really it's about the story that is being told by the camera, not necessarily the effects.
posted by daq at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2010


Without having read it yet, what the hell is he doing in LA if he doesn't want to make big budget Hollywood films?
posted by spicynuts at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


These interviews certainly make it seem that Blomkamp has a good head on his shoulders. After leaving District 9 I felt that any push to make it bigger budget would inevitably end up rubbing out the magic he was able to weave with a smaller budget. I am really excited to see what he does next, and I am thrilled to see a South African pursue (moderately) challenging films!
posted by ghostpony at 10:50 AM on January 6, 2010


Artw: I keep hoping the old horror directors who have made it big (Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, etc.) will remember their roots and at least produce some good horror, but so far, it's been a bit uneven. Sam Raimi has his production company, Ghosthouse Pictures, but it's mostly produced crap, from what I can tell. Drag Me to Hell was pretty good, though, so he's still got the touch himself.

Peter Jackson hasn't done that much in the genre (although the touch of his horror past is certainly very noticable in his own recent work). I heard rumors that he was a big backer of Eli Roth's Cabin Fever around the time he was doing LotR, and that was a pretty crappy movie, on the other hand, he pushed Blomkamp a lot, so there's that.

To get back to the topic at hand, I think it comes down to knowing what works. Sam Raimi produces crappy horror movies because, although he knows what works for himself, he's not really able to spot the same thing in others. Lots of directors are like that, they work very intuitively, and that makes for poor talent at spotting what works in others.

Neill Blomkamp, on the other hand, seems to be very conscious about what he's doing and why it works. In some ways it reminds me of Cronenberg, who from everything I've seen has a very cerebral and analytical relationship with his work, which I think is also why he's been able to make the transition from externalized to internalized horror while maintaining much of the same philosophy and outlook.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:51 AM on January 6, 2010


spicynuts: It seems he wants to make moderate budget Hollywood films. LA is really the center of the universe when it comes to film, and 98% of it is not about the 100 million dollar plus blockbusters.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:57 AM on January 6, 2010


The surprise film of 2009 was "District 9," the $30 million sci-fi tale that was directed by newcomer Neill Blomkamp, the Johannesburg native who celebrated his 30th birthday the month after the movie opened wide.

Crikey? Just 30? I feel like a major slacker now.

Without having read it yet, what the hell is he doing in LA if he doesn't want to make big budget Hollywood films?

I believe Hollywood is home to much more than just big budget films. I'm sure there are other mid-range budget film hotspots, depending on what you want (FX pros, great settings with minimal hurdles, skilled professionals for a limited budget, etc), but I imagine Hollywood has it all. And when you're hot property, it would be great to have access to everything and the option to be picky.

LA is really the center of the universe when it comes to film

I'd be interested to see a comparison of other film/production hotspots. One source states Bollywood's revenue is still growing, where Hollywood is maxed out (April 22, 2008).

Neill Blomkamp however is very good at using the "documentarian camera" to obscure the subject matter.

I agree - I saw the film again recently, and it all felt natural, for lack of better word. The camera could be shaky, but never to the point where that took away from the subject at hand. I don't think there was that much that was obscured in District 9 (it was no Cloverfield), but it was more honest POV than many films. And the FX, computer generated or otherwise, blended into the live action really well. Part of that comes from advances in rendering of computer graphics, but also how folks reacted to whatever placeholder was there.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:03 AM on January 6, 2010


They’re remaking “Oldboy” too.

With Nicholas Cage, I hope. He'd be perfect.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:08 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


spicynuts: "Without having read it yet, what the hell is he doing in LA if he doesn't want to make big budget Hollywood films?"

I have several friends in LA who are making extremely low-budget genre films. It's the place to be for that sort of thing.
posted by brundlefly at 11:12 AM on January 6, 2010


I heard rumors that he was a big backer of Eli Roth's Cabin Fever around the time he was doing LotR, and that was a pretty crappy movie

Are you kidding? Cabin Fever was hilarious. I mean, I guess if you thought it was supposed to be serious, it's not good. Not all movies need to be "great" to be good.
posted by explosion at 11:13 AM on January 6, 2010


Drag Me to Hell was pretty good, though, so he's still got the touch himself.

Funny, until I got to your post, I was thinking that Drag Me To Hell illustrates the problem pretty well -- WAY too much cgi, and gleefully discarding anything scary in favor of a laugh or a little silliness. It's an After School Special version of Raimi. It's the director who made Army of Darkness and Spiderman, but who doesn't remember making Evil Dead 1 or 2, or even Darkman. It's a horror movie from someone who doesn't really like horror movies (yes, I'm aware he produces them, but those pretty much have sucked so far).

It hurt to watch, and had it not had the name Raimi attached, I'd expect that it wouldn't even have been remembered as a footnote in the genre.

Cabin Fever was much better at sustaining the horror feel, even while giving the occasional chuckle. In some ways, it was more Raimi than Raimi himself.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:20 AM on January 6, 2010


Really? I pretty much loved Drag Me To Hell. I actually kind of liked the way it seemed like an excercise in how much he could do and keep it PG-13, theres some proper "oh shit" moments and it had a nice vindictive spirit to it.

But I liked Cabin Fever too. I thought Roth was Quentin's protege?
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2010


I actually kind of liked the way it seemed like an excercise in how much he could do and keep it PG-13

From that standpoint, I can see your point -- it was an impressive PG13. I just wanted some horror from my beloved Sam.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2010


hmmm...my [/old&bitter] tag got deleted.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2010


coolguymichael: "Funny, until I got to your post, I was thinking that Drag Me To Hell illustrates the problem pretty well -- WAY too much cgi, and gleefully discarding anything scary in favor of a laugh or a little silliness. "

I don't think Raimi has EVER made a scary movie. Army of Darkness was a tonal departure from the first two Evil Dead films, but it wasn't a drastic departure. Raimi has always been more into comedy than horror, and it shows.

I enjoyed the bejesus out of Drag Me To Hell and thought it was a well-made ride in the vein of Evil Dead II. Not as good, mind you, but entertaining in the same way. If anything it had more scares.

Joakim Ziegler: "I heard rumors that [Peter Jackson] was a big backer of Eli Roth's Cabin Fever around the time he was doing LotR"

I don't think he was directly involved in that production. He was an early cheerleader for it, however. A blurb from him was used heavily in the film's marketing.
posted by brundlefly at 11:33 AM on January 6, 2010




spicynuts: "Without having read it yet, what the hell is he doing in LA if he doesn't want to make big budget Hollywood films?"

I have several friends in LA who are making extremely low-budget genre films. It's the place to be for that sort of thing.


Yes Yes, I know, I was being facetious.
posted by spicynuts at 11:40 AM on January 6, 2010


I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this whole Master/Padawan thing... On the one hand if that's the only way to get into film-making these days then it seems kind of wrong, on the other hand it seems to be resulting n people who actually make interesting and distinctive films.

I dunno, maybe it's always been this way.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on January 6, 2010




Regarding Drag Me to Hell, I thought it was pretty much standard Raimi, possibly toned down a little for the PG-13 rating. I mean, the only movie he's made that's actually scary to me is the original Evil Dead, and even that has funny parts. Evil Dead 2 is mostly funny with one or two slightly scary parts, and Army of Darkness is pure comedy. So Drag Me to Hell felt like vintage Raimi to me.

Cabin Fever, on the other hand, seemed to want to be taken seriously, and it was too ridiculous (and horribly scripted and acted) for that, but not funny enough (involuntarily or no) to be amusing. I also read an interview with Eli Roth before it came out, where he said some smart things, like how horror movies were unfairly stigmatized, and how lots of movies in the 90s that were billed as "psychological thrillers" or whatever were really horror movies, but then he went and fucked it up by saying that the essence of horror movies to him was basically 80s slasher movies, and how it was important that actresses were willing to show their tits.

And yeah, Peter Jackson's backing of Cabin Fever was mostly cheerleading, as I remember, but I think I read somewhere that he got the whole cast of LotR together on set to watch it, etc.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2010


Metafilter: rubbing out the magic.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 3:48 PM on January 6, 2010


I was thinking that Drag Me To Hell illustrates the problem pretty well -- WAY too much cgi, and gleefully discarding anything scary in favor of a laugh or a little silliness. It's an After School Special version of Raimi. It's the director who made Army of Darkness and Spiderman, but who doesn't remember making Evil Dead 1 or 2

Drag Me To Hell didn't discard scariness in favor of a laugh any more than Evil Dead 2 did. Evil Dead was Raimi's only pure horror movie --- everything else verges on comedy. I loved Drag Me To Hell. It felt like a true successor to Evil Dead 2. Army of Darkness felt like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Fun game: try to count the number of times in Drag Me To Hell that a non-food item leaves or enters a person's mouth.
posted by painquale at 4:27 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: I keep hoping the old horror directors who have made it big (Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, etc.) will remember their roots and at least produce some good horror, but so far, it's been a bit uneven. Sam Raimi has his production company, Ghosthouse Pictures, but it's mostly produced crap, from what I can tell. Drag Me to Hell was pretty good, though, so he's still got the touch himself.

Peter Jackson hasn't done that much in the genre (although the touch of his horror past is certainly very noticable in his own recent work). I heard rumors that he was a big backer of Eli Roth's Cabin Fever around the time he was doing LotR, and that was a pretty crappy movie, on the other hand, he pushed Blomkamp a lot, so there's that.

To get back to the topic at hand, I think it comes down to knowing what works. Sam Raimi produces crappy horror movies because, although he knows what works for himself, he's not really able to spot the same thing in others. Lots of directors are like that, they work very intuitively, and that makes for poor talent at spotting what works in others.

Neill Blomkamp, on the other hand, seems to be very conscious about what he's doing and why it works. In some ways it reminds me of Cronenberg, who from everything I've seen has a very cerebral and analytical relationship with his work, which I think is also why he's been able to make the transition from externalized to internalized horror while maintaining much of the same philosophy and outlook.


This is a really weird reading of Raimi and Jackson's past work. Jackson's horror stuff was always ridiculously cheesy and over the top comedy (he called it 'splatstick') and Raimi's stuf was played for laughs in all the Evil Dead movies. I don't remember any of them being remotely scary.

In fact, more than anything else, District 9 reminded me of Dead/Alive, in terms of the humor throughout and the way the story built up to a climax of action and gore.
posted by empath at 4:29 PM on January 6, 2010


empath: Oh, I know (although I first heard "splatstick" used about Raimi's work, I think). The first Evil Dead was mostly a horror movie with some funny moments (and I personally find parts of it quite scary), but after that, it's more comedy than anything. And Peter Jackson was always doing comedy.

But still, I think they come from a horror tradition, and they understand horror. As I mentioned, there's a lot of horror on display in Peter Jackson's later work, for instance, both in the monsters in LotR, and (especially) in bits of King Kong.

I think District 9 is a much more serious movie than any of Peter Jackson's comedy/horror, though, although there are very funny bits.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:41 PM on January 6, 2010


Part of me very much admires the documentary style of the first part of the film and wishes it could have continued as a sort of extended length Life in Joburg. Part of me just very much enjoyed all the zap-splode and gibbing, and squirmed with glee anytime anyone was 'sploded. From the interview it seems like he is very much a Director who knows to get the balance of those two thinsg right for me, and so I very much look forwards to seeing more from him in future.
posted by Artw at 10:00 PM on January 6, 2010


District 9 was about my favourite film of last year and my favourite sf film for years (and that's in a year that Moon came out). No only did it have an engaging story with actual rounded adult characters, the special effects were amazing and really did service to the film itself and did'nt just exist to look impressive. But above all District 9 was actually about something, which is really what science fiction should do.

One way I've heard that film makers can keep the budget down is limit the number of filming locations to the bare minimum... I noticed this in D9 the second time I watched in that a large amount of the film takes place in the camp.

I've heard a rumour that Avatar will get a Best Picture nod in the Oscars this year (to try an drum up interest they are extending the number of nominated pictures to 10). If it does, and D9 misses out, something inside me is going to wither and die.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:09 AM on January 7, 2010


Wow, I'm kind of shocked by the lack of critical responses here.

Did nobody else notice that District 9 didn't make any sense, had a totally ridiculous plot (see: not making sense), and an extremely annoying buffoon protagonist who gave exposition into a video camera because the writers had no better way to tell the background of the story (that still made no sense)? Whatever "serious" point the film was trying to make was lost in the fact that the rest of the movie was terrible.
posted by saladpants at 10:45 AM on January 7, 2010


I love the buffoon protagonist. I love how he spends the whole movie trying to pursuade the aliens to go to the camps, and then later he's all "oh, you don't want to go there, it's a concentration camp" which is nice of him to mention, and seems like a turning point for the character, but he's only doing it because it suits him at that moment, the shitbag.

I'm lest sold on the universal magic fluid though. It's a sign of how much I love the rest of the movie that i can forgive it a weakpoint like that.
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did nobody else notice that District 9 didn't make any sense

You are the only person so brave and observant.

I don't really see much that doesn't make sense, though.

(1) Space Okies show up.
(2) Space Okies put in camp, because we realize they're just Space Okies with little to teach us except through reverse-engineering their stuff.
(3) Humans want to put Space Okies far away, because Prawns are hard to live near.
(4) Wikus is involved in moving them.
(5) Wikus gets sprayed with alien magic crap.
(6) Wikus starts turning JapanesePrawn turning Prawn I really think so.
(7) Hijinks ensue; Hero Prawn wants to get back to the homeworld, CundaliniWikus just wants his hand back.
(8) Somewhere during the ensuification of the hijinks, Wikus stops being quite so much of a horrible little turd. A little bit.
(9) Hero Prawn goes back to homeworld with Hero Prawn Jr (the kids can call him HeJu); comes back a few years later better-armed and wipes out humanity.

There are some standard objections.

Why don't the Prawns know how to work the ship? Because they're aliens and don't; they can have whatever fucked-up education system or social order Blommkamp wants to give them. Maybe they're slaves. Maybe they're cargo. Maybe they're refugees. Maybe they're drone labor.

Why does Hero Prawn become Hero? Because he's an alien, not human, and Blommkamp can give the Prawns whatever biology and psychology he wants. In the commentary, Blommkamp assumes that something in the social hierarchy of the Prawns recognizes the lack of leader-caste Prawns and "promotes" some of them to leader-caste.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2010


Which might make the magic fluid some kind of royal jelly and give some kind of explantion to the various things it's capable of.

Er... we might want some spoiler tags in here. Spoilers! Spoilers everybody! Do not read text above or below if comcerned by spoilers!
posted by Artw at 11:50 AM on January 7, 2010


Did nobody else notice that District 9 didn't make any sense

You are the only person so brave and observant.

Apparently I am. Thank you.

When I watched the movie I was able to follow points 1 through 9 (except for the fact that we have no idea about the last clause of point 9 -- I assume that will be resolved in District 9 2 (District 10?)). I followed that the movie had a beginning and an end and I was able to follow the progression of events in between. However, just having a progression of events doesn't make a plot. The connection from one point to the next need to make some sense in a realistic world, and the occurrences in this movie to get from one point to the next are so far removed from anything realistic that they devolve into a senseless jumble.

Its been months since I've seen it, so excuse any factual miscues. If these concerns were in fact addressed or if I'm off the mark I welcome enlightenment (because I love sci-fi and really really wanted to like the movie).

Examples:

1. My biggest problem with the movie was that there is no explanation as to why Wikus's mutated alien arm could operate alien weaponry when the aliens themselves could not. There is absolutely no explanation as to why the aliens can't use their own weapons, and no hint that Wikus's arm differs biologically from other other arms. Even if it did, what is it about his hybrid nature makes the weapons work when they are designed in the first place for prawns? That does not make sense.

2. They apparently need alien goo to get their ship up and running. When we first meet Hero Prawn he is wringing out the last bit of alien goo, and he makes it apparent that he needs every drop of the goo to get away. Then Wikus spills half of it out, but the remaining half is somehow sufficient to power the shuttlecraft/ship away. If half that amount was sufficient, why didn't Hiro Prawn and Jr leave years earlier?

3. Improbable that given the mutual hatred and distrust between species, and lack of real contact in their every day lives, that so many people and prawns would have learned the others' language.

4. Wikus and Hero Prawn somehow manage to get from the camp--despite heavy guard and military peoples out looking for them--and sneak through the streets of Johannesburg right into the belly of the beast without any detection whatsoever, even though any other event that happens in the movie can be seen through a surveillance camera or helicopter. Beyond improbable.

5. The whole premise of the movie seems a bit off. The aliens have been here for many years and we don't know what to do with them and want them gone. The aliens want nothing more than to be gone, and now they have a way. There seems to be an alignment of interest that nobody seems to recognize.

6. If none of the alien tech worked, why/how did the shuttle craft go from the ship to earth in the first place? Given that its descent was detected anyhow, how could the prawns have hidden it so well so quickly before detection? Don't make sense.

7. How could someone so completely stupid and ill-equipped be put into the position Wikus is put into? I understand his father in law has a motivation to discredit him, but come on. Also, (a common complaint I have in movies like this) the people with the company are simply inhuman and become unrealistic caricatures with their brazen disregard for human life that runs contrary to the social fabric of the time in which the movie is set. (See also, Avatar.)

Note that none these objections are your "standard objections." While those are good questions to which an explanation would have been appreciated, they don't really bother me because they aren't really integral to the plot. Wikus's ability to shoot the guns when nobody else could is a KEY plot point around which the movie is based. And it's never explained. The prawns' inability to function and Hero's differences are all there on display and much easier to accept without significant thought because they aren't integral. I just assumed that Hero was a leader-caste prawn who managed to blend in with the drones (which, incidentally, makes more sense to me than Blommkamp's commentary suggestion), but it doesn't really matter.
posted by saladpants at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2010


1. My biggest problem with the movie was that there is no explanation as to why Wikus's mutated alien arm could operate alien weaponry when the aliens themselves could not.

You have to have some suspension of disbelief in order to make any movie work. It's very easy to say that the alien goo changes Wikus' DNA to the point where the alien tech recognizes it and starts working as designed. When you're asking "Why can't the aliens use their own weapons," I think you're asking, "Why don't they use them to take over?" And the movie clearly indicates that they don't because of their alien nature -- they're not the "warrior caste" so to speak.

2. They apparently need alien goo to get their ship up and running. When we first meet Hero Prawn he is wringing out the last bit of alien goo, and he makes it apparent that he needs every drop of the goo to get away. Then Wikus spills half of it out, but the remaining half is somehow sufficient to power the shuttlecraft/ship away.

Perhaps they needed X amount to create a critical mass that would activate its properties? Again, suspension of disbelief.

3. Improbable that given the mutual hatred and distrust between species, and lack of real contact in their every day lives, that so many people and prawns would have learned the others' language.

Funny that I notice that several hostile human cultures learn each other's languages...

4. Wikus and Hero Prawn somehow manage to get from the camp--despite heavy guard and military peoples out looking for them--and sneak through the streets of Johannesburg right into the belly of the beast without any detection whatsoever...

Suspension of disbelief. Look outside, quick! A 30 foot gorilla is climbing the Empire State Building...

5. The whole premise of the movie seems a bit off. The aliens have been here for many years and we don't know what to do with them and want them gone. The aliens want nothing more than to be gone, and now they have a way. There seems to be an alignment of interest that nobody seems to recognize.

No, one alien has discovered a way. And the humans want to keep them here, for their technology. They just don't want to spend money making their stay comfortable.

6. If none of the alien tech worked, why/how did the shuttle craft go from the ship to earth in the first place?

Suspension of disbelief. Look outside, quick! A giant lizard is attacking Tokyo!

7. How could someone so completely stupid and ill-equipped be put into the position Wikus is put into?

You don't have much of a story without conflict and flaws of one kind or another. In this case, it's Wikus' flaws that are interesting -- is this schlub going to be a hero? How will he rise to the occasion? Without flaws, you have Captain America.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:50 PM on January 7, 2010


saladpants: 3. Improbable that given the mutual hatred and distrust between species, and lack of real contact in their every day lives, that so many people and prawns would have learned the others' language.

I only found out last week that the alien dialog had subtitles; when I watched District 9 all of the alien dialog was completely untranslated. It seemed to me like Wikus, as he became more alien, became more able to *understand* while especially before his only interest was in saying whatever he had to say, so that he could say that he said it, and not really giving a shit about some bug-jabber.

To be honest, finding out that the whole thing was subbed and that they were supposed to be communicating in a mutually intelligible way really took away a whole lot of my enjoyment of the movie.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:53 PM on January 7, 2010


There is absolutely no explanation as to why the aliens can't use their own weapons, and no hint that Wikus's arm differs biologically from other other arms.

The explanation is that the prawns have very little agency. They can use the weapons (and, in fact, I'm pretty sure they're shown using them during the riot/unrest scenes at the beginning), they just don't.

Then Wikus spills half of it out, but the remaining half is somehow sufficient to power the shuttlecraft/ship away. If half that amount was sufficient, why didn't Hiro Prawn and Jr leave years earlier?

Yeah, this is a big plot hole. However, it may be explained by the emergency nature of Christopher's departure -- maybe he needed that much fuel to save all the prawns (i.e. to shuttle them all aboard, and to keep the humans off during the meantime), but for him and his son, the remaining amount was enough.

3. Improbable that given the mutual hatred and distrust between species, and lack of real contact in their every day lives, that so many people and prawns would have learned the others' language.

I disagree; humans and prawns were doing business in District 9, and business requires language. The simple fact that the prawns had something the humans wanted would lead humans to learn their language... and to be fair, neither the humans or prawns could speak prawn/human, only understand it somewhat (which is not all that hard to learn).

I'll give you 4, but hey, it's a movie. If Wikus could get away in the first place, it's not totally unlikely that he and Christopher could go back, especially since he knew all about MNU and its surroundings.

The aliens have been here for many years and we don't know what to do with them and want them gone. The aliens want nothing more than to be gone, and now they have a way. There seems to be an alignment of interest that nobody seems to recognize.

I think the main interest of the humans in power was to exploit the aliens, not to get rid of them. The everyday people wanted them gone, but the powers-that-be had a vested interest in keeping them powerless.

6. If none of the alien tech worked, why/how did the shuttle craft go from the ship to earth in the first place? Given that its descent was detected anyhow, how could the prawns have hidden it so well so quickly before detection? Don't make sense.

I got the idea that it was detected by looking at the tape after the fact, once it had already been hidden. As for why, who knows -- maybe Christopher's predecessor hit a button before he died, or set it to automatically drop once they got to the planet.

7. How could someone so completely stupid and ill-equipped be put into the position Wikus is put into? [...] the people with the company are simply inhuman and become unrealistic caricatures with their brazen disregard for human life that runs contrary to the social fabric of the time in which the movie is set. (See also, Avatar.)

Come on, we have people doing this sort of thing to other humans, much less aliens, right now. Besides, I thought it was pretty clear from the way his "subordinates" treated him that Wikus was not really in charge -- he was put there because his father-in-law was trying to advance his career despite the fact that he was a buffoon.
posted by vorfeed at 1:02 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. My biggest problem with the movie was that there is no explanation as to why Wikus's mutated alien arm could operate alien weaponry when the aliens themselves could not.

They could. We even see a prawn driving the power armor.

They just don't, because their psychology is alien.

2. They apparently need alien goo to get their ship up and running. When we first meet Hero Prawn he is wringing out the last bit of alien goo, and he makes it apparent that he needs every drop of the goo to get away. Then Wikus spills half of it out, but the remaining half is somehow sufficient to power the shuttlecraft/ship away. If half that amount was sufficient, why didn't Hiro Prawn and Jr leave years earlier?

Legitimate plot hole. Also I'm going to start calling him Hiro Prawntagonist.

3. Improbable that given the mutual hatred and distrust between species, and lack of real contact in their every day lives, that so many people and prawns would have learned the others' language.

I'll bet you a nice meal that during the apartheid era, the percentage of black South Africans who knew enough English or Afrikaans to get by was pretty high, as was the percentage of (white South Africans whose jobs put them in contact with black South Africans on a daily basis) who spoke at least one local African language well enough to get by.

4. Wikus and Hero Prawn somehow manage to get from the camp--despite heavy guard and military peoples out looking for them--and sneak through the streets of Johannesburg right into the belly of the beast without any detection whatsoever, even though any other event that happens in the movie can be seen through a surveillance camera or helicopter. Beyond improbable.

A mix of a legitimate plot hole and "they got in and out the same unspecified way the gangsters/warlords do."

5. The whole premise of the movie seems a bit off. The aliens have been here for many years and we don't know what to do with them and want them gone. The aliens want nothing more than to be gone,

There's nothing to indicate that the prawns, apart from Hero Prawn, aren't more or less satisfied living in a camp eating garbage. Again, they're aliens with alien psychology, and it seems that much of the time they don't really want very much at all. And, yeah, the powers that be don't want to magic antigravity things to go away until they're reverse-engineered.

6. If none of the alien tech worked, why/how did the shuttle craft go from the ship to earth
in the first place? Given that its descent was detected anyhow, how could the prawns have hidden it so well so quickly before detection? Don't make sense.


Mostly just a matter of piling shit on top of it.

7. How could someone so completely stupid and ill-equipped be put into the position Wikus is put into?

Heck of a job, Brownie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2010


One aspect of the weapons seems to be that it's produced for trade and valued on how impressive and fancy looking it is, rather than how useful, so the robot suit could actually be kind of like a lowrider.
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on January 7, 2010


I honestly appreciate the comments on my questions/critiques, some of which I still think are more than fair, others less so. I'm still caught up in the fact that many of the answers fall into the "suspension of disbelief" category.

In any sci-fi or alternate history that takes place on our planet, with people subject to the same laws of physics as real people in real life, the suspension of disbelief takes place in accepting the altered/alien premise--not in what happens once that premise is set forth. Here, I easily suspend my disbelief to accept the premise that an alien spaceship is floating above south africa and it carries bug-like aliens. I accept the premise that they are in camps because they have no drive or are not in the "leader" caste or whatever, I accept the premise that they have super duper awesome weapons (that they may or may not be able to use), and I accept the premise that they are being evicted to an even less palatable place.

However, my suspension of disbelief ends there. The rest of the plot must conform with reality, or at least within the reality as defined by the premise. To deviate from those rules means the writers can lazily make up any excuse or reason they want to get the story to a certain place. That's why I cannot watch shows like Alias or 24. They are ostensibly set in our world, but the laws of physics don't apply to the main characters. The failure to follow set rules of reality turns these shows into farce. I suppose the degree to which that happens in District 9 is debatable, but I'd say it falls way too far on the side of not reflecting the rules of reality for my taste.
posted by saladpants at 1:05 PM on January 11, 2010


You really shouldn't watch the new Star Trek movie.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on January 11, 2010


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