The obligatory "District 9 did not make enough teh money!1!" thread

District 9 is to Apartheid as Aliens is to the Vietnam war. The story parallels are there both obviously and in more subtle ways, but you don’t have to know that or care to enjoy the movie for its own sake.

Two of the major reviewers allready raved about it on FB, so I think it will be recieved well and there’s quite a bit of advertising on bus stops now.

Did people really find the allegory to be that pervasive?

Yes. Absolutely. I admit, I’m not enough of a South Africa history buff (read, not at all) to know EXACTLY what events they were referring to, but it was very clear that the events were heavily inspired, and they made no attempt to hide that.

A friend of mine wrote an interesting blog about this movies message to the film industry.

So, years of trying to figure out what audiences want has inevitably led studios to produce that which clearly, most people don’t actually want. Beyond a clever embracing of the so-called “geek culture” in the last 10 years, Hollywood, though I am loathe to use that term, has done little to adapt to the changing market conditions. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away, and the fact is, changing technology is increasing the power of niche demand. What things like the internet and on-demand cable have brought into the minds of consumers is a democratic slant on choice. The power is slipping out of the grasp of content distributors, and merely wishing for the days when 5 studios controlled theatrical distribution and 3 networks ruled television broadcasting isn’t going to change the fact that those days are over. People now want to choose exactly what they want to see, not what you tell them they can watch. What does this mean for studios? It means they have to stop making movies intended for everyone to want.

Ehhh it’s more likely Hollywood will walk away with their usual lesson. “Hey, this film did pretty good, can we crank out 10 more just like it in three years?”

The blog author seems to have barely discovered what I think most have known since, well, forever:

Genre movies have never needed big stars to make bank. The genre is the star.

The other thing he gets wrong, imo, is thinking that not being able to make consistent money with big budget movies, while making easier profits with small budget flicks means fewer big budget movies.

Yeah, everyone says that. I’m sure they said that after Cleopatra(w/Taylor & Burton) came out and didn’t do so well.

The fact is that you can score huge amounts with a big budget hit(it takes money to make money). That guarantees there will always be gamblers willing to roll the dice for the ultimate score. Sure you can risk $30mill and make $100mill, but many would rather risk $200mill to try and make $600mill.

D9 financial success is because it’s genre(ie cheap), and it delivers on what it promises audiences in the ads/trailers. The genre movies that don’t make a lot of money are the ones that leave audiences somewhat disappointed. Drag Me to Hell for instance, I think Sam Raimi horror fans were let down. I liked it, but I think it’s because I was prepared for Army of Darkness where I get the impression most other people were expecting Evil Dead.

Someone who knows more about the movie biz can better comment, but I am sure studios expect many of their big budget releases to be flops or break even. They then attempt to make it up with DVD sales or whatever. They probably have a ratio they use to determine what is a good year. All they need is one or two big budget hits, I would think, to offset a year of poor showings and moderate successes across all movies no matter what the budget size.

I still plan on seeing it in theaters, I just haven’t had the time yet. I saw Ponyo last night. and I have District 9, Time Travelers Wife, and Inglorious Basterds on my list to see in the coming weeks.

Not reading the thread due to spoiler-fear (though honestly, I’m guessing spoilers don’t actually exist for this movie). I don’t know much about movie profit or whatever.

(ponyo had 6 people in the whole theater, 3 of them in my party. moon and hurt locker had at least 50 each.)

Well, not spoilers as much as exposition that can ruin some of the tension, excitement and natural development of the story.

Yeah, but as mentioned above, you can say the same about Aliens and Vietnam, but at no point does Aliens feel like a message film.

For me the core bits of D9 were the casual racism displayed by the well-ish meaning bumblecrat, and the look in the eyes of Wikus when he takes a final stand. It’s about that journey, really.

Not sure that I like District 9. It feels like an absolutely modern movie to me, full of hateful characters, oppressive violence and outlandish sci-fi extremes mashed together. Everything is obscured by paranoid shakey cam cinematography and in the end people learn nothing, they remain selfish and petty. “Humanity” belongs to cartoon characters (the prawns in this case) alone. The lead character is a racist and he never has any great moment of realisation about this. Instead he is forced to co-operate with the prawns because he is becoming one. He makes no attempt to become an arbitrator, the solution to his problem is apparently to kill everything in his way.

It has something to say, I can appreciate that, but it’s also utterly and completely cynical on every level. Especially toward people.

I don’t believe it’s about a journey that Wikus goes on. It’s a complex justification for an action movie that uses a collection of sci-fi/video game weapons, aliens and a Ghost in the Shell robot suit. I think Neill Blomkamp is much more concerned with creating images that combine nerdy sci-fi stuff with the real world than he is with making a super-meaningful movie. It’s an action movie afterall, it doesn’t let up to give the viewer a chance to think or to dwell upon what they’re seeing. It moves too quickly for that.

If this is the modern version of an introspective movie about the “inward journey” of a character learning not to be a racist then I PITY Humanity. That doesn’t mean I don’t value the movie however. It’s insanely impressive that it was made for $30 million. It’s impressive that he managed to get such an outlandish concept produced at all. I also appreciate that it has any meaningful content to think about when G-Force and Transformers 2 are it’s contemporaries. But for me District 9 is still about guns and particularly harsh violence and I don’t see why that’s entertainment unless people are deeply sick in the head. It’s not a fun experience for me, it’s oppressive and it makes me feel like shit… and I’m not sure it’s worth it.

I don’t think anyone that was sitting in the theatre with me last night is going to go and “do something” about Apartheid because they saw District 9 because it offers nothing to aspire to.

Bite me.

I don’t think anyone that was sitting in the theatre with me last night is going to go and “do something” about Apartheid because they saw District 9 because it offers nothing to aspire to.

The fact that apartheid ended in 1994 would make that even more unlikely.

Your reaction to the movie brings to mind a quote at the beginning of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry:

I think one of the things you are missing is that there are humanitarian efforts on the part of ‘the people’ to see that these aliens are well-kept and treated humanely, but to most people outside the scope of the problem all they see are the brochures and spins put on the situation by the governments and weapons groups serving as a fire wall between those who say they care and the aliens themselves. They are told that things are being taken care of, and they buy into it. Anybody with a heart is kept isolated from the problem, and given a televised (propaganda) documentary about how nice MNU is for relocating all these poor souls to a much better place outside of town.

The only people directly involved in the situation are those who will follow orders and serve the best interests of the controlling parties. This is intentional.

Sounds like reality to me.

Even when Wikus is Half-Prawn, and has been in a foxhole with Christopher in combat, his casual racism still convinces him to sell out Christopher with a shovel. Only in that moment when he is in the mecha, does he have a true change of heart. It’s not the biological change, but it’s when the look in his eye changes, when Wikus decides to mean something absolutely, willing to surrender his life to save Christopher. That’s the moment. When the weasel takes a stand. That’s what sells it completely.

… I dunno.

Maybe I need to watch it again but I didn’t notice any character in the movie ever saying “Hang on… maybe these aliens have SOME humanity. Maybe we shouldn’t treat them like shit.” Instead we get scenes where Christopher Johnson pleads with the humans to not harm his son and the humans simply ignore him or use the child to threaten him.

It’s very easy to pity the prawns, because they have many traits that make them relatable (like caring for their children). This element of the film is VERY obvious and Hollywood-like. But the humans in the film completely miss these obvious human traits that are totally obvious to any idiot watching the movie. Therefore I have to conclude that the director’s perspective on people is deeply cynical, if he can’t imagine a human relating to the aliens. Simultaneously he has more love for his fictional creatures than he does for other people.

Everyone is willing to sell out everyone at every point of the movie EXCEPT at the very very end when the violence is over. Up until that point all humanity can be traded for one extra moment of selfishness.

Anyway… as I said, I don’t dislike the movie… I’m not sure that I like it alot, but I appreciate elements of it at least. I’m just asking myself why such a cynical piece of work passes for mainstream entertainment these days and I can’t come up with a good answer. It’s obviously a modern thing… or atleast a current thing. Even the Batman movies are relentlessly dark and violent. So what is it about that kind of dystopian vision of a despicable, treacherous humanity that appeals to people right now? I don’t necessarily see the point to glorified violence and gothic attitudes.

As for the final moment of Wikus having a change of heart, I wasn’t sold at all. It was a tiny coda attached to an extensive scene of mindless (but impressive) action. If the director’s priority was to sell the fact that Wikus had changed for the better then he would have spent far longer on that moment. Instead he decided that it was more important to blow up people. The story of Wikus having a change of heart is the secondary story. The primary story is a justification for action scenes and sci-fi devices… which isn’t a problem. I like action movies plenty, but I think it’s a mistake to say that the message about racism is primary to the story.

Children of Men was a much more thoughtful movie in that way, District 9 is primarily an ultra-stylish modern action movie, inspired by video games and anime, that uses a documentary like presentation to sell special effects.

Well, if you notice, despite the incredibly heavy-handed allegories involving district six, they weren’t played out explicitly. Just left hanging in the background, informing you. The primary story is all about Wikus and how he changes, physiologically versus mentally. That’s the point. It’s why the film ends with the crafted trinkets for the wife. All of the aliens, the shooting and the mecha were just tools to get to the point where the hybrid Wikus changes over from self-serving toady to someone who actually cares. The whole fact that his physical transformation occurs at a different pace than his mental transition only underscores the point.

I’m not sure there’s a heck of a lot of evidence to support that he cares or has had much of a fundamental change in outlook. Pretty much everything he does in the story is self serving, including going back to save Christopher.

I disagree. I think there’s a point where he realizes that he a a bumbling bureaucrat, realizes he can’t even keep his promises to his wife, who he seems to love more than anything, and decides to die in the service of Christopher. As I said, you get to the “This far, no farther” line without it actually being said in Stewart Patrick’s Shakespearean fashion. It’s just a loook in his eye. It’s why he catches the RPG, but doesn’t throw it away before it explodes. He know he wants to protect, but has a very limited idea of how to do it. Shovel to the back of the head Wikus would have never caught the RPG, but “Fuck It” Wikus does. That’s the key.

That’s an interesting bit of navel-gazing, but he’s reading an awful lot of tea leaves in the success of a single film. There have always been modest little films which do surprisingly well at the box office, but I doubt any of them caused a paradigm shift in Hollywood. Similarly, big-budget bombs have been around for a loooong time yet Hollywood has never given up on making big-budget films. And on the flip side you have a film like Hurt Locker: fantastically well-reviewed, great word-of-mouth, yet its box-office total is barely $10M (though its per-theater gross for the first couple weeks was quite good).