5 Reasons Why District 9 Will Be Better Than Transformers 2

District 9

First off, full disclosure: The title of this post is both sensational and ridiculous. I have yet to see either Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or District 9, so my opinions in this piece are based solely on my own personal taste, the trailers released for these two films, and my reaction to the materials previously produced by the two directors; mainly being Transformers 1 and Alive in Joburg. Having said all that, let’s get to it.

You might be saying to yourself “What do Transformers 2 and District 9 possibly have in common that they’re worth comparing?” Well, seeing as District 9 will more than likely be crushed under the box office weight of Transformers 2, I do think they’re related; even if it’s in a Darwinian food-chain sort of way. Both are summer blockbusters dealing with aliens landing on Earth and subsequently being forced to co-exist with humans. Both utilize special effects to tell their stories. Both come from visually driven directors with backgrounds in commercials and music videos. Good enough? Didn’t think so. Either way, my reasons why District 9 will be better than Transformers 2:

1. Subversive yet Accessible

First things first; I’m not one to write off blockbuster films for the sake of them being blockbusters. I like to have fun in the theatres as much as the next guy. But hey, isn’t it great when a movie can be both fun AND smart?? Definitely. If it’s anything like Alive in Joburg (which I think it’s safe to assume it will be) District 9 should give us an interesting combination of cool FX, visceral action and interesting ideas. As for Transformers; based off of the first film and the Rise of the Fallen trailer, I’d say we’re looking at cool FX, confusing action and dumb ideas. I’ll take D9 to win.

2. Special FX

Let me explain here. SFX aren’t simply the art of making something look as realistic as possible. There should be some attempt to strive to create new and inspiring images, not just creating a tech demo for your company. Some examples? The tumbling dinosaurs in King Kong, or the creation of Sandman in Spider-Man 3. Both sequences probably aren’t the best example of superior FX from a technical standpoint, but I think they’re good examples of the use of computer technology to create interesting or even inspiring images. I’ll give Transformers the win for compositing and photo realistic graphics, but the images certainly aren’t inspired. Blomkamp’s short films alone feature more unique and interesting visuals. However, in the end, this is all personal opinion and I’m sure most people will simply argue that the effects in King Kong were shit. Oh well.

3. Social Commentary: Night of the Living Dead Style

Social commentary can at times be heavy handed and clumsy, but every now and again you get a filmmaker that comes along and successfully builds a story around an allegory and ends up striking a nerve. We all remember the ending of George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’, and the subsequent ‘consumerism’ message buried just below the surface of Dawn of the Dead. The Alien films managed to take on ‘corporate greed’ with some great success. District 9 looks to be following down a similar path. As so eloquently put by EyeGod, a commentor on our site:

“It’s my hope that this film isn’t purely allegory, but that it deals with the important issues metaphorically, with a primary emphasis on entertaining. Needless to say I’m extremely excited about what this means for the South African film industry…”

While I’m not really expecting any heavy social commentary from Transformers, the film seems to manage to do the exact opposite. It embraces everything the previously mentioned films attempted to attack; a giant commercial for toys, cars and the military.

4. Originality

How often is it that we actually get a summer blockbuster that isn’t a sequel or a remake? Pretty fucking rare, right? This alone gives District 9 points. And don’t worry, I’m not forgetting that district 9 is inspired by Neill Blomkamp’s short film ‘Alive in Joburg’. I just don’t think it really matters. Sure the story might be one we’ve heard before, but the approach is definitely fresh.

I’ve always thought the marriage of the cinema verite documentary style and horror worked extremely well. The Blair Witch Project, [REC] and Cloverfield are all great examples of using technique to directly influence storytelling. I think District 9 will bring this to a whole new level, incorporating seemingly real interviews manipulated to fit the story in a Borat sort of fashion. Science fiction fits quite well with this format.

5. Fresh, Young Talent

I can’t recall such a clearly talented first-time filmmaker getting so much unwarranted resistance stemming from a film that doesn’t even exist. You’d think with all of the people complaining about the lack of quality behind films based on video games, fans would be openly embracing the opportunity to allow a fresh, young filmmaker get his hands on a franchise. But no, the temptation to have an opportunity to complain about something and collect some google hits overrides any interest in supporting a new voice in the film industry. Here’s a great example:

“Remember Halo? When that nobody hack effects artist Neill Blomkamp was Jackson’s pick for director? The lemmings were all saying Blomkamp was awesome, but we had our doubts. Side note: If Blomkamp is that great of an potential director, why has he still not yet had a Hollywood gig since he is not busy on Halo?? Hmm…?” — Rodney, The Movie Blog

That came from a post about a Dune remake. Blomkamp is even slammed in regards to completely unrelated projects! Amazing. Thing thing is, I don’t care if Blomkamp hasn’t stepped foot on a feature film set (a fact I can’t corroborate), he has proven that behind the lens, he’s clearly got talent. His short film and commercial work is both inspired and original, which is something that can’t be said for some of the most experienced Hollywood directors working today. I’d much rather see Neill Blomkamp helm a franchise like Halo, which fits perfectly with his sensibilities and experience in FX. But If you think a director with 9 feature films under his belt is automatically a better choice due to his experience, I ask this; what if that director was Brian Robbins? Nothing is black and white.



  • Mr. Huh?

    nice post. I agree that D9 is going to be great, and a much better time than Transformers 2. I am a very big Peter Jackson fan.

    If its okay, since I saw you were posting on the Movie Blog thread about this, I wanted to show you something. I pointed out how that site doesnt like Peter Jackson very much, and suddenly I was being called an idiot (in violation of The Movie Blogs comments policy) and ended up on some Enemies List where I was somehow the one responsible for calling out the author for his words. The insult of “Idiot” is still on there, and my comments asking why are all awaiting moderation.

    I have heard that the Movie Blog owner does this habitually, and now I have proof:

    First response, then Jay’s response, then the Movie Blog owner/writer calling me names:
    http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/563/53381658.jpg

    my response to being called an idiot:
    http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/8373/16193125.jpg

    the site owner edits my comment and then I ask why:
    http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/9352/96574637.jpg

    I then get put on a ‘moderation’ list, effectively censored:
    http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/4743/73303039.jpg

    As I said, I am a big Peter Jackson fan and for years have heard him being insulted on TMB – i point this out and I am the bad guy.

    I should invite Mr. Campea here to where comments WONT be deleted to try and justify why he censors people yet feels justified calling Jackson/Blomkamp and commenters on his site names, breaking his own policy.

  • Mr. Huh?

    He finally responded to me there, and called me gutless since I use a fake email address and name. That is true. However if it is about guts I dont see why he would remove comments to begin with.

  • Mr. Huh?

    John also admitted that he had called Peter Jackson names many times before just now in that thread.

    If he acknowledges this, why would he censor someone for pointing it out?

  • Mr. Huh?

    I would like to thank my friend Mr. Duh for sending me this screenshot, showing further abuse of commenters by the site owner. It looks like I am not alone.

    http://img26.imageshack.us/img26/9393/johnvsandy.jpg

  • luke

    You’re an idiot.

  • I do find it hilarious that the Senior Editor at the Movie Blog thinks his commenting process is ‘clear as day’ but then he is clearly personally attacking (along with pointing out an error in reading) the commenter. Pretty hypocritical. I’m not allowed to comment at The Movie Blog due to my pointing out the chinks-in-the-armour in that policy (and ironically, i did this in an opinion piece about censorship!!). So Occasionally when something flares up over there, i can’t help but rubberneck. Ah Well. Back to work.

  • You could write an entire book about how that site abuses its own readers and writers. Anyone ever asked Serena why she left that site?

  • Captain N

    Is there a story as to why Serena left the movie blog, aside from just leaving?

  • We’re getting off topic, but there is no contest of which is more anticipated this summer. District 9 all the way. I won’t even be seeing Transformers 2, the first one was all I needed to know that that type of movie is not my cup of tea. Too much bombast, ludicrous story, etc. The worst of blockbuster filmmaking, I’ll take my THE FOUNTAIN, HULK, and WallE any day of the week thank-you very much.

  • AdamH

    I love how this has turned from a piece written by jay about transformers and district 9 to a bashing of TMB.
    Nice article Jay, I too am looking forward to an original film this winter/ your summer =P

  • I will actually see Transformers 2, and I don’t really have an extreme hate on for it. But there’s no question that District 9 is more intriguing and will likely be the better film. It’s just a shame that it will most likely totally bomb or suffer a severe backlash, possibly due to the Halo garbage.

  • AdamH: Thanks Adam! Definitely one of my most anticipated this summer, with Where The Wild Things Are following right behind in October.

  • Kurt, not off topic, a deliberate attempt to stave off a derail. Can’t blame ya, guy. I’ll be seeing both as we need a good film to roast on The Rotcast and we kind of gave the first Transformers a pass. We’ve been meaning to cover Eden Log on the show for a while, but I think we’ll save it to do a back to back review with District 9. Either that or Moon.

    As to why Serena left, neither she nor John made any public statements to her leaving at all and the only thing I ever read about it was her saying the experience (of writing for TMB) made her not want to be around negative people in her life. You can interpret that however you like, but since John has never spun her departure the way he did Richard’s, it says to me there was some sort of falling out.

    Most of the time the shit that goes unsaid is the most interesting.

  • Goon

    I’d rather see GI Joe than Transformers 2, even though that film is probably going to be much much worse. At least with GI Joe I’ll be getting new kinds of suck rather than the same suck I didnt like 2 years ago.

  • “I love how this has turned from a piece written by jay about transformers and district 9 to a bashing of TMB.”

    Actually this post exists because of TMB and it’s deliberate attempts at being “different” in bashing Blommkamp. Jay fought like a trooper over there to present a balanced counter argument, but you can’t get blood from a stone.

  • One of the main things that District 9 has to overcome is the fact that there are no stars in it… which is kind of necessary if the documentary thing is going to be believable.

    I’m actually kind of surprised they’re putting it out in the summer. It seems more well-suited for a January/February release (think Cloverfield).

  • Goon

    “I love how this has turned from a piece written by jay about transformers and district 9 to a bashing of TMB.”

    To be fair, the article does go after Rodney’s comments on TMB. In fact I’m pretty sure one of the reasons this article exists is because I think Rodney ended up deleting one or more of Jays replies to him there :P

    Great article. I’m totally sold on District 9 too. I dont care if there’s a Halo movie.

    I actually wish though they hadn’t released that unblurred trailer with subtitles. The blur mystery for some reason really stuck out to me as something great.

  • Goon

    Referring to that TMB thread that is in question – I have to say I surprisingly enough agree with John that this is a better start for him than a Halo movie.

    But not because Halo is some grand thing that requires experience and being eased into (I agree with what Jay said on the podcast about a simple character film being harder), but because since the studio and fanboys PERCEIVE IT TO BE, if he ever did make it, he’d probably earn more leeway from a studio and have less interference and thus make a better movie with his actual stamp because of it. And the fanboys would probably be on his side doing whatever they do that is somehow beneficial…

    if they actually DO do anything beneficial.

  • There’s no question that D9 is has gotten everyone’s attention. And it’s gotten it for a reason: it’s new, different, interesting and looks like it might have its audience actually having to think. Trans2 will be a bunch of explosions with nicely composited robots punching each other – even though it will be impossible to tell what is what and who is who.

    The only way I’ll see Trans2 is if I get in for free somehow. D9 however already has my money.

  • BTW – I still don’t understand what HALO has to do with anything. Who gives a smooth fart?

  • Sean,

    Sony must be banking Peter Jackson’s name, viral curiosity, and (if it’s any good) word of mouth to carry it through into September. I don’t think they expect it to be as front loaded as Paramount did with Cloverfield. Not a bad comparison but let’s not sink so far where we start analyzing the finances of a movie to death.

  • Goon

    If TMB is actually going to be more active again, they’re going to spend the whole summer licking up and hyping Transformers (again) and anything with D9 will insert a Blomkamp dis somewhere in the post or comments.

    Who’s going to tell me that its D9 that deserves the cynical attitude?

  • Yeah, the no stars thing is definitely a problem in terms of getting people out to the theatre. Although, did Cloverfield really have ‘stars’ per se? I think it was the concept that sold people on that film. Although, maybe that whole idea is passe now?

  • Goon

    with Cloverfield there was a lot more mystery and viral appeal (it seems retarded saying those words, but really) yeah, the marketing helped it big time.

    Cloverfield got turned into an event movie by its marketing, whereas this is really relying on looking very very good.

  • Halo fanboys have the same kind of hubris as, well, Transformers fanboys. I know John is not some big gamer (he probably bought his WoW character from one of those atrocious sites TMB now associates with) but he knows how to piss off a fanbase. Look how much time he spent devoted to Dragonball. If he wasn’t financially motivated to be “controversial” he wouldn’t give *as big* a shit. He’d be just another man-child nerd with an opinion.

  • AdamH

    Sorry if I didn’t know the complete history of the thread at TMB, it just started annoying me that noone was commenting on Jays article.
    Goon in reference to you wishing that they didn’t release the unblurred and subtitled trailer, that’s exactly why I didn’t watch it. Im becoming more conscious of how much information about upcoming films I learn before hand. It started fucken spoiling movies for me

  • Goon

    “Im becoming more conscious of how much information about upcoming films I learn before hand. It started fucken spoiling movies for me.”

    I’m back and forth on this. If I didnt think Wolverine was going to be shit in advance, I dont think I would have ended up liking it. Theres a benefit to lowered expectations.

    I can point to a zillion examples though where having no knowledge of a movie has made it funnier or more exciting, but I could also point to a zillion examples where I wouldnt have even given something a chance had I not seen the trailer first. Trailers DO work, and D9 is a perfect example. I dont think its going to be monstrous, but if it lands in front of the right movies, I think its going to do very well at the box office.

    Unless it opens vs. Night at the Museum or some shit, then its fucked :P – seriously, as soon as I saw Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch on screen together, I knew that movie was going to kill everything in its path.

  • “Who’s going to tell me that its D9 that deserves the cynical attitude?”

    But Goon, it doesn’t visually fellate the United States military. A science fiction film that doesn’t lovingly twitch cut shots of Megan Fox’s ass and feature the oh so talented work of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (how these fucking hacks got to live in the honey pot is a mystery for the ages) is immediately worthy of skepticism and it’s director outright scorn.

  • ‘as soon as I saw Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch on screen together, I knew that movie was going to kill everything in its path.”

    That movie looks like so much processed cheese. Why did Jim Henson have to die?

  • This is why viral marketing is an interesting idea. It’s additional content that can successfully market a film, but not totally spoil any actual content. The ones that are done well anyways.

  • Goon

    I dont get the Megan Fox appeal. I know she has everything that is supposed to make someone be hot, but she also looks even more plastic and hookerbot than Katy Perry does, and that just turns me off. Also can’t act, but that seems to be well aside the point.

    “If he wasn’t financially motivated to be “controversial””

    God, so many fucking articles designed to get digg hits rather than be informative or even opinionated. Gotta love it when you can find outrage even more manufactured than Sean Hannity’s Dijongate.

  • From the Tranformers 2 wiki entry (substantially longer that District 9’s):

    “Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman originally passed on the sequel because of a busy schedule.”

    *click, BOOM, headshot*

  • Goon

    “Why did Jim Henson have to die?”

    I shed a tear every time during Muppet Family Christmas when he and Sprocket do the dishes together, and he has that crazy zebra striped jacket.

    Viral marketing is great when it works, but most of the time viral marketing is ass, and its not something you can force. When you do force it you get nothing but bad.

    Like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2oegRiaA_0

    (and its response video, which is funnY:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1d-ano0xrw)

  • Let’s have some fun with hypocrisy:

    http://themovieblog.com/2007/10/10-common-sense-money-saving-tips-for-movie-fans

    Check out the last one. Here’s the first comment on that post:

    “10) LET THE BITCH PAY HER OWN WAY!”

    Hmmm… perhaps it should be “LET THE BITCH/DOUCHE PAY HER/HIS OWN WAY.” You know, before you get mauled to death by the female population.

    John was getting called out on the original article for the not so subtle slam against women. He later retconned his article, though in taking whatever sting he was trying to get at the end he effectively neutered the joke. He also removed any of his own comments defending why he used the word “bitch” in the original article. It was a deliberate attempt to whitewash a post, something he does about 2 or 3 times a year.

    Thing is, John just doesn’t chase Digg tail, he goes after Reddit hits as well.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/entertainment/comments/5ymmp/10_money_saving_tips_for_movie_fans/c029z7s

    The only comment is his:

    “And finally the biggest cost saver of them all: #10 – LET THE BITCH PAY HER OWN WAY!”

    As always, stay classy Mr. Campea. We all benefit from your wisdom, sir.

  • ColPicklejar is one of the best things I’ve seen all week. Thanks for that.

  • Goon

    After those first few posts I thought maybe there was a chance he’d post here.

    I dont think theres any way in hell he’ll post here if you’re around, Dave. He’d have to murder you to make you stop posting.

  • Goon, totally agree with you about Megan Fox. I just don’t get it. Now, if Penelope Cruz was in this (she’s too smart for that though obviously) I’d watch it… twice.

  • AdamH

    What else does BayMan need from Fox? She has a good stomach and she can run! But imagine if Scarlett Johansson was in this. Oh my fucking god

  • Goon

    All these people wanted her to be Wonder Woman. Again more fanboys obsessed over who looks the part rather than who fits. When I see those pics people made of her in the costume, I see a girls Halloween “sexy” costume, not a character. I remember when Chyna from WWE wanted to be Wonder Woman. Nobody would ever see that, and it would never happen, but even with her mutant body she fits WW as a character better than Fox does.

    They keep sticking girls who arent tough at all into comic book movies because almost every actress that can sell tickets is some wimpy waif. Jennifer Garner is about as close as there has been to a physically strong looking comic book character. And thats only because shes got that square jaw happening.

    I still say Angela Bassett shouldve been Storm :)

  • Dude, Amy Adams in a Transformers movie would be MIND blowing.

    @Goon: I’m kind of shocked. I’ve been arching him for the past few weeks but he’s been more elusive than Dr. Venture.

  • Goon

    Scarlett already had her bad Bay movie (the Island)

    that movie is hilarious because the two main character clones are essentially retarded and they’re outwitting every major law enforcement thing that can find them.

  • Ugh, could you stand to listen to Chyna speak for at least 25 of a 120 minute movie? I couldn’t and I listen to both Coheed and Cambria and The Mars Volta.

  • AdamH

    That’s true Goon but I still watch the island everynow and again just because of SJ. Although I am of the opinion that she should be in absolutely everything and will be the only reason im seeing Iron man 2. Im starting to sound sick.. But seriously.. I need to find her..

  • Hey, Mr Duh’s comment was removed from TMB! All he did was quote the second rule of commenting on TMB:

    2) Disagree and debate, but no insulting other commenters or the author

    and comment that both parties should call a detente. Since when was “detente” considered an insult or attack. Is John one of those French-Canadian hatin’ Canadians or something?

  • Matt

    Mr. Huh?, why are you trying to argue with Campea anyway? So little of what that child says makes sense. I visited that blog maybe twice last year. It’s just a waste of time.
    Jay, I really liked this post. Way to inject some juice into a movie not that many people are aware of as of right now.
    I wonder if any people are going to stand up to you and try to defend Transformenrs 2. Campea might. All I know is that I am not wasting any more money on Michael Bay movies. Transformers tought me that lesson.
    How was Alive in Joburg? Where can I get ahold of it? Could it potentially spoil any plot developments of District 9?
    Keep up the good work.

  • Matt, Sean did a post of Neill Blomkamp’s short works here on Film Junk. Alive in Joburg is included:

    http://www.filmjunk.com/2009/05/04/the-short-works-of-neill-blomkamp/

    I don’t think it will spoil District 9 for you.

  • Ask and you shall receive:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1185812222812358837

    Also, it might be embedded somewhere here on FJ because these guys are good like that. Still, that link will take you to Alive in Joburg, the short that D9 is based on.

  • Ah, Jay beat me to the trigger. Feel free to remove my last comment for its redundancy, relevancy, or Pro-Blomkamp bias.

    Oh wait. . .

  • 1138

    I still go to the movieblog and I must admit to getting into critical skirmishes with John over movie opinions but man things have really gotten rough over there. Is all John? I find Rodney to be rather insulting(not to me but to others) and very very opinionated. TMB was much better long ago when Doug Nagy was there. Now things seem to corporate.

    As to the topic of this post, I agree that D9 is much more intriguing than Transformers, but then again so is chicken soup. D9 has the potential to be something truly unique surrounded by a bunch of big blockbusters. I hope it lives up to it’s potential. I’ll take Peter Jackson’s apprentice over Michael Bay any day. Though I must Bay was pretty funny in the Verizon commercial.