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.

  • Captain N

    The comments here really sky rocketed over the past few hours.

    My feelings on Transformers 2 is that, more then likely, everything this summer will be better then it. Though it’ll be a huge hit. Likely the largest of the summer. I went and saw Wolverine a few days ago and the trailer played. During the trailer there was literal “gasps” and “whoa’s” from both men and women. I suppose I am biased in that I really disliked Transformers 1. I do plan to avoid this movie in theaters. Possibly even on DVD.

    As for Blomkamp, I am not familiar with him or this project. I am familiar with HALO though. As far as “inexperience” goes with this, I really dont care. The whole HALO situation irked me. Fans were clamoring for something that was going to be nothing but a superficial money grab. HALO isn’t known for is “awesome story” because it doesnt have one. It has enough story to just drive the gameplay. As most games do. HALO is known for its multiplayer aspect and we know this wasnt going to be a movie of multicolored master chiefs running around on a field blowing each other up. Im sure that would be just as entertaining as the eventual movie they’ll come up with, if it eventually happens. Im not a fan of HALO though, so I suppose I miss the multilayered story that may or may not be there.

    Im sorry, was there talk of HALO in this thread? If not, I apologize for the off topic post.

  • Matt

    Thanks guys. I will view the stuff as soon as I get to a computer that doesn’t block videos.

  • Teo

    I myself am a stranger to TMB – this is damn interesting though…this john guy sounds like a total shit. I dont know much about TMB but i guess due to him that its not held in high regard. Maybe one of the film junk folks could thrown down the towel and have a podcast argument/debate with him. If not just go the uwe boll way and take him down in a boxing fight

  • Teo

    oh and jay way to stir up even more interest in this movie – great post, keep the good stuff coming

  • dunk

    I’ve been sold on Blomkamp’s work ever since i first saw his ‘Tetra Vaal’ short film (about a police robot in the South African slums). He has a knack for combining docu-style footage with photo-real effects. And its almost like he has a disregard for said effects, in that he isn’t concerned with making sure the audience see’s the ‘hero model’ in fetishistic detail. Holding back on the effects, and not revealing them, is actually a rarity these days, and makes his work that much more effective, IMO.

  • Jesus Christ! I go to Star Trek for 3 hours and Jay C. gets a 54 response post! that mofo should write for Variety!

  • “he isn’t concerned with making sure the audience see’s the ‘hero model’ in fetishistic detail. Holding back on the effects, and not revealing them, is actually a rarity these days, and makes his work that much more effective, IMO.”

    Awesome point. It’s the fleeting fx moments that are sometimes the most impressive. When you say to yourself ‘Shit, they actually had to build that thing that was in the background of that shot for two seconds.’ It really helps flesh out a realistic world.

  • Gutless and Anonymous

    I won’t get into specifics, but lets just say that (almost) every writer or contributor that has ever been involved over at TMB has left with a VERY bad taste in their mouth over the management. And this includes Nagy and Serena.

    This isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the rumor mill, but I know all of this first hand and I find it to be a little more than coincidental. Don’t believe me? Check out all of the ex-contributors current web projects/sites and everything seems to be moving along swimmingly. Then email them and flat out ask about past experiences at “other” sites.

  • I know Richard will flat out not talk about it and for all of Doug’s foul ranting he too is quite the gentleman about the affair, at least publicly. I’m not really interested in anyone’s story other than Serena’s because she to navigate through what is largely a boy’s club and took quite a few hits for her trouble.

  • Brandon

    This movie looks like a piece of sh|t, with this Im not saying that TF2 will be better. I just think it looks fuc|<ing stupid.

  • Good post Jay C.

    I offer these ideas.
    While I understand the comparison of D-9 to Transgender 2 is a cool way to tangentially comment on the state of Hollywood green lighting practices I doubt the filmmakers of D-9 would want any comparison at all. I feel they would rather us talk about some of the monumental changes in sci fi that were caused by films such as 2001, Star Wars and Alien. I feel D-9 could be one of these films. It should also be pointed out that D-9 will hopefully be an R rated film and by its very construction be placed in a different audience than Transgender 2. That being said, we need D-9 and Moon to find their audiences.

    I feel Blomkamp’s cinema verite documentary style is not referencing any other films. I feel his work is directly influenced by the past decade of embedded journalism and the incredible images that have come out of the world’s various conflicts. I just feel an artist like Blomkamp doesn’t need to develop this style through any other lens but from the source material itself.

    As far as Rodney and TMB site, I feel everyone here might be acting like dogs chasing their own tails. I really feel Rodney is a troubled sole; as no normal person seeks that much negativity in their life for such little gain. It is exhausting to think of all the wasted energy he uses to keep all of his fights going. Doing a Google search on him results in zero credentials and many posts from people complaining about him. I feel interacting with him feeds the obtuse ego he has created for himself. I suggest the real film buffs join the discussions here on filmjunk and let TMB continue the slow death it has started.

  • Goon

    “let TMB continue the slow death it has started.”

    I hear ya, but its like a loose tooth, you know its gonna drop at any given moment, but you feel compelled to keep checking to see what’s up, even if its painful.

  • musicsoup

    fuck michael bay. fuck transformers. that’s a movie for morons. it’s not a film, it’s a 2 hour commercial, it’s just michael bay trying to rape your wallet and fuck your eyes. he doesn’t give a shit about you and your taste in movies. he doesn’t care what you think about his films. he doesn’t make movies cause he loves movies or loves art. he doesn’t give a shit about the history and legacy of cinema. he makes movies to make money. lots of money. lots and lots of money. truckloads. buttloads. he cares about nike making him a shoe. did nike make you a shoe? no they didn’t. he could give a shit what you think about anything. he doesn’t care if you die tonight. you know why? cause he’s got $200mil in his bank account and will likely add another $100mil when TF2 comes out. besides, he looks better with his shirt off than you do. guaranteed.

    yeah. fuck michael bay. fuck his movies. and fuck you if you like them / him.

    district 9 looks like a smart sci-fi film with a genuine purpose and genuine vision. which, of course, is why it won’t do well commercially – unless the studio actually starts to push the film to the general audiences and not just amongst the film blog crowd. we can only hope the critical praise for it is enough to get Blomkamp another feature.

  • It should be noted that Michael Bay’s problem is the most common problem in modern filmmaking; filmmakers do not produce/develop stories that meet the developed tastes of the film watching audience. I see the same mistakes that Michael Bay makes every day in independent film sets here in Chicago. To be discipline and “work” a script over and over and create fully formed characters is the HARDEST part of filmmaking. Bay, like 90% of the filmmakers out there, choose to move in to the production part of the process before the story is ready. Why? Because making films are fucking fun, writing them is hard. Michael Bay just tries to cover the story and character problems with huge budgets and action. It never works it’s like putting make-up on a pig.

    D-9 hopefully will be part of the 10% that invests the time to get the story right. This is my biggest worry about D-9 because most of Bloomkamp’s work has been appetizers; few full meals.

  • Goon

    I think Michael Bay is the ultimate douchebag, and though he’s stated before he even made the first movie that he doesnt care about Transformers and didnt like the cartoon or original movie, I dont particularly believe he doesnt give a crap about viewers and just wants to rape their eyes either.

    He likes what he likes, and what he likes and how he likes to portray them happens to be awful more often than not. The Rock isn’t that bad. The Island is crap but it’s entertaining. Bad Boys is alright.

  • scoville

    The people who run The Movie Blog are a bunch of assclowns. I have very little respect for their opinions.

    They’ve even banned posts from my IP address simply for disagreeing with them in the past, even though I’ve always been careful to do it in a respectful, and thought out manner.

  • swarez

    “Goon, totally agree with you about Megan Fox. I just don’t get it.”
    You’re an idiot.

    I hope that D9 will be the good hard Sci-Fi that’s been missing so dearly in our cinematic diet of late. I know that it will most likely make no money but I don’t think that the film cost that much to begin with so I don’t think it will matter that much.
    I truly believe that Blomkamp is the freshest talent to emerge of late and I’m crossing my fingers that he delivers with this one.

    As for the TMB hate on Blomkamp. I’m guessing that Campea is venting some steam because he got screwed on his own film.

  • Glendon

    “fuck michael bay. fuck transformers. that’s a movie for morons.”
    “yeah. fuck michael bay. fuck his movies. and fuck you if you like them / him.”

    What a reactionary.
    I enjoyed Transformers for what it was: big, loud and dumb, which is what it set out to do. I’m glad the guardians of taste are here to put me in place. It doesn’t matter if you think the movie is shit, because some of it is, but to write someone off for liking it just makes you look like an asshole. Everyone has movies most people hate. And the funny thing is I agree with you, District-9 looks like a smart sci-fi film with a genuine vision. I’m more excited for that than I am for Transformers 2. Not that I think this was Jay’s intention, but judging by some of the comments here, D-9 and T2 are being pitched as gladiators in a fight to the death, as if one is pure art and the other is pure commerce. I think both films can coexist.

  • Ian

    Good stuff Jay. Now I will make a point of keeping my eye out for this District 9 film. As for Transformers 2: I saw an ad for it with Star Trek tonight and it looked like Tomb Raider + swirling visual effects or something so who knows but I’m banking on it being crap.

  • Ha ha.

    I love you guys.

  • This does look ridiculously cool by the way. The trailer hooked me (although Blomkamp’s name in the first place already did).

  • TheAllKnowingGod

    “Fuck(ing) morons bug me.”

    Wow. It’s a wonder how Campea gets up in the morning considering he has to live with himself 24 hours a day.

    Doug Nagy was the only good thing about TMB and now’s he’s gone it’s a stain of shit on the Internet.

  • FYI: This thread kind of got folded into our latest show (which we recorded today), but it’s more about the online film community as a whole and not just TMB. We’re considered doing an episode with nothing but meta-bitching about this crowd, though I don’t know how much fire is left in me.

    PS: Andrew, still waiting on that e-mail. ;)

  • Also:

    “I hear ya, but its like a loose tooth, you know its gonna drop at any given moment, but you feel compelled to keep checking to see what’s up, even if its painful.”

    This. Ever so much this. Here’s something he wrote. It’s long, so bear with me:

    “Here’s an example. Last year, this guy, who I had always said nice things about… promoted his website from The Movie Blog and interacted with… out of nowhere wrote an article about how big of an asshole John Campea is… how I’m basically hitler incarnate… yadda yadda yadda. It was a long scathing article… from a guy I had always endorsed, spoke positively of and promoted. It was VERY hurtful, humiliating and disappointing. I know we’re supposed to put on a mask and make it look like that shit doesn’t bother us… but it did bother me. It hurt me, and it disappointed me. When I started to dig a little I found out why he did it. Why he launched sucha personal, hateful, hurtful and outright pussy attack on me. Are you ready for this? Because when I referenced a story on his site once, I said the name of his site, instead of his name personally. Yup… it was that shallow. Because I said “This story comes to us from (name of website)”, instead of “This story comes to us from (names of the guy) from (name of the website)” he decided to get on his site, rip me a new one, call me names, insult my site, me and anyone who reads my site.

    Yet, not once did I say a bad word about him. Even after he attacked me. My only response was “he’s a good writer, I’m disappointed in his actions, he’s entitled to his opinion”. That was it. I had some harsher words for him privately… but publicly I refused to lower myself to his level and get involved in public shit slinging. Because when you sling shit, everyone ends up smelling like shit. This scenario has happened a couple of times, but I guess I should count myself lucky that it hasn’t happened more. Today, that site in question is just a shell of what is used to be (which is a shame, cause the other guy who wrote for it was just awesome) and the guy in question has faded into relative total obscurity… and the world is better for it.”


    That’s me he’s talking about. Imagine if you were the focus of something like that, wouldn’t you have a vested interest in keeping tabs on a guy who thinks you’re his villain?

  • One last thing: that little rant I posted above is full of lies and half-truths, though that should come as no surprise to any of you.

  • @Goon: Just found this from that post. Your words sir:

    “I mean, the idea that Alfie would out and out attack you rather than earnestly and respectfully critique isnt something that would cross my mind – that fight with He Who Shall Not Be Named from last year? I remember Alfie was over on that dudes site attacking back fighting for your honor… did he really say something that I glossed over? I’m shocked…”

    Was that the beginning of the end for you and when did I become Voldemort?

  • EyeGod

    Wow Jay, whatta cool post…

    Guys, I don’t think D-9 cost that much, therefore I don’t think it needs to make so much to break even, and if I’m not mistaken if a debut director can do more than just break even, it’s a good thing.

    Nonetheless I think the buzz around Blomkamp, the obvious use of Jackson’s name to further push the film, and the hardcore Halo fans, coupled with word-of-mouth (and hopefully some more, effective viral marketing by Sony) will be enough to ensure D-9’s critical and commercial success. It doesn’t need to compete with TF2, cos the the two can definitely co-exist.

    rus in chicago makes a good point about all of Blomkamp’s work up to date having only been appetizers- we can only hope that the main course will be truly tasty.

    Also, props for including a little blurb of mine in your article! :) I know some folks who worked on D-9 last year, and I’ll be sure to forward this piece to them! :)

  • Thanks EyeGod!

    Please do pass it on. It’d be great to get some opinions from people who might be able to shed more light on the project.

  • Trent

    To Musicsoup..Fuck you. I like Transformers and Im excited for Transformers 2.

    Your way too smart for it.

    Ill see both. District 9 will be better.

    It all comes down to the fact that “some” of you don’t like it because its popular. That’s the fucking truth.

  • Some people play King of the Hill, most don’t.

  • Trent

    oww that hurt lol.

    You know its true. It’s happening with Star Trek.

  • Damndirtyape

    I’m with Brandon on this one – this movie looks ridiculous.

    Alien beings with their faces blurred out as if they were everyday humans? LOL.. stupid stupid stupid… This is about as bad as one of those old Next Generation episodes that uses a 10 ton hammer to bash us with some simplified “moral” analogy about mankind’s evil ways complete with a 5 minute “lesson” delivered to Wesley Crusher about how “Back in the dark days Earth was riddled with racism and wars and greed but luckily in our Federation Utopia we are all above that now etc..”

    If one wanted to beat over the head with that sorta message why not watch one of the other million films already made about it.

    I swear if I hear the movie has a forced “interogation” scene or waterboarding or some crap like that I’ll put my fist through the monitor. Not saying it does.. but this sort of project looks exactly like the kind of film that would have such a scene.

  • Some people can’t tell the difference between sarcastic and innocent replies.

    Whatever, I don’t feed the trolls anymore.


  • EyeGod

    @ Damndirtyape

    Your concerns are a valid, albeit a bit heavy handed.

    Familiar with the Xenophobic violence which plagued through South Africa last year?


    The most interesting part is that Blomkamp had touch on these issues with his short on Alive in Joburg before they even happened.

    I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I do think there’ll be a message in this film, and that it won’t be all thrill factor and CGI-driven.

    Whether you like that or not is a personal preference, but I prefer a film with substance over boobs and action any day of the week.

    Also, a trailer has been released without blurred out faces, and with Alien subtitles. Puts a whole new spin on the matter.

  • Trent

    Maybe YOU don’t get the Difference. lol


  • scoville

    “Whether you like that or not is a personal preference, but I prefer a film with substance over boobs and action any day of the week.”

    Amen, EyeGod

  • Matt C

    Over boobs?

  • Matt K

    I’m interested in both “District 9″ and “Transformers Revenge of the Fallen”

  • corey1234

    I don’t understand why all the negative response on transformers the movie was pretty damn good. I am going to see it.

  • ANUBIS-7070


  • j

    Well, you called it and it looks like you were totally on the money – KUDOS old boy; and all from eyeballing a sliver of footage, already the critics look like they are going to back you up. Still, let us refrain from counting the chicken , for perhaps the critics were on shrooms, so we shall have to settle back in and play the old waiting game, roll on, wish i could have laid some cash down on your review – i wouldn’t be so broke now

  • I’m writing this to go on the record: I have to admit the latest footage and trailer of D9 has me worried. It feels like they decided to lose the edge of the earlier work. that robot twisting and catching the missile in the latest trailer is B.S. and feels like a Transformers type watered down, sugar coated effect made to mainstream the action.

  • Rusty James

    I also have not been as excited about the new D9 footage as I was about the trailer. Still, it’s a must see for me.

    Now, Inglorious. That actually has me worried.

  • James

    I saw DISTRICT 9 two days ago. It’s awesome, and I actually think that it’s a movie that Jay, Sean, Greg AND Reed will like, if not love.

  • James, I guess I have to see District 9 after your recommendation. I noticed that Entertainment Weekly is hyping this film with a cover story this week. If I do see it, I will be going into the theater with low expectations. And if I do fall asleep during it, I won’t hold your opinion against you, James. :-)

    Actually, I wonder if there is a movie that Jay, Sean, Greg and I love.

  • Sorry, James, I just saw District 9 and I didn’t love it. Sean has invited me to be on the next Film Junk podcast, so I’ll try to explain myself then. I guess people can accuse me of being the Armond White of Film Junk.

  • Dave

    ” I guess people can accuse me of being the Armond White of Film Junk.”

    No, I think being the Reed Farrington of Film Junk suits you just fine.

  • Goon

    After the way you handled your Star Trek review Reed, you should have to do your review while strapped to your lie detector.

  • Blasphemy Reed!

  • ThaCrip

    for me i would give the slight edge to ‘Transformers 2′ simply because that never had a LONG boring stretch like District 9 did. District 9 was boring as hell for the first 38-ish minutes but it got better. Transformers 2 was (for the most part) not really boring but it was not all that entertaining either (the first Transformers film in 2007 was definitely better).

    main reason i gave the edge to Transformers 2 over District 9 is the overall consistency of the film Transfomers 2 was better. but the better parts of the film i think District 9 was better but due to the first 38-ish minutes being boring on District 9 that automatically makes it worse in my book but if you count from 38-ish minute mark til the end of the film i would give the edge to District 9.

    but it is pretty sad that ‘Transformers 2′ had theater sales of $800+ million worldwide and it’s not even that good of a film. (last years ‘The Dark Knight’ was miles better)

    i gave both District 9 and Transformers 2 a 6/10 (no higher for sure)