DaLe's aRT

21.8.09

District 9__deep with holes, but awesome

so i thought i'd post my comments on district 9 since it's been getting a ton of hype mainly from my friends who i respect they're film opinions, but there's just a few too many holes in the plot that i can't look over, plus this gives a good reason for those friends to actually come on to my blog, heh

*****SPLOILERS****** SPLOILERS******

problems i have, in no particular order:

-why isn't Johannesburg covered in other nations' diplomatic bases? i find it very hard to believe that the rest of the world would just let South Africa deal with the first extra terrestrial life ever discovered & not be bothered by other countries. EVERYONE would be all over that, I would fly to south africa to see them

-why isn't the main alien ship riddled with humans? studying, taking samples, trying to get it to work, etc. it's a giant floating alien ship & it's empty, really? i'll go inside.

-how can we understand their language, & they understand ours, but there's no alien diplomat to communicate the situation to the rest of the world?

-why was there only 3 intelligent prawns, but they were able to send a giant spaceship through space & time through the galaxy? why didn't those smart ones get the others to help out in their quest for fuel?

-this goes to most scifi movies when dealing with other planets & aliens, how can they breath our air & withstand our gravity without assistance? blomkamp's short paid attention to their breathing with the robotic suits that the aliens were wearing, why didn't he put those into 9? or at least mention they were having trouble with our planet.

-why are aliens always naked?

-why do they all look the same? same size, same weight, just sightly different colours. even ants have variety in their species, queen, soldier, worker, etc.

SO, since the film is meant to be as realistic as possible, i think these are pretty logical holes that the team could've filled & would've fit within this world. BUT BUT BUT, it was still amazing & you should all go see it. fantastic & real themes. a main character that switches between hero & villain multiple times. bloody incredible CG. the film work was a beautiful blend of vérité & archival footage. & many more things, enough that i want to see it again & i'll definitely buy it. If they just touched on some of these things above, mainly the rest of the world's attention to the prawns, then it would've been an even better movie.

6 comments:

Paul said...

Hey Dale, it's Paul, let's go through your issues with the film, shall we. (BTW, please forgive spelling and grammar – no way Im re-reading this)

1 - Why aren't other nations there? The movie cost $30 million. Much of the footage was purchased TV footage that was crossed with CG. MNU was written as a) an all encompassing evil agency that represents earth (there was even an american in there just to hammer home that point and

b) to add other hands in the pot would hamper the believability of a shady organization being able to pull of the kind of shit that they do in the film. so from a story perspective (and with every film you're asked to suspend belief) it would only overly complicate the story. So what you're pointing out is not a plot hole. That would imply the writers weren't aware of the implications of other nations - they deliberately choose to tell their story this way, to make it simple.

This is quite common in good Sci Fi. Take Half Life 2 for example, okay sot he combine take over the world - nobody is out there asking what happened to the UN, etc. It's implied that the timeline has shifted enough where these things don't exist. So, with D9, 20 years have passed, altering their timeline from ours, who is to say how such an event would be handled. South Africa could initially bar any other country from interfering with their affairs and later contract out Alien handling to any company willing to shell out the most cash. For someone like MNU (second largest weapons manufacture in the world, or whatever it was) this would be quite feasible. Hell, even in Doctor Who the US never got involved in what was happening in London. It just made it more convenient this way - from a writing stand point.

2. The ship was initially studied, you see this in the doc. They also talk about how they couldn't do anything with it due to the loss of the control pod and you gotta figure after 20 years of trying to access alien technology that doesn't work with our biology they would just abandon it. I mean, what's your point with this, that some company should claim the ship and start converting it to condos? Its alien. In a whole movie about humans dealing with extraterrestrials semi legally, I don't think you can justify prolonged studying of something else's property. Also, they had 20 years to do it, it was implied, shown and discusses in exposition in the opening. They only had 2 hours to tell their story, other things were important here.

3. Story convenience. I know this sound like a cop out, but I assure you this is what it is. I could assume to keep the aliens talking English was a choice by the director (also co writer) to retain something ALIEN about the Aliens. By the time we meet them in the film, they've been... um.. domesticated to say the least. To subtitle the entire film would annoy large portions of the audience (why do most war films have Germans speaking english?) so this is a happy compromise. Aliens stay Alien and we just assume (again suspension of disbelief) that both sides understand each other. Also, its very probably that the Aliens just REFUSE to speak english, however, they would need to understand it as they are under MNU rule. Still, not a plot hole.

Paul said...

4. This has been discussed as of late when some blogger posted an article called "is District 9 racist" . Her opinion was that D9 indirectly created a race of aliens that were an allegory for poor south africans (I'm paraphrasing) for the express reasons you pointed out. The point she missed and this was very clear in the writing and direction is that these Aliens - obviously intelligent from their weaponry and technology - arrived almost dead. Were nursed to health, then put on a strange planet that was now their home, treated like shit, and their conduct eventually breaks down over the years. I mean, 20 years of being treated like the lowest form of vermin doesn't exactly make you feel wanted or any better. It's fully believable that new Prawns (remember the population grows) aren't taught to be smart aliens (no schooling present from what we saw) so of course they would grow up as shit heads.

Read into slavery, and you'll see the same trend through out history. Long periods of certain races being held and re-domesticated often lead to break downs in their cultural.

Also, once again, I think you missed a very important point. The opening of the film, as the tail end - are shot like a documentaries. Docs have the very unfortunate ability to recut footage to skew material to better support its argument (see any michael moore film). What this does, is support the story as well. How? Think about the arc for the Aliens (and eventually Wikus) in the story, how they're writing.

At the start, they're presented as aloof with no respect for any life but their own. This is deliberately done, however. As you're meant to hate the Aliens at the start, support MNU's actions and eventually as Wikus starts to turn you realize that these Prawn aren't just the bottomfeaders they're named after, they're just terribly abused and misunderstood. This is also very nicely contrasted with Christopher Johnson. Again, when writing, you could make a VERY clear distinction all the Aliens are intelligent, but thats a) tonally a very different film and b) Wikus's redemption ark would be lost.

Remember, the documentary paints Wikus as a traitor. From the beginning of the film as well - its deliberately set up that way - yet, we know better by the end. So, are all the aliens stupid, no, we know they're not. We know they're mistreated, however, we also realize at the end the documentary team didn't have all the facts. Imagine that.

Again, not a plot hole.

Paul said...

5. This again, is suspension of disbelief. What you're proposing is interesting and valid, but it would be a different film and would complicate the action and story with the necessity to explain all these little bits and pieces.

The fact is, District 9 is soft sci-fi. Hard Sci-Fi demands rational for everything in its universe, Soft generally takes prominent ideas and discuss them, however is willing to cut corners for the sake of story telling. Trust me, when I was taught screenwriting and when I've read interviews with other writers (include Duncan Jones who recently wrote Moon) you take this stuff and apply it in the best way to suit your story. Otherwise, you'll weigh yourself down and overly complicate what your real point is.

Also, I never saw this short. I think with any good piece of work it speaks for itself - all this new viral shit we produce should really be looked at as extras. It's like LOST, how much viral shit was produced to "expand" Lost and ultimately never fit in. Let the WORK speak for itself, if it wasn't included in originally - there is probably a reason for that.

District 9 is not really about space aliens, its about racism. The aliens are an allegory. An interesting take. I mean, all good sci-fi does that. How many Star Trek episodes are really just an allegory for something the writer is ham-handily trying to point out? So, its not a plot hole, only because (like with MNU) the universe says its this way, so you either believe it or don't. But that's not the plots fault - because the writers are aware of it, they just choose not to address it directly. Unlike, say, Signs were Aliens who are allergic to water come to a planet covered in it - that's a plot hole.

6. Why are you projecting human qualities on an alien? Who are you to say what an alien, should look like, wear/breathe? This is honestly not a plot hole. Its a Seinfeld skit. Why are dogs always naked (well until WE dress them up). Isn't it funny how us Humans are always trying to make foreign things more like us - wow, I think... yup... I think that's what this movie is about :p

7. Because the movie cost $30 million to make. They only had one guy doing all the mo-cap for all the prawn and to create digital variations and other classes would cost more money. Come on, you should know this. The real question here is - how is it Blomkamp managed to make a film with WETA for 30 million that looks better than a movie James Cameron made with WETA for $300 million. Also this is not a plot hole.

So, to wrap up. Suspension of disbelief, along with going along with the universe the writers have created. Don't mistake this with bad writing - because they were VERY aware of it. However, they had 30 million dollars and 2 hours to tell it in. Also its soft Sci Fi. Hope this helps.

DaLe said...

as always you go way beyond my expectations, thanks man. my retort, & i guess most of these aren't really plot holes if they are at all, but i think they're points that hurt the film or could've made it better

1-it really wouldn't have cost much $ or story to show that other nations were involved, or even tourists. show an area cornered off for other nations, maybe a clip of a debate of suits in an office & show a truck of tourists trying to get a peek at the floating ship, that's it. it just makes it feel like SA is a completely isolated country with no contact with the rest of the world if the rest of world isn't trying to get a piece of all this, there would've been way too much world pressure for this not to happen.
1b- nah, the MNU still couldve done their shady shit, look what the UN does.

UN not exist? come on, that's a huge assumption that everything has changed so much. & is it actually said that it is 20 years in our future? i know the prawns say it took 20 years to make the fuel, but they could've been working on it on their way to earth.

2- yea i guess, but nobody? not one person?

3- i understand the convenience & it was a great way of having the dialogue go smoother, but it just felt alittle too convenient. maybe a digital voice translator for some moments, it is alien technology. for the prawns who couldnt speak english

4-no i didn't miss any point, i know the allegory, but even with the years of poverty & lack of education, it still doesn't explain why there's only 3 smart prawns. why not at least alittle group of intelligent ones? or at least a mention that there were more. why not get a few of the million savage prawns to find what you need? it just seems like there's too large of an intelligence gap

5-sure ok, just an annoyance of mine.

6- projecting human qualities? the smart prawns were wearing clothes! also clothes can't just be human ideas, other than hiding our goochy bits, clothes do a lot of things that an advance race would also find uses for - warmth, status symbols, protection, etc etc.

7- come on, a few extra versions of the same model wouldn't have cost that much more. make this one shorter, make this one fatter, make this one have a bigger head, make this one have longer legs, etc etc. they just lacked variety.

hey i can suspend my disbelief, but it seemed that went for such a realistic approach to not suspend your belief, but to get you to actually believe this was real, right now & it does at times. i also think some of these points couldve been addressed without costing much to the same story & the same budget, but they made the film not me & i still love it.

Paul said...

a lot of filmmaking comes down to the artist obviously. In this case Blomkamp used his childhood in South Africa during apartheid as the basis of his film. so, where the evil organization at that time was the National Party, in the film it becomes MNU. the camps, the hostility, its all based around actual events. so, i think this is where the science takes a back seat to the morals (wisely) because the worst sci-fi (like later versions of Star Trek - spent too long trying to make sense of their universe rather than telling a story. As stupid as the new script for Star Trek (2009) is - btw, you want plot holes, go for it - the film is FUN and audiences eat it up. The science become a sort of window dressing to the characters and morals and that worked. We see that again here in 9.

So yeah, could there have been more smart aliens, sure. But it would have clouded the message. The one think you'll learn in screenwriting is how to be conscious and direct - give everything to your audience as simply as possible. doesn't mean you need to dumb something down or be stupid about it. just to say, that sometimes, you can make the same point with three smart aliens better than you could with 100 smart aliens.

also if you make a fatter alien model, that's so much more R&D for how the skin will fold over the bones, how it moves, you gotta build software for blubber giggling - so yeah, it ends up costing more, but you know this . i don't pretend to know how much post they had on this, I can't imagine a lot. so I gotta believe its all a money thing. most of this movie is how it is because of money.

Eric Z said...

Honestly, I think the movie was great. It's a simply a fictitious story, not a depiction of actual events so how true it follows reality doesn't matter . The pace to the film progresses so well you don't really care to ask those questions but rather sit back and enjoy it. Truthfully, the movie is more a statement about humanity than a "what aliens could really be like" film. I think the story would get lost if they made the attempt to explain all the details you felt were missing. Or you'd lose the sense of helplessness for the Prawn refugees by giving them a huge edge in tech. What it boils down to is it isn't a film about the world and it's interaction with the prawns. It's simply about Viccus and how he helped the Prawns escape. I think if you look at it in that respect it's a solid movie and one of the best sci-fi films in years....in my opinion.