Thursday, July 8, 2010

More on District 9

I trashed District 9 in an earlier post and I'm sure that offended the taste of uptown yuppies and hipsters living in their IMDB bubble where District 9 is the 122nd best movie ever made, ahead of classics of wide appeal such as The Lion King (146), Gone with the Wind (1939), and The Graduate (1967).

When I was talking to some such bobos last semester they pointed out that, if District 9 wasn't "better" than Avatar, at least it provided a better return on investment. After all, District 9's great special effects were done on a budget of $30 million while Avatar cost a reported $235 million, more than 7x as much. Alas, Avatar grossed over $2.7 billion because of its widespread appeal and acclaim while District 9 raked in about 200 million, or less than 10% as much. You do the math.

Still, box office grosses don't tell you that much as other friends noted. Sometimes a great one slips through the cracks--think The Shawshank Redemption. And $200 million isn't exactly slipping through the cracks. But Avatar is one of the few movies to earn an A on Yahoo! Movies while District 9 earned the average, a B+, putting it on par with Transformers 2, despite having fewer votes. (The fewer people vote on the movie the higher the upward bias as those who choose to watch a movie are more likely to like it than a random person.) Still, didn't everyone hate Transformers 2 and most people like District 9 because of it's insightful allegory about . . . well something to do with race relations. But no, not at all. On Netflix District 9 actually has a lower rating than Transformers 2, a 3.6 vs 3.8, despite the fact that the Netflix movie-buff audience is biased toward the kind of people who (you would think) would like District 9. Update: On Facebook over 47,000 Americans list "Transformers 2" in their interests, and 385,000+ some variation on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (but that may pick up some of the much more popular predecessor) while less than 20,000 list "District 9."

The thing is, even though District 9 got an Oscar nomination and critics loved it, people didn't like it that much. It didn't generate enough good word of mouth from moviegoers to draw others to go buy a ticket, nor did it generally impress those who later saw it in DVD. The evidence is overwhelming that Transformers 2 is a better movie in the sense that more people would prefer the experience of watching it.

But sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometime's people deserve to have their delusions and smug superiority rewarded.

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