District 9 debuted this weekend to generally positive praise from audiences and critics alike. People seem to like this thing. In our mostly biased reader poll 49% of all Cinema Blend readers gave it a resounding 5/5. Shockingly, even though it's good, District 9 also made money. A lot of money. It earned its entire budget back and then some in one, single, weekend. That means another one. A sequel is inevitable. District 9 director Neill Blomkamp has already talked about it, and it seems almost certain that District 10, or whatever the hell they end up calling it, is on the way.
So we're getting more. Great! In a world where White Chicks 2 is getting made having a decent sequel to look forward to is unfortunately, a rarity. Except the question rattling around in my head is: How will they do it? District 9 is stripped down and gritty, guerilla, indie-style documentary filmmaking applied to a massive science fiction movie. Following that up won't be easy. Luckily, I have ideas. Hey Blomkamp, if you're listening, here's a few things to jot down on your notepad when you're ready to start making District 10.
Wikus Is Alive In Joburg
It's unlikely that when Neill Blomkamp made the 2005 short film Alive in Joburg, that he ever imagined the title taking on such a direct meaning. As District 9 ends. somewhere, in the dirty rubble amongst the squabbling Prawns is Johannesburg, South Africa's version of Michael Scott (thanks to Katey for the genius comparison). Wikus Van De Merwe is alive in Joburg, hidden beneath an alien form and wanting nothing more than to go home to his beautiful wife. When District 9 ends, the story isn't finished. It's only the beginning. If there's a sequel, we must see what happened to Wikus. Return him to his human form, give the guy some dignity back. He's earned it, hasn't he?
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
Aside from the fate of Wikus, the other big dangling District 9 puzzle piece is what, exactly, will happen when Christopher Johnson returns. Return he almost certainly will, but the question is, what kind of mood will he be in when he gets back? Did Wikus's heroism demonstrate the value of the human race, or will he return as an avenging angel bent on exterminating us all for the horrible atrocities committed inside the MNU's labs? Christopher Johnson will be back, and he's bringing friends. The question is, will they be our friends? Personally, I'm hoping not. The United Nations doesn't get less boring just because it has aliens in it. Take a page from the way James Cameron handled his follow-up to Alien and blow some shit up.
Prawns: Friends Or Food?
Maybe the real question isn't whether the Prawns are friendly, but whether we are. District 9 does a great job of making Christopher Johnson and his pint-sized kid seem sympathetic, but not so much with the rest of the Prawns. In truth, they seem like a ravaging horde of violent, murderous, messy, amoral, marginally intelligent scavengers who couldn't possibly be allowed out into general human society unless you're willing to let them start murdering and eating anyone and everyone they see. So maybe Christopher Johnson comes back and he's feeling friendly, but are we? Should we be? These are questions the sequel is going to have to address, either with all out war, or by giving us some reason to think better of the rank and file ugly, violent, rather nasty alien loiterer.
We Don't Need Prawn Nelson Mandela
One of the great things about District 9 is the social relevance lingering in the background. It's a commentary on the corrupt power of out of control corporations, but it also parallels South Africa's problems with Apartheid. Something similar needs to continue in the sequel, but unless they're willing to turn the whole thing into a holocaust parable there's really only so much farther they can go with the Apartheid analogy. Instead, maybe it's time to put all your eggs in the evil corporation basket. Whether the aliens fly back into our atmosphere firing weapons or ready for negotiation, MNU needs to be taken down. Great science fiction shines a light on real world problems, and there are still plenty of those left for District 10 to tackle.
Ditch the Documentary Style
Filming the whole thing documentary style was a nice gimmick… for one movie. If there's a sequel though, it's time to move on to something else. In the first half of the film it actually made sense. Wikus is being filmed by a camera crew making a documentary about his work. Later on it starts to become weird when Wikus is wandering around out in the wilderness alone… and yet somehow the documentary camera's still there. It doesn't make a lot of sense. That's forgivable, with all the other great things the movie does it's barely worth noticing. But if they keep up the faux documentary format for District 10, then it's going to get a little silly. Try something else Blomkamp. Don't get locked in to one, gimmicky style.
Alright, alright I know I should really get over this Halo thing. It's hard though, to forget that District 9 only exists because Hollywood doubted Neill Blomkamp's ability to handle an epic-sized science fiction film made out of Microsoft's popular Xbox videogame franchise. So now that he has his own franchise, why not spit in the face of everyone who doubted his ability to get Halo done by turning his series into something just as epic, big, and galaxy-spanning? District 9 is a fairly minimalist story set in a very specific place, but there's no reason it has to stay there. I guess what I'm saying is that I hope Neill will be open to bigger worlds and even bigger ideas than the ones he uses here. Turn this thing into a galactic epic. Take us into space with Christopher Johnson. Start a war! Don't limit yourself to setting everything in South Africa or even on one planet. Go big. Rub your success in.
What Not To Do
There are a lot of ways to make a District 9 sequel and get it right, but there's one big way to get it all wrong. Please, Mr. Blomkamp don't go Hollywood. You're going to get a bigger budget for the sequel, a much bigger budget I'll wager. Don't turn it down. Use it. Use it to make something even bigger and better. Spend it on special effects and wicked cool sets. Don't use it to buy yourself an over the top sports car, move to LA, and turn the thing over to Hollywood's never ending cadre of mega-producers. We don't need to see Sharlto Copley replaced by Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. You don't have to bring in Jada Pinkett Smith to be Wikus's sassy, tough as nails sidekick. Don't step back into a supervising role and allow Michael Bay to take over. For that matter don't even go to Hollywood. Stay in New Zealand, with Peter Jackson, and make your film. Make it bigger, make it better, make it all yours and, maybe while you're at it, make it less like Alien Nation.