Avatar vs. District 9

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53 comments

D9 gave me several edge-of-my-seat moments, floored me with its live-action/CG compositing mixed with its cinéma vérité style, and impressed me with a first-time actor in Sharlto Copley. All that being said, Avatar transcends all of that completely by its mastery of near photo-real 3D CG characters, almost abolishing the uncanny valley, and providing an epic story to tie it all together. A tough matchup, to be certain, but Avatar takes this duel.

District 9 was amazing, but Avatar is game changing.

JRM
JRM

My favorite 2 movies from 2009. Both diving into my top 20 like nothing. That said, while I absolutely love Avatar (I saw it twice in 3D . . . so far. I love every second of it), District 9 really stuck with me in a completely unique way. Have to go with that one.

Naive semi-hero tries to evict indigent space aliens for less than noble reasons, gets in too deep as he physically transforms into his former enemy, his heart transforming as well and eventually sides with the group he once was pitted against, helping to vanquish the "bad-guys" he once was a member of. 2 strangely similar movies and while one reads as a technically stunning rehash of 4 or 5 other films fairly bludgeoning the viewer with its ham-handed topicality, the other seems a entirely fresh story formed from whole cloth that touches deeply on personal, emotional and political levels. D9 and it isn't close.

Both Brilliant movies for different reasons. I think I will go with Avatar.

Okay, I just saw D9 tonight, and I have to say, I enjoyed watching it at home more than I enjoyed the time I saw Avatar in the theater. As far as Avatar being a "game-changer"...I dunno. Obviously, we're going to see a glut of 3-D movies in the very near future. But while Avatar cost a bundle to make and is raking in its bajillion dollars, D9 is also a very strong case for "less is more". Frankly, they spent less money on their movie, and in my opinion, it looked just as good as Avatar, minus the flashiness of the 3-D, which my one viewing in the theater did not sell me on. Plus, ultimately, while I have no real problem with a very familiar story well told, D9 is a much fresher and original tale. I admire Avatar for its technical achievements (may they win many Oscars), and I enjoyed it as a movie, but I feel District 9 is a better film. I don't think a second viewing of either will change my mind.

District 9 does more with a smaller budget. And it has two things that Avatar lacks, which are an original story and strong performances.

I don't think Avatar "lacks" strong performances. Certainly, D9's lead in Sharlto Copley is stronger than Sam Worthington (who I actually think was better in Terminator), but Zoe Saldana and, especially, Stephen Lang impressed me in Avatar. Quaritch is a fantastic villain. And Sigourney's always good. But yeah, Copley blows them all away.

There are so many reasons I preferred Avatar to D9, and I haven't heard anyone mention them. District 9 may have had a great performance from Sharlto Copley, but he was essentially the only standout in the film--except for the prawns. I honestly thought Zoe at least was better. And Avatar had sooooo much detail carved into its every aspect, my mouth was open during most of the movie. The music, too, which has been shitted on often, was better in Avatar. Avatar had sweeping camera moves, and panoramic views of huge areas. There is a LOT of commentary between the lines (nature back on Earth is completely gone). And isn't it funny how people go "oh the movie was alright" and fail to walk away with any of its great messages? District 9 had no important message; how do you tell people to be tolerant of racism while blowing up people in bursts of red goo? Plus Avatar has so many subliminal additions; the COLOR in the movie is so brilliantly used. The issue people have is that Avatar is a movie that requires you to leave your senses vulnerable and clear your mind. And, of course, it's an epic, in every sense of the word. The story is not so important as the vehicle for huge inspirational images and ideas, such as that of being in love with your own dreams and having to choose between remaining stagnant or making your dreams reality. And I never get why nobody saw any of this when they saw the movie.

Considering that AVATAR cost 20x more than DISTRICT 9 to produce, why doesn't AVATAR have better effects? I'll be honest: AVATAR is (probably) higher in my rankings. But standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a James Cameron behemoth has a very flattering effect on DISTRICT 9, which was probably the only legitimate indie film in the running for Best Picture. The clincher for me is that AVATAR is hypocritical -- a movie with an environmental, "green" message movie with a budget bigger than the GDP of some entire countries, using cutting-edge technology to sell a back-to-nature story. It's just plain silly. The ideas in DISTRICT 9 are going to age a lot better. In 20 years, AVATAR will be embarrasing.

Avatar has brilliant visual effects. The Na'vi really did look absolutely REAL to me. But you know what? So did the Prawns in D-9. That really does make D-9 look really damn impressive.

Avatar is probably the most boring film I've ever seen. No interest but the last sequence with the dragons and all. But District 9 is much more entertaining and innovative.

Avatar was good for what it was - a 3D adventure with a story that has been done to death. It was worth seeing it in 3D in the theater, but I have no desire to ever watch it again. District 9, on the other hand, was fresh, exciting and one of my favorite movies from 2009. This is an easy choice for me.

Hated them both. Avatar gets it.

District 9 is a testament to how far an ingenious story and convincing effects used SPARINGLY can act up to a fantastic film. I enjoyed Avatar, primarily for how it lovingly attended to every minuscule detail of the world they inhabited, as well as the head-turning action sequences. That said, it felt like James Cameron was beating me in my frontal lobe with the twin sledgehammers of "MESSAGE" and "STORY"; I didn't go in expecting some sort of standard-setting script, but Avatar's writing felt so incredibly cheap and stupid, that it reveals to me that Cameron is more P.T. Barnum than Stephen Spielberg.

Don't like either of them as much as everyone else seems to. Actually didn't find Avatar's effects that amazing. Didn't like the mockumentary elements of District 9. I understand that that was what the film was aiming for, but I just didn't personally like it. Avatar wins for me.

@admiralpiett: Cameron is George Lucas. Just a better director.

@johnmason: I'll agree with that statement when Lucas makes horrible, ham-fisted allegories for environmentalism and warmongering, and not just horrible, ham-fisted movies. But you're right in that both directors are immensely infuriating and jaw-droppingly egotistical.

Ha! Fair enough.

THANK YOU FLICKCHART FOR HAVING COMMON SENSE AND WRITING THIS ARTICLE: http://blog.flickchart.com/index.php/reel-rumbles-20-avatar-vs-district-9/

D9 was much more enjoyable. Avatar is THE most overrated film in years. Then again, I saw Avatar in 2D at the cinema. Take away the visual gimmicks and the dumb story folds fast. Whereas, D9 depending on story over FX.

District 9 proves that you can have a breakout masterpiece as your first serious release, with a solid story, effects that do not overpower, nor need a fad to make them truly work. Avatar, well that list a nouvelle cuisine meal... All style with no substance. District 9 is in my top 20... Whilst Avatar is in my bottom 20...

JRM
JRM

It's been a while since I've commented on this matchup. While District 9 remains in my top 20, Avatar (while I still find it enjoyable in 2D) dropped like a brick.

D9 wins and wins easy. Agree that Avatar's plot is laughable. Without the SPX, Avatar is a crap film.

District 9 wins. Prawn toast with 100% less Smurfahontas.

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As far as the theater going experience, Avatar in 3D was mind blowing. District 9 was great...but it just didn't stick with me as an experience like seeing Avatar for the first time.

District 9 did everything better with a fraction of the budget.

D9 was way better. The 3D in avatar wasn't even close to what it was in UP. The story in Avatar was kind of lame and the acting and script were pretty bad. All it had going for it was the amazing special effects. D9 however packed some great effects along with a deep political story and amazing acting.

oh my god, that is unfair, avatar is better by lot.

my vote to avatar

District 9.

altra_n, you should really learn to not spam, it's obnoxious. Anywho, District 9 was seriously amazing the first time that I saw it. The story was emotionally captivating and the acting was beyond believable and the camera style was awesome and realistic. Avatar had special effects...District 9 wins.

Avatar was a childish film with a childish view of human nature, childish dialogue, hollow characters and special effects that completely detract from the human element. I was afraid in the beginning that there would be some politically correct message regarding Sigourney Weaver's smoking. If that had happened, I could say with the utmost confidence that Avatar was the worst movie I have ever seen. As it is, the movie still has competition from Titanic.

How can there even be a debate/ It's Avatar that wins this one!

District 9. Reasoning? Avatar didn't even surprise me with special effects. I left the theater thinking, "Wow, those were some cool special effects." When I left District 9 and was already driving home I thought, "Those were special effects?" District 9 was gritty and brought to life a tale of greed and the power of giving one's self up for another. The final shot of District 9 sealed the deal for me.

I like both of these, but they're such different films. District 9 was so strange and kind of depressing but unique and enjoyable nonetheless. Of the two, I think it's the more sophisticated movie overall. But it's hard to deny the stunning visuals of Avatar and its impact on movies in terms of ushering in the 3D-movie era. (Although Avatar is definitely the only movie I've seen so far that was actually worth seeing in 3D. Stupid 'Clash of the Titans'). Which movie am I more likely to re-watch? Avatar. It's the more feel-good movie.

District 9 was A LOT better than Avatar.

Both sci-fi, both from 2009, and both overrated. Avatar was enjoyable at parts, but was also boring from time to time and the basic story was used in other movies. District 9, as pointed out by Doug Walker, is not good. It just recycles styles and story elements of other, sometimes better movies, for example: Iron Man, The Fly (remake), Transformers, Independence day, The office, Blair witch project, an ordinary documentary, and many more. That isn't originality, that's just leeching the style of other movies. The characters are also annoying and unlikable. Not just the main guy, but also his girlfriend and the humans in the slums. Wikus is just a douche from the start and we need to feel sorry for him? His girlfriend doesn't trust him, no matter what Wikus tries to say? The people in the slums believe eating an alien will result in gaining their 'secret power' (why would you want that to happen and did it ever happen at all?)? The people have given up on the aliens? Just thinking about the movie makes me dislike it more and more. So yes: I'm choosing for Avatar. Not great either, but at least better than the massively overrated District 9.

A few years ago i wouldve said Avatar was the better film and it deserved best picture. But ive gotten over the hype of it and District 9 is my answer.

Yes, Avatar has the best CGI ever and the actors in it are superb. But the story is incredibly unoriginal and borrows heavily from the novella Call Me Joe. Search it to see why. For that reason, D9 wins by a mile.

I really enjoyed District 9. Avatar was ok- it seemed like it had more CG than a script.

Avatar takes the crown, but I think it's interesting that both were released in the same year. Each film demonstrates the versatility of what film and proves that the sci-fi genre can be equally compelling on both large and small scales. Both movies take us into a world that we have never traveled and within that world there is wall to wall action, spectacle, and several moments that put you on the edge of your seat. What makes Avatar better for me is a combination of its scope and story, but I do not think it has anything to do with the CGI itself. The world of Pandora, which had been gestating in the mind of James Cameron since his pre-fame days as a truck driver, is amazing in that it is both tangible and out-of-this-world. That it is brought to life with stunning special effects is merely icing on the cake. Second, I found that I was more invested with the characters of Avatar than District 9. That is not a criticism on Sharlto Copley's performance of the screenwriters; I just felt more emotionally connected to Jake and Neytiri. Though similar tales of romance have been told, I find it fascinating and amusing that Cameron can tell an old-fashioned love story and the two leads be a paraplegic soldier and a statuesque blue alien princess.

Sorry people but District 9 was little more than a commentary on society. AVATAR on the other hand was a downright beautiful and fun film to watch (although the story was not too original).

District 9. What should be said has been said by most people here. District 9 was one of the few films in recent years where I have been totally absorbed by a film in the cinema; I laughed, cried, cheered and forgot I was in the cinema for 100 minutes (although I did notice a few people leaving early...). Avatar was ok, but that was all. The visuals were amazing of course, but I found the 3D annoying and distracting, recently watched it in 2D at home and enjoyed it much more, but it is by no means a classic. Not to mention the fact that District 9 managed to do most of what Avatar did effects wise for a fraction of the cost. I'd much rather watch The Last Samurai or Dances with Wolves if I wanted to watch that story being told again.

District 9 sucked beyond belief. Both films turned into Transformers toward the end lol. At least Avatar was good eye candy.

I didn't like District 9. Avatar isn't my favorite movie by a long shot but I have to pick Avatar.

District 9

Avatar's story was terrible. It was the best-looking movie ever, but it was not a great movie. A good story and special effects makes D9 better.

District 9

I can't sympathize with CGI aliens, so ideally I'd say neither. I guess District 9 is somewhat less bad.

District 9, much to the world's dismay, far better.

Avatar is little more than eye candy. District 9 was interesting and fun. Goofy ending, though.

Both are over-rated but D9 aspires to be more than a remake of ferngully

Avatar is the better film for it's cgi and acting than District 9's mokumentary and visual effects.

I've since rescinded my earlier decision. D9 is just ballsy enough to overtake Avatar. It's very close though, just for very different hard-to-quantify reasons.

CGI doesn't always make a film. In fact, it never makes a film. I'll go with District 9. I enjoyed it a lot more than other people did.

District 9 has not aged very well. Avatar wins.

Avatar is quite a bit better.

District 9... I found it really refreshing. Avatar was too popcorn and simple to me, District 9 wanted to be something different in sci fi, and it nailed it.

When these first came out I like Avatar better, but D9 has grown on me a lot. Avatar holds up pretty well for me though. D9 wins.

Avatar is the story of Pocahontas with blue people, so it's generic plot takes away from it's technological brilliance. District 9 came out the same year, and is also about a race of people we don't understand but are trying to learn about, while the government is trying to control them. District 9 is far superior because it's a more intelligent script, a much more unique take on the genre and a much stronger ending and love story.

District 9, end of discussion

It's hard to say anything bad about District 9, but Avatar really delivered in all aspects of what a Sci-Fi movie should. As a movie producer though, you can argue that D9 falls into the category with Bladerunner, Skyline, & some others that has really made an impact and profit despite have very small budgets and no real backing from the Big Movie companies. Avatar definitely, but with special consideration that these two films were universes apart in budget and media buzz....

Loved Avatar but District 9 definitely beats it in this case

District 9...

Lots of people malign the poor dialogue in Avatar. It does have poor dialogue, but that is not why the movie is meant to be experienced. It is meant to be experienced in a movie theater in immersive 3-D. The point is to transport you into a new world and wow you with its visuals, not for you to marvel at the dialogue. That said, I still like District 9 more. I like it more because Avatar was a big budget picture, and even if it was mind-blowingly creative, it still came with all the big budget tropes: happy ending, silly romance, unrealistic dialogue. Though it began to fall apart in the final third act, I can still respect District 9 as one of my all-time favorite films because its independent production freed it from falling prey to genre tropes. The documentary style is also wonderfully done.

'Avatar' was a whole, new experience when I watched it in 3D cinema for the first time. I can't forget that. But 'District 9' has a far more interesting story and concept. If I have these two DVDs in front of me and asked which one will I watch, I'll go for 'District 9'. 'Avatar' will not give me the same surprise, certainly not on DVD.

Avatar was indeed a more groundbreaking film, but District 9 was a much more enjoyable film. I've seen Avatar 1 time and have had zero desire to watch it again.

District 9 is the superior film

avatar is good district 9 is horrible maybe my worst ever movie going experience.