Look, as I’ve said before, I really did enjoy Avatar. It was a fun movie and the special effects were fabulous. For $300 million USD they’d fucking want to be! But here’s the thing. District 9 had a budget of $30 million USD, and the effects were as good, if not better. See where I’m going here?
The effects of District 9 were grittier and more realistic, and they demonstrated the quality that could be accomplished without a Cameron-sized budget. It’s not like the aliens only appeared in shadows, and it’s not like the aliens and humans never interact. You also can’t tell me that the cost was because the horizon needed to be generated, because District 9 has a dirty, great, big spaceship in the horizon for most shots!
But the other night, during my re-watch, I realised something that I believe puts District 9 over the edge. The lighting. One of the most difficult things to do right in graphics is lighting. Most filmmakers try to avoid well lit shots that involve CG. The reason is that if you don’t have the light source coming from exactly the right place, the shot looks fake. Basically, you shouldn’t be able to do shots like this without a budget higher than some countries GDP:
Alas, the likelihood of District 9 beating Avatar in the Best Visual Effects category is about as likely as it winning Best Picture. *Sigh* I know. Give it up.