Why we never got to see a District 9 sequel

In 2009, District 9 became the surprise hit movie of the year. On a relatively small budget of $30 million, the movie recouped that figure on its opening weekend in the United States alone. It went on to make $210 million at the worldwide box office, and it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best motion picture. Although it didn't win any Oscars, it was an impressive feat for an indie sci-fi film out of South Africa with a first-time writer/director that featured no movie stars. Had Avatar not been released in the same year, District 9 would have been the biggest science fiction movie of the year.

A District 9 sequel, tentatively called District 10 seemed likely. The movie ended in a way that allowed for a sequel, and there are plenty of stories to explore in the world of District 9. Also, the producer was Peter Jackson, who kind of has a thing for franchises.

Yet, the fans of the film never got a sequel. Instead, director Neill Blomkamp went on to direct the forgettable Elysium and the just plain awful Chappie. Both movies also featured the breakout star of District 9, Sharlto Copley, so it wasn't like the two important figures of the first movie had conflicting schedules. So why wasn't a sequel to District 9 ever made?

The director didn't plan for a sequel

According to Neill Blomkamp, he wasn't thinking about making a sequel while writing, directing, and editing District 9. He said that he didn't even know a sequel was possible until the movie was nearly completed and in the final stages of editing.

On this one, we'll take Blomkamp's word for it, but we should point out that the film was produced at Peter Jackson's WingNut Films production company, and Jackson was a producer on the film. Peter Jackson has never met a sequel he didn't like. However, even though Jackson's office was just down the hallway from where Blomkamp worked on the editing of the film, no one talked about a sequel until close to the end of the production. Blomkamp also said that he, not Jackson, was the first one to mention the possibility.

The problem was that since Blomkamp was only thinking about making a standalone film, he didn't know where the overall story arc was heading for a sequel or a franchise. Another problem was that Blomkamp didn't know if he wanted to do a sequel or a prequel. This made it sound like Blomkamp had a lot of ideas but hadn't settled on a direction. However, by this point, District 9 was not some small sci-fi movie. It was a hit in its first weekend and although it was released in the summer, there was a lot of talk about it going into awards season.

That meant if Blomkamp wanted to make a successful sequel, he needed a fantastic idea to build on the momentum of the original film. Blomkamp also said that when it came to a sequel, he wanted to do something original. Apparently an idea of that magnitude didn't come until much later. It wasn't until about 2015 that Blomkamp said that he had a "really cool idea" for a District 9 sequel, but that still doesn't mean that it will get made any time soon, or at all.

Other projects quickly came calling

While Neill Blomkamp says he has a really cool idea for a District 9 sequel (which, let's remember, is also how he described Chappie), what Blomkamp doesn't have is time to make the film.

In a perfect world, production on the District 9 sequel would have started shortly after the first one was released. However, without an idea for the sequel, Blomkamp used the success of District 9 to get another original sci-fi film based on his script into production within months of District 9's release. That movie was Elysium, which he worked on until late 2012.

While shooting Elysium, Blomkamp and his wife/co-screenwriter, Terri Tatchell, wrote the script for Chappie in two weeks, and after Elysium wrapped, they immediately started working on Chappie. Production on that movie lasted into 2014, and it was released into theaters in February 2015.

Those movies kept Blomkamp pretty busy post-District 9. Blomkamp says that if he were to do the sequel properly, it would take three years to make. That's a big time commitment.

Blomkamp values time off between movies

A lot of people wondered if Blomkamp would start the District 9 sequel after finishing Elysium. At the time, he said that he wanted to take some time off. Instead, following Elysium, he chose to do Chappie because the script was already written and it was a much smaller project. He said that after completing Chappie, he would take some time off before he tackled another project.

Chappie was released in May 2015, and for the rest of 2015, there wasn't much news about the director. He was probably doing whatever it is the suddenly-wealthy do after they strike it big, like traveling the world or finally getting those car repairs done. Would he return to filmmaking with a sequel? Well, it turns out that Blomkamp was working on at least one secret project on his downtime.

And he's busy with other projects, too

In general, Blomkamp's feelings towards doing sequels appear, at the very least, to be mixed. In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, he criticized the "cannibalistic" aspects of the film industry—that is, the tendency to prefer the safety of established franchises to the risk of starting over. In the same breath, however, he said he wouldn't discount the possibility of a District 9 sequel. Shortly thereafter, Blomkamp seemed primed to direct a fifth entry in the Alien series, going so far as to release tantalizing unofficial concept art on social media.

That project probably isn't happening. In January 2017, Blomkamp tweeted the awful truth: the chances of his Alien movie ever happening are "slim," as it's basically been set aside pending the success or failure of Alien: Covenant. In February 2017, Bill Paxton, who'd expressed interest in reprising his character Hudson in Blomkamp's project, died in surgery, further weakening the project's chances. Perfect time for District 9 Part 2, right? Not exactly.

In September 2016, Blomkamp revealed a prop of a mangled, seemingly human head from another project, explicitly unrelated to Alien and, by the looks of it, probably not District 9 sequel-related either. Could the unnamed project be his long-rumored adaptation of Thomas Sweterlitsch's novel The Gone World? Although the novel will finally be released in 2018, Blomkamp was allegedly in talks to adapt it as early as November 2015. As the careers of inhumanly prolific filmmakers such as Luc Besson have shown, directors can make more than one movie at a time, so the existence of this project doesn't preclude a District 9 sequel from happening—but it does make it less likely.

Blomkamp has a series of short films in the works

In April 2017, Blomkamp tweeted about his current project, making "experimental" short films for Steam, asking fans whether he should make the movies free or paid. The tweet included behind-the-scenes shots and a Steam banner. The comments have been decidedly in favor of paid content—a sustainable business model, and potentially less risky than making blockbusters like a sequel to District 9. On Instagram, Blomkamp shared a creepy skull logo for Oats Studios, which will publish his Steam shorts.

Copley is busy with other projects, but hasn't ruled out the possibility

Although he looks different at the end of the film, Sharlto Copley is the face of District 9. In his breakout role as the delightfully "clueless bureaucrat" Wikus Van De Merwe, the South African actor wowed international audiences and launched his Hollywood career. More recently, he's been busy starring in Ben Wheatley's bullet-riddled action thriller Free Fire and writing a sci-fi comedy he hopes to direct himself in.

Copley's busy schedule doesn't disqualify him from starring in a District 9 sequel, if one were to materialize, and he's made it clear he'd gladly reprise his role. Now if they can just get past all the other obstacles keeping the project stuck in limbo, Blomkamp and company might just prove us wrong. Here's hoping they do.

Is District 9 too hard to follow up?

District 9 ended on a cliffhanger, and the alternate universe of the film is rich with themes and storylines to explore. Sharlto Copley wanted to do a sequel, and District 9 was a huge success for Peter Jackson and his production company. Yet, the furthest that the District 9 sequel got was an 18-page treatment. Another bad sign is that without any confirmed projects on his plate, Blomkamp isn't using the opportunity to write and direct the follow-up.

One reason for that may be because District 9 was too big of a hit. Again, it was successful at the box office, it was nominated for four Academy Awards, it has a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and it appeared on a number of "best of" lists of 2009.

All of this was pretty unforeseen by the filmmakers and the production company. Originally, Blomkamp was picked by Jackson to direct a movie based on the video game franchise, Halo, for his production company. When Halo fell through, Jackson agreed to make a full-length version of Blomkamp's 2006 short film "Alive in Joberg." When the movie was released, its themes of social segregation, xenophobia, and racism registered with moviegoers and critics, which helped make it an overwhelming success for the first-time writer/director.

Will we ever see a sequel to District 9? We sure hope so, but there isn't much to be excited about right now.