The way that Attack the Block hasn’t permeated the Internet/”fandoms” in the way that a tight, cool, fun cult SF film should reveals a lot about the thinking of many consumers of that genre.
The main thing is a big fat vein of social conservatism, which is more of a feature of Science Fiction/Fantasy texts (and enthusiasts) than many might admit. The response to this film’s main characters—poor, mostly black inner city youths—is often couched in the language of ghettoisation. Here’s two comments on the film’s YouTube trailer, both posted in the last week:
"if the main protagonists were not cool gangbang badass kids the movie would be worth a 8/10 for me but in this state I just cant bare to give it some solid score"
"Can’t stand chavs/chav talk lol, sole reason I avoided this film"
This wholesale dismissal of the film because of this feature of its script—which the director developed by spending months working with young people who lived in these areas of London, and which the spectacularly talented but mostly non-professional-actor cast also helped to develop—is both depressing and somewhat alarming.
Note here that the resistance to the film’s dialogue is expressed using off-the-peg cultural stereotypes (“gangbang”, “chav”) that are regularly used to dehumanise and dismiss the social legitimacy of large sections of (already marginalised) people. They’re not people, they’re gangbangers, they’re chavs; listen to how they talk. Ugh lol i can’t believe someone made a movie about them.
There’s also an enormous double standard going on here regarding the way that people perceive the sympathetic nature of “morally ambiguous” characters. There’s no getting past the fact (and nor should there be, necessarily) that the main characters in Attack the Block are petty criminals, who mug people and threaten them in the street. But they are also complex, human characters capable of taking responsibility for their actions and making difficult, courageous decisions (indeed, that journey is one of the story arcs of the movie). And yet, they’re just gangbangers; they’re just chavs.
But I’m willing to be that a lot of people who dismiss Attack the Block on this basis are the same people who praise to the skies the character of The Joker, or Moriarty, or some other cartoon (but much more murderous) villain. So it seems that moral ambiguity and criminal characters are fine, as long as that ambiguity is telegraphed in huge primary colours with clown makeup and campy, OTT performances by actors who are already established as respectable and mainstream.
I have more thoughts about this but I’m struggling to articulate them right now.