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January 12, 2010
District 9 Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
13/8/200930/12/2009Sony PicturesNeill Blomkamp
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Sharlto Copley

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The alien spaceship in District 9.

Alien movies generally fall into two categories. The cute and cuddly kind as seen in E.T. or Monsters Vs Aliens or those hell-bent on the elimination of mankind such as those in Starship Troopers or the Alien movies. This movie, which we might add was produced by Peter Jackson, is a little more unique in that aliens have landed on earth, and are living, mostly peacefully in a refugee colony.

Thirty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa's District 9 as the world's nations argued over what to do with them.

Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens' welfare - they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens' awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA. The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is sent in to evict the aliens from their homes.

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Evicting the "prawns" from District 9
District 9 starts out with a documentary styled interview with Wikus Van Der Merwe and other members of the MNU as they discuss the arrival of the "prawns", the way they have started to upset the "humans" living in the area including theft and other crimes and then the need to move them on. This introduction not only gives you a quick rundown on what has happened in the previous decades, but really draws you into the picture.

The movie then follows the MNU members, as they enter the compound to move the alien population to a "better" compound known as District 10. Needless to say the movie makes a few twists and turns along the way which we've taken out of the plot summary so as to not ruin the surprise, but indeed this movie is a fantastic dramatic thrill ride for the 112 minute runtime.

This whole movie is reliant on one thing; the performance of Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe. For a newcomer to acting - at least in big budget movies - his performance is stellar. Direction too by newcomer Neill Blomkamp, who also wrote the screenplay with Terri Tatchell, is superb with the movie always moving along at a fair pace and plenty to see. In fact, it may take you a couple of views to see all the smaller details.

District 9 was one of our favourite movies of the 2009. It's fresh, unique, interesting take on the alien genre is most rewarding. This is a delight from start to end and we highly recommend you check this movie out if you haven't already. Those who have should need no convincing of this fine movie.

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Dialogue, and performances, are superb.
Sony Pictures have brought District 9 to Blu-Ray at the formats 1920 x 1080p resolution framed at 1.85:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The image is exceptionally clear and even with the wide range of visual styles used in the film from handy cam shots, to security camera footage and more traditional footage. Each has a natural level of colour, superbly sharp levels of detail, and decent blacks and shadow detail too. The bitrate isn't massive bit generally hovers slightly above 20Mbps.

If there is one negative, and this is more of a comment against the film rather then the transfer, it's that the CG looks a little too fake at times, and some shots from above District 9 looking down lack humans and/or "prawns" running around on the ground which makes it a look a little fake. Still, given the very limited budget it can certainly be forgiven and can't be a blot against the overall video score on this Blu-Ray.

Not to be outdone the audio on this release is also extremely impressive, reference quality even. Sony Pictures have lavished this disc with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz). The world really comes alive with the sounds of aliens scampering around, with aggressive use of surround sound channels and sub woofer. Even with the South African accents this movie is always clear to understand while the music only serves to heighten the tension throughout the film.

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The aliens really are quite ugly!
There are two English subtitle tracks on this Blu-Ray. One is for the feature movie and the second is for the audio commentary. Both appeared to be accurate to the dialogue, or sounds, on-screen.

Upon starting this disc you will be presented with a trailer for Michael Jackson's This Is It (2:31/HD) - I can't wait for that on Blu-Ray. Anyway there are at tonne of other extras on this Blu-Ray although the Australian version does not include the demo for God of War III as appears on the American disc. Still, here's the extensive list...

Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Neill Blomkamp: Recorded prior to the movie even hitting cinemas Neill provides some interesting insights into the making of this film including casting his friend from high school in the lead role, writing the story including parallels with real world events including the xenophobic thoughts with the slums in South Africa, and shooting the film. Solo tracks are quite boring at times but Neill provides enough detail and insight to make this a good listen.

Joburg From Above: Satellite and Schematics of the World of District 9 Interactive Map (HD): This is a Blu-Ray exclusive Java based interactive map which allows you to zoom in on locations and receive new details and information about how it relates to the story, what occurred there, items that may be of interest and also shows video and images from the location. It's well presented and a decent feature.

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A close-up of a District 9 prawn.
Deleted Scenes (23:28/HD): A whopping 22 deleted scenes are presented here in High Definition but only with 2-channel audio. There is some great footage here which, while not adding any major plotlines, most would have provided even more detail to the story and conditions.

The Alien Agenda: A Filmmakers Log (34:19/HD): Split up into three parts "Envisioning", "Shooting" and "Refining" this is essentially the "Making of" documentary which as the titles suggest cover the three areas of production and includes interviews with the key cast and crew including producer Peter Jackson. There's plenty of on-set footage including discussion of using the small handheld cameras and some fairly decent post-production coverage too. This is certainly worth watching.

Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus (9:52/HD): This featurette looks at the transformation of Wikus and the amount of makeup and prosthetics required to show the transformation, which was all practical, on film.

Innovation: Acting and Improvisation (12:05/HD): Much of this film was improvised on-set and this featurette looks at how much was made up on set from camera angles to dialogue.

Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9 (13:18/HD): Again this is a well produced featurette, this time look at filming in real locations, and in the real slums in South Africa. There is also a look at the aliens and alien technology used in the film.

Alien Generation: Visual Effects (10:18/HD): This featurette looks at doing the visual effects for this movie on a very low budget (the film was made for around $US30 million).

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Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley).
Trailer (12:05/HD): The trailer for Michael Jackson's This Is It, but sadly none of the District 9 are on this disc.

MovieIQ (HD): MovieIQ is a new feature on Sony Blu-Ray discs which, though an internet connection, allows you to get more information about actors in the film. It's an interesting concept that works quite well (in fact we could see this in future being used to sell 'products' seen in films).

Cine-Chat (HD): This is a BD-Live chat so you can chat with your friends through the disc while you're watching the movie. Thankfully there's a nice 2 minute video showing you what you can do with Cine-Chat. Now, if I had some friends that have this disc we could try it out!!

District 9 was one of the best movies of 2009. It offers a unique storyline, interesting characters, and some great visual effects for such a low budget film (well, compared to similar films). The Blu-Ray presentation is superb and the disc contains a swag of decent extras too. In our book, an essential purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.