District 9, Blu-ray (2009)

by | Dec 21, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

District 9, Blu-ray (2009)

Director: Neill Bomkamp
Producer: Peter Jackson

Studio: Tri-Star 29226 [Release date: 12/22/09] [Distrib. by Sony]

Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD

Audio: English or French DTS-HD master audio 5.1; English Audio description track
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Hindi
Extras: Director’s commentary track, Deleted scenes, The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log (3-part documentary), Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus, Innovation: Acting and Improvision, Created the World of District 9, Alien Generation: Visual effects, Interactive map of satellite and schematics of the world of District 9, God of War III playable PlayStation3 game demo, Digital DVD copy of the film, BD-Live movieIQ section, cast, trivia & more while watching the feature
Length: 112 minutes
Rating: *****

This is a highly original sci-fi feature which shares with the recent Mexican film Sleep Dealer a strong theme of social justice – unusual in sci-fi except for a couple episodes of Star Trek. In the Mexican film the aliens are the Mexicans who stay on their side of the border but work at robotic jobs across the border via virtual technology. In District 9 the aliens are really alien – giant insect-like creatures who arrived suddenly over Johannesburg South Africa and were cloistered for 20 years into a squalid shanty-town called District 9.

The film centers around Wikus, the leader of a contingent of administrators of District 9 who are attempting to illegally evict the millions of “prawns,” to place them in a camp some distance away from Johannesburg. The giant ship has not moved for 20 years, and the slums are controlled by ruthless Nigerians who have assembled a stock of alien weapons which don’t respond to human control. Wikus is making a video of the whole procedure, showing a subordinate who taking over his lesser position how to handle the prawns.

In the investigation of the terrible shantytown Wikus (convincingly played by Sharlto Copley) discovers evidence of more advanced alien technology than he has seen before. He opens a cylinder of fluid and some sprays onto him accidentally.  Soon he has become sick and his left hand is slowly turning into an alien clawed hand as his DNA is metamorphising. He is taken to a special laboratory of the government office administering District 9, where they plan to remove his arm in order to use it to access the alien weapons they also have. He escapes and returns to the shantytown, where a seeks help from one of the prawns who has a small child. They have been painstakingly collecting the special fluid for 20 years to power the small ship under their shack, to return to the big ship over the city. That was the liquid that got on Wikus and began his transformation to an alien. They decide to raid the government lab to get the cylinder back again so the small ship can rise and take Wikus for alien medical conversion back to being completely human again, and for the ship to leave.

District 9
takes quite a different route to the usual sci-fi action picture, and is full of painful portrayals of those in power to subjugate and regard as less important those under their rule. The exchanges between the whites and the aliens are violent  and disturbing. The stark reality of the shantytown back alleys is contrasted with the sci-fi weapons and spaceship technology. There is even a big action finish involving a transformer-like alien machine to please those into that. While the conclusion overdoes the violence, the basic message survives and gives the thriller more depth and power.

The Blu-ray transfer looks fine, with the so-called reality video shots seemingly very natural and believable. The lossless DTS surround conveys the many sonic environments well.  There are subtitles for the aliens’ speech, but sometimes it is even useful to run the English subtitles, considering the heavy Boer accents of some of the actors. The deleted scenes were useful to view, and I felt a couple of them – such as a lecture on the physiology of the aliens – and a TV interview with a spokesman about District 9 in general – would have better fleshed out one’s understanding of the film plot. It’s a bit disconcerting to see an actor in a blue stretch leotard with dots glued all over him as the motion-capture subject for the later CGI creation of an alien, but of course they hadn’t done all the computer work yet because it was decided not to use that scene in the final film.

 – John Sunier

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