Blu-Ray Review: Great ‘District 9’ Given Amazing HD Release

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CHICAGO – The Blu-Ray release of “District 9” is one of the best of 2009, a perfectly transferred film with a great selection of special features that enhance the viewer experience of the film itself. “District 9” is one of the most beloved films of last year and Sony deserves credit for treating its diehard fans as well as any studio in the last twelve months with only one major flaw in an otherwise perfect package. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

So many films are released that feel like a product of a corporate machine designed to take your hard-earned cash. I think the reason so many people have taken so wildly to Neill Blomkamp’s revelatory debut (CFCA winner for Most Promising Newcomer) is that it is such an original, daring, and inventive piece of filmmaking.

District 9 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 22nd, 2009.
District 9 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 22nd, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

There’s so much grin-inducing ingenuity at play in Blomkamp’s sci-fi wonder that it gives the viewer a shiver up their spine to see a work that will be referenced for years to come. And perhaps the biggest influence the film will have (and a reason why it’s arguably the most influential of the last year) is that a film this accomplished and ambitious was made for $30 million. They don’t all need to cost as much as “Avatar”.

Filmed “mockumentary style,” the film opens with a crash course in its alternate universe history. With news footage and interviews, it is revealed that an alien spaceship appeared over South Africa in the early ’80s and has been hovering there ever since. The ship’s inhabitants weren’t hostile; just homeless. They were refugees with no food, no guidance, and no leadership. They were given their own home, a ghetto known as District 9.

District 9 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 22nd, 2009.
District 9 was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 22nd, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

Segregation wasn’t good enough. Too many of District 9’s inhabitants were getting out and their camp is too close to the populous in general, so it’s time to move them again. Enter Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a field operative for Multi-National United, the company planning to relocate hundreds of thousands of aliens from an area already overrun with poverty and crime. Wikus discovers more in District 9 than he could have ever imagined.

The genius of Blomkamp’s film - besides some of the best action pacing in years - is the consistent ingenuity of the script. Every twist is followed by another that displays the cleverness of a script nominated for best of the year at the Golden Globes (and likely to be by the Academy as well). Notably, the script was developed collaboratively with Blomkamp and his actors, who were allowed to improvise within the structure of the story he devised. It makes for a startlingly creative and genuine experience. This is the kind of confident, creative filmmaking that you don’t often see from accomplished directors, much less from newcomers. (To learn more about the film’s production, check out this interview with Copley and Blomkamp.)

And it looks absolutely jaw-dropping on television. Perhaps it’s due to the TV documentary style of the film itself but I actually found it more visually rewarding at home than in theaters. The HD transfer is spectacular, maintaining the dirt and grit of the faux realism of the piece while also providing crystal clear picture and a perfectly mixed audio track. Technically, “District 9” is one of the best blu-ray releases of 2009.

The special features are notable as well with a three-part making-of documentary featuring interviews with all major players including producer Peter Jackson, Copley, and Blomkamp that details how the once-planned adaptation of “Halo” turned into “District 9”. Nearly a half-hour of deleted scenes are interesting but all smart cuts (reminding one of how well-edited the film is overall) and specific featurettes (like one on the makeup needed for Wikus’ transformation) are informative. In a very cool move, Sony has included the complete demo for their upcoming “God of War III” and it hints at what a remarkable game this is going to be. Including Sony game demos on Sony blu-rays? Brilliant.

All that’s missing is the short film that inspired “District 9”. Why not include “Alive in Jo’Burg,” the movie that started it all? However much it would have cost to get the rights (although I find it hard to believe Blomkamp and Jackson don’t own them considering they could adapt the short into a feature film), Sony should have paid the price to make this an absolutely complete package, instead of merely near-perfect.

‘District 9’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Video and stars Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood. It was written by Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell and directed by Blomkamp. It was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 22nd, 2009. content director Brian Tallerico

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Gemma Fournier's picture


Personally, I really didn’t care for the movie. It seemed beyond science fiction to me. The ending made us wonder if there is going to be a sequel but I am sure that those who liked the movie they were really happy to see it on Blue Ray. casino online

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