I reviewed Neill Blomkamp's science fiction apartheid allegory, District 9, back in August right here. Blomkamp's film has received some mixed reviews and a banning in Nigeria because of the way the film depicts its Nigerian characters. If the film has a fault it is that it tries to disentangle its political, anti-corporate and speciesism sub-plots within a third act of all action shoot-em ups. In the end, its only crime is that it tries to have its cake and eat it and attempts to encourage blockbuster action material and biting social satire as bedfellows, albeit somewhat uncomfortably at times.
It's still an engaging film and it's encouraging to see mainstream science fiction cinema providing food for thought that isn't entirely a rag bag of hoary old cliches (yes, Avatar, I'm looking at you). As well as the satirical and timely messages about racism, prejudice, enforced relocation this is also a film with plenty of action and some pretty graphic violence. Driven by a superb central performance from Sharlto Copley, the narrative is driven through the first half by Blomkamp's documentary style hand-held shooting and the faux news bulletins and security camera footage that he constantly splices into the visual mix. The second half certainly moves away from satire and into science fiction B movie tropes that are given a freshness by Blomkamp's enthusiastic directing and pacing.
Picture quality is excellent, picking up the gritty, detail encrusted environment of the film, the dusty colour palette of the landscapes and township, and provides superb flesh tones and picks up fine clothing detail. It is pretty much reference quality material, with powerful black levels and contrast, vivid colour detail and textures. A sensational transfer. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is vibrantly alive and delivers an extremely detailed aural environment, keeping dialogue clear, giving a kick to explosions, gunfire and spaceships and allowing the score enough room to breathe too. It's an outstandingly powerful sonic experience so make sure you turn that sub-woofer up!
Commentary: Director Neill Blomkamp takes us through the film with an in-depth, fascinating track. He covers his career, his work with actor Sharlto Copley, the characters, the effects, the production design. He moves from subject to subject with ease and wisdom beyond his years. Well worth listening to if you're fascinated by the film's background, its themes and production.
Joburg From Above: Satellite and Schematics of the World of 'District 9' Interactive Map:
You can navigate all the places seen in the film - the ship, MNU building and the ghetto. Text material on the characters and locations, alien culture and biology, vehicles, pre-production sketches all mixed in with clips from the film. Tons of material well put together and offering plenty of background to the film.
The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker's Log: (in HD) A three part behind the scenes feature. Envisioning 'District 9 discusses how the film emerged from Blomkamp's short Alive in Joburg, development of story and script, themes and ideas. Shooting 'District 9' provides a standard production featurette about the shoot, how documentary, hand held material was mixed with cinematic craft and has plenty of interviews with the crew. Refining 'District 9' discusses the film's sound effects and score and the development of the alien speech.
Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus: (HD), a look at the grueling hours behind the application of the make up effects to actor Sharlto Copley.
Innovation: The Acting and Improvisation of 'District 9': (HD) is a very interesting look at how the actors were able to improvise their roles within the documentary aspects of the film.
Conception and Design: Creating the World of 'District 9': (HD) takes us through set and prop design, how the aliens were designed and created, the build and design of the ships as an homage to SF movies of the 1970s and 1980s, the design and build of the shanty town and the alien Exo Suit.
Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of 'District 9': (HD) the digital design for the aliens in the film and how they were incorporated in Blomkamp's hand held cinema verite world is covered in reasonable depth.
Deleted scenes: nearly 25 minutes of sequences dropped from the final edit.
Plus: Trailer, Cinechat, "MovieIQ" and BD-Live functionality.
District 9 (Sony Blu Ray - SBR55760 - Region B - Cert 15 - Released December 22nd, 2009)
Cathode Ray Tube has one copy of the Blu Ray of 'District 9' to give away. This competition is courtesy of Sony Pictures.
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