District 9 begins with the news that the aliens first arrived in 1982, in what is basically an opening documentary-style piece.
A large alien ship appears over Johannesbourg, rather than a major city, hovered there for 3 months at which point the officials then decided to try and cut their way in. To their surprise, they found hoardes of malnourished aliens, around a million of them in fact, and once settled on the ground it soon turned into a slum, much like those in Mumbai. The ship ended up inoperable and unable to move.
Eventually, the aliens’ presence led to riots breaking out, especially since over time bits and pieces had been breaking off from the ship and dropping onto the town below, and as the aliens are looting and causing destruction, as well as murdering people, this resulted in everyone just wanting them all to bugger off home. A company, MNU (Multi-National United) was set up to keep all the aliens, referred to in a derogatory fashion as prawns, in check.
The plan is, after 20 years, to get rid and ship them off to a patch of land 200km away where they can keep themselves to themselves and stop bothering everyone. It’s not an easy task to evict and relocate almost 2 million aliens, as they have multiplied in numbers since first arriving, and Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is the lackey we see tasked with taking command of the operation, along with cameraman Trent (who we don’t see, for obvious reasons), Fundwisa (Mandla Gaduka), his assistant and Thomas (Kenneth Nkosi), an armed soldier to keep them safe.
On the flip side, the main aliens we see are Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope) and his son, Little CJ, who have amassed 20 years of technology and they’ve mastered something for which we’re yet to discover.
Overall, District 9 is slow at first as we follow the documentary, and later on once his documentary recording is done – which, at almost 30 mins, which is twice as long as it needs to be – it tells a far more engaging tale. I can’t say what follows at this point, without giving too much away, but from that moment on it’s a must-see.
The film also feels like trying to humanise the aliens from the Half Life series and the CGI blends in perfectly with the actors to the point where you don’t notice that you’re watching CGI aliens, which is just the right way to do it, since I’m completely sick of the never-ending supply of kids CGI movies.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio and is highly-detailed with no problems. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
The sound is in DTS-HD MA 5.1, although I only had access to it in DTS 5.1, and is similarly fine. While it’s not an out-and-out loud blockbuster, there’s enough going in it to justify a good score. I don’t want to ssay any more than that for fear of giving spoilers.
The extras are as follows (the titles may contains spoilers), and when you press the menu button on your remote, there’s a simple option to bring up the list of extras so you can quickly go to the next one:
- Joburg from above: Satellites and schematics of the World of District 9 – Interactive Map: Explore the environment, technology and aliens of District 9 using the arrow keys and enter button on the remote, it says. Well, you can select from District 9, MNU Headquarters and the Alien mothership but while there’s some info here, there’s not a massive amount. If you’re a massive fan of the film it’ll keep you interested for 10-15 minutes but it’s not really something you’ll return to.
- Deleted Scenes (23:38): A massive 20 here. They’re quite interesting additions but nothing that cries out to be included back in the main feature. However, occasionally the disc just freezes at the end of some of them and I have to manually move them on to the next one. Similarly, you have to do this when it does move onto the next one and there’s no sound. Something’s really up with this disc in this section alone.
- The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log (34:19): Split into three parts, this gives plenty of background info with chat from the key cast and crew, and how the film spawned from the short film, “Alive in Joburg” and the failure to bring a Halo movie to the screen. Oddly, that short film is not on this disc.
- Metamorphosis: The transformation of Wikus (9:52): Sharlto Copley in the make-up chair getting strange things done to him. It’s fascinating to watch.
- Innovation: The acting and improvisation of District 9 (12:05): As the title suggests, a lot of the dialogue was improvised along the way.
- Conception and Design: Creating the world of District 9 (13:18): There’s an immense amount of real-world set design in this film since, as I stated earlier, it works so well that you start to forget that you’re watching CGI mixed in.
- Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of District 9 (10:18): Showing how actors play the key alien figures with ‘tennis balls’ on their outfits so they can be captured and painted out and the CGI aliens put in.
- Trailer: For this film? Erm… strangely not. It’s for Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2:31). I have no interest in seeing this film but it does seem a tad ghoulish given how it was all over before it began.
- Audio commentary: with director/co-writer Neil Blomkamp
- BD Live: Connect your Blu-ray player to the internet and it sounds like you’ll be able to get info the IMDB page for this film. I’ve never got my player to go online properly before, so I’ll just visit IMDB anyway.
- Cinechat: Chat with friends on BD Live while watching the film, as long as they’re on BD Live too. Sounds a remarkably complex and pointless thing to do. Does anyone ever use this?
- Play the film with Movie IQ: Another BD Live feature. This is online info for people who don’t have a computer in the same room while watching the film and a desperate need to answer a query right there and then.
The menu is mocked up a bit like the command centre at MNU, mixing in bits of the film with music. There are English subtitles plus French and Hindi. However, the chaptering is the usual 16 from Columbia which is simply not enough for a film that runs to almost 2 hours.
Running time: 112 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cat no: SBR55760
Released: December 2009
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French, Hindi
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Producers: Carolynne Cunningham and Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Music: Clinton Shorter
Wikus Van De Merwe: Sharlto Copley
Christopher Johnson/Grey Bradnam – UKNR Chief Correspondent: Jason Cope
Fundiswa Mhlanga: Mandla Gaduka
Tania Van De Merwe: Vanessa Haywood
Thomas: Kenneth Nkosi
Koobus Venter: David James
Nicolas Van De Merwe: Johan van Schoor
Sandra Van De Merwe: Marian Hooman
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.