"There are a lot of secrets in District 9"
In 1982 an alien ship entered Earth orbit and stopped over Johannesburg, South Africa. Sitting motionless above the African city, authorities board the vehicle to find over a million, starving inhabitants who are then welcomed by the people of Earth. Almost thirty years later, the Prawns, as the locals have christened them, now life in a fenced in ghetto called District 9. Multi-National United, a private military corporation has been charged to evict the aliens from their shanty town homes and move them to a new purpose built compound miles outside of the city but there are many secrets in District 9 and its inhabitants are not going to leave easily.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to reignite the spark and make us remember why you have a love for a particular genre and ‘District 9’ does that for all of the science fiction geeks out there.
When you look back through the echelons of science fiction there are pivotal movies and TV shows that have moved the genre on and made it fanatical fans jump for joy and the cinematic audience take notice of what can be seen as a geeky movie genre. Films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Planet of the Apes’, ‘Alien’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Robocop’, ‘Aliens’, ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Independence Day’ and TV shows like ‘Star Trek’, ‘The X-Files’, ‘Stargate’, ‘Fringe’, ‘Lost’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica’ have all pushed the genre into the public consciousness and become defining moments for the genre. These behemoths may have defined science fiction for the masses however it is the smaller, independent movie that has really taken the genre forward. Without low budget films like ‘The Terminator’, ‘Silent Running’, ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Moon’ and most importantly ‘Star Wars’, science fiction would never have been as defining as it is now. ‘District 9’ is about to join that heady list of genre defining movies.
Shot in a mix of documentary and conventional styles, ‘District 9’ is the motion picture debut of science fiction short film director Neill Blomkamp. The South African born filmmaker made his name making short science fiction movies in a documentary style, hand held and blending in photo-realistic computer generated images into real stories. With films like ‘Tempbot’, ‘Adicolor Yellow’ and ‘Tetra Vaal’, he was brought to the attention of Microsoft who commissioned him to make a series of three short films based on their ultra successful game franchise ‘Halo’. Those put him on the radar of writer/director/producer Peter Jackson and the pair’s first collaboration became a re-envisioning of Blomkamp’s earlier short film ‘Alive in Joburg’ into ‘District 9’.
The premise is a simple one and one that is not uncommon within science fiction but the original stems from its setting and the history of the country the aliens arrive in. Instead of the usual American or European setting, ‘District 9’ takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1982 a huge starship appears over the city and on investigation by the authorities they discovered that the ship was filled with over a million alien refugees, starving and needing a place to stay. Moved into makeshift accommodation, the world’s governments argued what to do with them. Thirty years later, with numbers ever increasing, the area rife with crime and tension mounting, the South African government has hired private military corporation MNU to evict the aliens from their shantytown homes and move them to a new placement, miles outside of the city but for MNU operative Wikus van der Merwe, this is not going to be easy, as there are many secrets in District 9.
What makes this different is Blomkamp’s approach to the story. The human prospective is shown from a documentary or news footage point of view, with the alien or Prawn, as they are known to the locals, playing out like a conventional piece of narrative. This gives you two sides to a powerful story of social and intergalactic racial tolerance and acceptance. With the history of South Africa used to add to the flames of this, ever so slightly, this is brilliantly written and powerfully played, especially by newcomer Sharlto Copley as Wikus van der Merwe, science fiction.
Shot for a budget that wouldn’t even cover the catering on a Hollywood blockbuster, ‘District 9’ is showcase for how special effects can be used to enhance a story and not just be the main focus of the film. The creation of the Prawns by Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital is superb and completely believable as they interact with the environments and the people of the shantytown district. Also the weapon design and the endo-skeleton battle robot giving the huge budgeted ‘Transformers’ movies a run for their money.
‘District 9’ is another genre changing movie for science fiction. Neill Blomkamp has moved the genre on again and set a new standard for story and the incorporation of visual effects to the advancement of the story and not to the hindrance of it. There are many secrets in ‘District 9’ and you will want to discover them.
PICTURE AND SOUND
Presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack the transfer is very good.
Place the disc into an Internet enabled Blu-Ray player or PS3 and you’ll be able to chat to your friends as you watch the movie together.
Commentary with co-writer/director Neill Blomkamp
Making his motion picture debut with a genre defining science fiction movie, Neill Blomkamp gives a fascinating insight into the film. We also get an insight into the man who clearly has a passion for science fiction and he is going to be a shining light for the genre.
Exclusive to all Blu-Ray players with Internet Access and PS3s, this gives you access to an up-to-date database on all things District 9. This includes insights into the movie and the actors and crew involved in its production.
Joburg from Above: Satellite and Schematics of the World of District 9 – Interactive Map
View a satellite view of Johannesburg with insights into District 9, the Mothership and MNU Headquarters
Deleted Scenes (23.28 mins/HD)
Entitled ‘MNU Agent field training’, ‘Anti-Alien riot’, ‘Cryo Alien’, ‘Kids & Space Rat’, ‘Kids play with Alien weapons’, ‘Meat Seller’, ‘Shack Fire’, ‘Dirk Michaels TV Interview’, ‘MNU Office’, ‘Aggro Alien’, ‘Egg Alien’, ‘Roof Alien’, ‘Stolen Alien Goods’, ‘Alien Rigs off Fundiswa’, ‘Dead dog and Alien’, ‘Ghetto blaster’, ‘Alien reproductive system’, ‘Bad Kids’, ‘Clinic Visit’, ‘Steal Tank’ and ‘Koobus Big Gun’, these deleted scens suffer from the lack of a commentary track or introduction to explain why they were removed.
The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log (34.19 mins/HD)
Split into three chapters entitled ‘Envisioning District 9’, ‘Shooting District 9’ and ‘Refining District 9’ and with contributions from co-writer/director Neill Blomkamp, producer Peter Jackson and co-writer Terri Tatchell, this featurette takes you through the production of District 9.
Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus (9.52 mins/HD)
Director Neill Blomkamp, prosthetic Makeup supervisor Sarah Rubano and actor Sharlto Copley take you through the five hour makeup process of transforming Wikus into a part alien hybrid.
Innovation: The Acting and Innovation of District 9 (12.05 mins/HD)
Director Neill Blomkamp, co-writer Terri Tatchell and actor Sharlto Copley talk about the use of improvisation on set and how the film evolved through it.
Conception & Design: Creating the World of District 9 (13.18 mins/HD)
Director Neill Blomkamp, production designer Philip Ivey and WETA supervisor Richard Taylor talk about the design of the alien weapons, ship and District 9.
Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of District 9 (10.18 mins/HD)
Director Neill Blomkamp and motion capture performer Jason Cope talk about bringing the aliens to life onset and also the CGI technology used to make them look photo-realistic.
A preview of Michael Jackson’s This Is It
The Blu-Ray treatment of ‘District 9’ is excellent and complements one of the best science fiction movies in a very long time. The commentary track is excellent and the rest of the special features are first rate, making this a must buy title.