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District 9 (2009) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
ImageI love science fiction films, but this film was just not up my alley.  As with “Inglourious Basterds,” “District 9” gets docked several points for the shear graphic violence.  How many times must I say it?  “Films don’t need this graphic violence.  It is completely gratuitous.”  And that’s another thing.  Where did that phrase come from?  If it is a bad thing then why would we call it gratuitous?  We don’t want it.  Anyway, I digress.

“District 9” is an alien versus humans film structured like an episode of “Cops” meets “Starship Troopers.”  After the first dozen or so minutes of a film comprised of corporation employee interview snippets and shaky camera footage, I had to skip a few chapters to see whether there was actually any story to the film.  In fact, you can skip most everything in the film and still come away with the just of the story.

Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Coley) works for the MNU, a corporation to handle alien-human affairs.  20 years ago, an alien spacecraft docked in midair or Johannesburg.  The aliens inside the ship were found to be in poor shape.  They were all quarantined to District 9, much to the disapproval of the citizens of Johannesburg.  The aliens have been labeled “prawns” due to their appearance.  They are scavengers and brutal creatures with short tempers.  20 years after the landing, MNU is forced into District 9 to serve eviction notices and move the aliens to District 10, which is located further outside the city lines.

Wikus is the leader of the MNU team.  Unfortunately he is hurt in an accident that causes him to start transforming into an alien.  For 20 years an alien resident was working on a fluid that could power his ship and take him back to the mothership.  Wikus confiscates this fluid.  Meanwhile MNU was performing genetic alteration research.  When everything is combined, Wikus is hunted by humans and tracked into District 9.  It is there that he finds out that he needs to recover the confiscated fluid.  Of course they will succeed in this mission.  Unfortunately, Wikus will not be able to get back to the mothership to be cured of his transformation.

“District 9” is a decent film, once you get past the excruciatingly boring opening.  The story is mostly original.  However, that darn graphic violence of body parts being ripped off, blood spurting every which way and entire blood being liquidated is just sickening.  Maybe I have reached the turning point in my life of sensitivity to violence, but I find it to be cruel and unusual punishment for viewers, not entertaining.
While the movie suffers from the violence, the video quality takes complete ownership of it.  Perhaps it was the amount of detail that the Blu-ray resolution provides that disturbs me.  Every object on screen has immense detail and texture.  The color palette is limited to reflect the intentions of the filmmakers.  Skintones of the humans are natural throughout.  Every shot is simply rendered beautifully.  The black levels can waver in a couple instances and there was a brief instance of banding, but other than that, the image is perfection.  If this is a film that you can stomach, then you most certainly will use it as a video reference disc.  The film was shot digitally, and it is definitely a type of film that suits that technology well.  Never once did I regret the camera choices by the filmmakers.  This is a truly stunning video presentation, just shy of perfect.

Once again, the audio is perfection.  It is just too bad that I can’t ever watch this film again because the audio quality is extraordinary.  Dialogue is pitch perfect and always intelligible.  There is never and instance of cracking frequencies.  The surround channels are constantly engaging.  Immersion is carried out throughout the film.  Directionality and panning is spot on.  The dynamic range is quite good and the frequency range never falters.  Dispersion is well prioritized.  The LFE channel is not as powerful as one might expect, especially when the mothership takes off in the end.  However, the LFE is balanced well against the other effects, so the cohesive properties of the audio remain intact.  Well done Sony.

“District 9” will impress fans with its host of bonus materials, including several Blu-ray exclusives.  First up is an audio commentary with director Neil Blomkamp.  This is a very solid commentary track that will be highly informative for fans.  There is a collection of more than 20 deleted scenes, which is quite exhausting.  “The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log” is a three-part documentary.  This documentary covers the inspiration for the film, its transition to a motion picture and the shooting of the film.  “Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus” is a make-up featurette.  “Innovation: Acting and Improvisation” covers the improvised dialogue.  “Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9” goes behind the scenes of the sets and props.  “Alien Generation: Visual Effects” covers the visual design of the aliens.

The following are exclusive to the Blu-ray release.  “Joburg from Above: Interactive Map of Satellite and Schematics of the World of District 9” allows viewers to make their way through the alien camps and MNU.  There is a PS3 demo of “God of War III” including a making of the game featurette.  MovieIQ provides real-time information during the playback.  Also included are some Sony film trailers and a Digital Copy of the film that also functions as a PSP copy.

“District 9” is a hit with science fiction film fans, but the violence depicted will surely turn away several audiences.  But if you have the stomach for it, then the audio and video qualities are well worth it.

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