District 9 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Virtually no issues emerged during this spotless transfer.
Sharpness was very positive. The only examples of softness that I saw resulted from the various documentary-style forms of photography. This meant some dodgy focus as well as some elements that were intentionally degraded to sit with various non-optimal sources. Those presented expected delineation and didn’t deserve criticism. The vast majority of the movie offered excellent clarity anyway.
I witnessed no instances of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared absent. Source flaws also failed to interfere. Colors stayed fairly subdued for the most part. The period setting didn’t favor a dynamic palette, but the hues looked reasonably accurate and full. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows showed generally positive delineation. Overall, I found this to be a strong presentation.
Plenty of good material came with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack as well. At all times, D9 offered an involving soundscape. Of course, the action sequences worked the best, especially toward the end of the film when alien weaponry became a strong part of the mix.
Even when the movie remained more restrained, however, the track boasted a lot of good work. The front and rear speakers presented many isolated elements to form a convincing soundfield. This meant localized dialogue as well as various natural elements. All of these fit together in a convincing manner and added a lot of range to the track.
In addition, audio quality satisfied. Speech was consistently concise and crisp, without edginess or other concerns. Music boasted good punch and power, while effects showed nice clarity. These elements were always clear and accurate, and the louder pieces featured strong bass and impact. I thought this was a terrific mix.
While not jam-packed with extras, D9 comes with a good array of materials. We open with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp. He gives us a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the project’s origins and development, its social commentary and reflection of modern-day South Africa, cast and performances, visual effects, story/character elements, sets and locations, stunts, action, character design and photography, and a variety of other filmmaking techniques.
Young directors often provide the best commentaries. Not only are they eager to discuss their work, but also they grew up with the format, so they’re very familiar with it. Blomkamp reconfirms this theory with his excellent chat. He seems quite invested in the process and he delivers a great deal of information about the film. All of this proves to be illuminating and enjoyable to hear.
To look at the film’s locations, we head to an interactive map called JoBurg From Above: Satellite and Schematics of the World of District 9. This allows you to check out parts of MNU Headquarters, District 9 and the Alien Mothership and learn facts about each from the “MNU Database”. In execution, it can be a bit clunky, but it gives us interesting details about various aspects of the film.
22 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 23 minutes, 28 seconds. With so many available, I won’t describe all of them. A couple of them focus on an MNU agent named Toby; he seems to act in the same regard as Wikus, which makes me wonder if the filmmakers changed/recast the role or if Toby was just supposed to be one of Wikus’ colleagues.
As for the other clips, most just offer embellishments to material already in the film. We get more detail about the alien society in District 9 as well as related elements like MNU. One of the more interesting comes from an interview with the MNU CEO; it would’ve been a clunky fit in the final film, but it provides some intriguing thoughts. We also find a bit more embellishment of various relationships and roles as well as a lot more evictions. None of this would’ve done much to alter the flick, but it’s fun to see.
By the way, some of the scenes show the aliens pre-effects. We see the live-action reference actor perform his parts of the sequences. We check out more of this in the various featurettes, but I still thought I’d mention that the deleted scenes come with this fun twist; it’s a blast to view the segments without the final effects.
Under The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log, we get 34 minutes, 19 seconds of footage. It features comments from Blomkamp, producer Peter Jackson, co-writer Terri Tatchell, director of photography Trent Opalach, special effects supervisor Max Poolman, lead set decorator Gary Potgieter, art directors Emelia Weavind and Mike Berg, production designer Philip Ivey, sound designer Dave Whitehead, supervising sound editor Brent Burge, film editor Julian Clarke, and actors Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, and David James. “Agenda” looks at the short that led to D9 and aspects of its development, script/story/character elements, alien design, rehearsals, sets and locations, cinematography and the flick’s visual style, cast and performances, action and effects, sound and editing.
Inevitably, some of the information in “Agenda” repeats from Blomkamp’s excellent commentary. Nonetheless, the show provides a lot of good footage from the set, and it digs into many elements that don’t appear in Blomkamp’s commentary. “Agenda” moves quickly and throws out a lot of useful material.
Four featurettes follow. Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus lasts nine minutes, 52 seconds and includes notes from Copley, Blomkamp, and prosthetics makeup supervisor Sarah Rubano. As implied by the title, “Transformation” looks at the practical effects used to slowly make Wikus into an alien. We see the work done on Copley and also hear some thoughts about other concepts for his character’s development. The visuals can look pretty gross, but we learn a lot about the subject matter here.
During the 12-minute, five-second Innovation: The Acting and Improvisation of District 9, we hear from Blomkamp, Tatchell, Copley, Cope, Gaduka, James, and casting director Denton Douglas. As expect, the program looks at the cast and their work on the film, with an obvious emphasis on the improv elements. This doesn’t become quite as fascinating as I’d hoped, but it still throws out some good info.
Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9 goes for 13 minutes, 18 seconds as it provides info from Blomkamp, Tatchell, Ivey, Berg, prosthetics effects supervisor Joe Dunckley, Weta Workshop lead concept designer Greg Broadmore, Weta Workshop design and effects supervisor Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop lead creature designer David Meng, Image Engine visual effects supervisor Dan Kaufman, Embassy Visual Effects visual effects supervisor Robert Habros and Kliptown liaison David Bloem. “World” investigates the design of props, sets, ships and aliens. This material consistently seems fascinating, and I especially like the up-close looks at the various designs.
Finally, Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of District 9 runs 10 minutes, 18 seconds and includes statements from Blomkamp, Habros, Kaufman, Cope, Dunckley, Copley, and Embassy Visual Effects on-set VFS supervisor Winston Helgason. “Generation” shows us the effects technique to bring the digital aliens to life. The show seems awfully brief for such a significant topic, but it provides a satisfactory take on the subject matter.
A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Moon, Michael Jackson: This Is It, 2012 and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. These also appear under Previews along with a promo for Zombieland. No trailer for District 9 appears here.
One note about the disc: for reasons unknown, it ran much more slowly than the average Blu-ray. This became awfully frustrating, as I felt like I was trying to run a program on a clunky 15-year-old computer. Maybe my Blu-ray player was just having a bad day, but I found it annoying and slow to move through the disc.
The ever-popular – with studios, at least - Digital Copy arrives on a second disc. As usual, this allows you to transfer the film to another medium. Have fun!
Despite some questionable – and unnecessary – social commentary, District 9 emerges as a satisfying cinematic surprise. While the movie does little to reinvent any wheels, it still feels original and involving as it shows a tale of human/alien interaction in an unusual setting. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a broad, engaging collection of supplements. District 9 offers a quality flick, and the Blu-ray presents it well.