Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: District 9
aka: District Nine

"There's a lot of secrets in District 9."

A 2009 science-fiction Thriller/Mockumentary by Neill Blomkamp, based on his short film Alive in Joburg (which can be found on YouTube) and produced by Peter Jackson.

In 1982, a massive flying saucer came to a halt above the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. After three months of complete silence, the government had the ship boarded. Surprisingly, most of the aliens turned out to be confused, timid and starved. They were "drones" — working class aliens, incapable of surviving or piloting their starship on their own, and their leaders had mysteriously disappeared.

In August 2010, after many failed attempts to integrate the aliens into South African society, they found themselves confined to "District 9", a fenced-off shanty-town operated by multinational defense contractor MNU. The first third of the film is filmed documentary-style, focusing on sniveling corporate git Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley). Wikus is a MNU agent who's given the task of evicting the aliens, derogatorily nicknamed "prawns", from District 9. His job is to get the legal paperwork out of the way, so that the aliens can be transported to a new concentration camp in the wilderness, where they can't bother humans.

During a search for weapons in a shack belonging to the alien "Christopher Johnson", Wikus accidentally opens up an alien device, spraying black goo all over himself. As the day drags on, he's forced to get a lot closer to the "prawns" than he'd have liked. When Wikus gets forcibly drawn into the life of the aliens and pursued by MNU, the documentary aspect slowly starts taking a backseat to Wikus' personal horrors and Christopher's efforts to save his people.

The film itself is an odd (but very fitting) combination of a sociopolitical Improv Mockumentary, extreme violence based on (among other things) Robocop and Halo, and a classic science-fiction horror story (slash Black Comedy) very much like The Fly. Depending on how you watch it, it's either a scathing political satire with cool action elements, or a kickass horror film with an underlying social moral.

This film includes examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Wikus.
  • Alien Among Us: Kind of. The whole point of the eponymous district is to ensure that the aliens are not among us.
  • Alien Catnip: Cat food.
  • Alien Refugee: Wikus as the plot moves along (not to be confused with the actual aliens who are treated as refugees).
  • Aliens in Johannesburg
  • Alien Invasion: Speculated to happen when Christopher returns.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted. The prawns understand English (and the humans who work with them understand their language), but both are physically incapable of speaking the other's language.
  • All There in the Manual: The promotional websites provide quite a bit of backstory.
  • Alternate History: The aliens landed in 1982. Technology, on the other hand, hasn't changed, due to MNU solely focusing on attempting to capitalize on alien weaponry.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: News reports at the beginning establish that many regular citizens see the prawns this way, accusing them of eating live animals, kidnapping people, derailing trains, and burning down townships. Whether or not they actually do those things is open to interpretation. Even if they did do them, it'd be unclear whether they really understood the ramifications of their actions, given the cultural divide. When violent resistance groups in South Africa would attempt to send a message by, for example, derailing trains, the government would give excuses like 'the natives don't understand the system involved' and so on to cover up the unrest and keep it from spreading.
  • Amputation Stops Spread: See An Arm and a Leg below.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Wikus attempts to chop his arm off, believing it'll stop his metamorphosis, but he only manages to get a finger off and stops due to the pain. The Nigerian gang boss tries to have his arm cut off twice, under the mistaken belief it'll grant him the power to operate the alien weapons.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: And then Wikus was a prawn.
  • The Apartheid Era: with aliens!
  • Apologetic Attacker: Wikus, when he is forced to kill an alien as part of a weapons test.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The mysterious alien "fluid," which powers all of their technology, and apparently can turn humans into aliens. Word Of God says it's meant to repair things, which probably would apply to medical aid as well.
  • As Himself: The newsreader who makes the announcement that Wikus has contracted an alien STD is an actual newscaster for the same channel.
  • As You Know: Mainly averted except when CJ, on the last day of his 20 year magic juice collection program, explains the entire thing to his prawn friend, who probably should know better. (Then again, considering how lacking in insight most of the aliens are without their leaders, this might not be his first time having to explain everything over again in minute detail.)
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The human mercenaries seems curiously unperturbed about the alien weaponry splattering their colleagues all over the landscape, aside from Koobus getting shellshocked a tiny bit and having to call in a heavy sniper to damage the mech.
  • Badass: The Nigerian gang boss, who, among other things, calmly and nonchalantly stares straight down the flaming barrel of an alien gun that just blasted one of his men through the wall of the building, while it's being trained on him from six inches away.
  • Bad Black Barf: Wikus starts coughing up black fluid as a result of transforming into a Prawn.
  • Bald of Evil: Smit, Koobus, and at least one of Koobus' mercenaries. Although the baldness might just be a coincidence: for Africans, a clean shave is a pretty standard haircut. The same goes for soldiers, mercenaries and other military people.
  • Bee People: The only insight into the alien's biology is from an entomologist, saying they are a colony-based organism like ants or bees. Word Of God has stated that the prawns on Earth are a worker caste, explaining why they're listless without direction from a leader caste. There's no official explanation as to why Christopher is different from the rest, but he might be a leader caste prawn. There might also be a hive mind at work.
  • BFG: All the alien weapons fit this title. The weakest alien gun is some sort of compressed air blaster which can knock out an entire wall and fling people dozens of feet away. Then it goes to Lethal, to Unnecessarily Lethal, to "Just What The Fuck Did The Aliens Fight That Needed Such Outrageous Firepower?" When the power armor goes live, its main guns are BFG versions of the lightning cannon and automatic rifle used by Wikus and Christopher in the MNU raid, and when the mercenaries oppose it they get no traction until a mercenary is able to severely damage it with a South African anti-tank rifle. Needless to say, the mech is a LOT more vulnerable to small-arms fire afterwards.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • It appears that Wikus is going to abandon Christopher at the hands of the psychotic Koobus when Wikus runs away in his giant mech, until he hears from the mech's audio that Koobus has ordered one of his goons to kill Christopher. Cursing to himself, Wikus runs back. Cut to Christopher having a gun pressed to his head by the aforementioned goon. The goon's entire arm is suddenly blown off.
    • Christopher's son activating the Mini-Mecha and saving Wikus' ass from the Nigerian thugs.
    • A rare villainous example: Koobus is about to be shot by Wikus' mecha, but a soldier in a jeep rams the mecha and knocks it over. This is subverted soon enough, as both the soldier and Koobus die later anyway.
    • An extremely brutal version of this occurs at the very end. Koobus has Wikus held dead to rights, talking about how he would love seeing Wikus cut up, but instead wants to kill Wikus right then and there. Just as Koobus is about to pull the trigger, numerous prawns show up, rip Koobus to pieces and begin to eat him.
  • Big Damn Villains: The Nigerians attack the MNU convoy as soon as they arrest Wikus after his failed dropship escape.
  • Bigger Stick: The only reason why Wikus and CJ's raid on MNU succeeds, and their later escape to the mothership, is that guns that tend to explode enemies in one shot and are made to kill armored aliens and a mech armed with some sort of gauss cannon tend to make mincemeat of regular old human firearms and armor.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Prawns and humans are totally unable to speak the others' language, so this suffices. Africans are also shown speaking different languages to each other at the same time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Wikus is transformed and living in the slums, but Christopher and his son got away in the mothership, promising to return in three years... with reinforcements.
    • On the other hand, Wikus' wife is likely carrying his child. See Viewers Are Geniuses below.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The movie has almost no unambiguously good people, aside from "Christopher Johnson" and his son, the former being the only alien who tries being diplomatic and uses violence only as a last resort (even after his friend is killed, he agrees to not kill any humans during their attack on MNU, as Wikus insists), and Fundiswa, who is noticeably reluctant during the first half of the film and leaks out MNU's data post-ending, even though he knows he'll go to jail for it, to expose MNU's abuses.
  • Black Best Friend: Fundiswa, the guy who is partnered with Wikus in the beginning and proves to be one of the more morally upstanding characters in the film when he exposes MNU's genetic testing and abuse of prawns, and is imprisoned as a result.
  • Black Comedy:
    • The first call from Tania that Wikus gets? It's her sobbing and crying about him cheating on her, and him declaring Bill Clinton style that he did not have "pornographic relations" with an alien. It's obviously meant to be awkward and weird, since MNU's explanation of his transformation is that he has an alien STD.
    • Wikus being strapped into a firing range and forced to shoot an alien is horrifying. Wikus being covered in chunks of the alien's flesh is hilarious.
    • The entire "surprise party" scene. Wikus is in the initial stages of his transformation and has literally soiled his pants on the way home, so his constant awkwardness throughout is highly amusing until the moment he suddenly vomits and collapses.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Various people in the opening mockumentary state that MNU keeps the aliens safe and gives them what they need. Uh-huh.
    • Piet Smit claiming that his daughter's marriage to Wikus wasn't a factor in choosing him as field commander for the relocation effort (immediately after we see his parents proclaim that he "wasn't very smart").
    • It's claimed that District 10 is a major improvement for the prawns in terms of living conditions. Wikus later regretfully admits to Christopher that, unsurprisingly, D10 is in fact just as bad as District 9. It's compared to a concentration camp.
  • Bloody Hilarious: This is a very serious, layered movie. That doesn't make seeing people explode like balloons any less funny.
  • Blown Across the Room: The alien gun, which seems to be its explicit purpose.
  • Body Horror: How else do you describe watching yourself slowly transform into a completely different biological organism? The transformation involves skin being pierced from the inside by a newly developing exoskeleton. Wikus actually just starts tearing off parts of his skin at one point.
  • Boldly Coming: Interspecies prostitutes are briefly mentioned. And MNU's cover story for hunting Wikus is that he caught an alien STD.
  • Break the Cutie: The cuties here would probably be Christopher and his son who, while maybe not as dramatically abused in the film as Wikus, probably had to endure a lot more hardship. Tania may also qualify, given that she ends up traumatized by her father's lies and her husband's disappearance and frightened phone calls.
  • Break the Haughty: Wikus. Some people count this as Break the Cutie, due to his portrayal as a joyfully bumbling white-collar government lackey who makes papier-mâché sentiments for his pretty wife.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Of the darkest type. When being forced to test fire alien weapons, Wikus begs his captors to let him shoot a pig in place of the alien they walk in front of him. In the big Power Armor shootout, Wikus uses a gravity gun to shoot a pig... into an MNU merc and through the wall behind him.
    • Yet another dark one in the deleted scenes: the "population growth control" flamethrower unit that Wikus calls in to kill a shack filled with babies is seen again when Wikus hijacks an APC (for the assault on the MNU headquarters). They promptly get shot by Wikus.
    • Wikus telling the same assistant only sissies wear surgical masks. He is hit in the face with the fluid shortly thereafter. When you think about it, everything bad that happens to Wikus results from him not taking proper workplace safety precautions.
    • A heartwarming example: early in the film, Wikus' wife mentions that Wikus was fond of giving her handmade gifts. The very last shot in the movie is a fully-transformed Wikus making a flower for her out of metal scraps.
    • A merc loses an arm in the eviction. Another gets his arm blasted off due to Wikus' rampage.
  • Bullet Catch: Wikus in alien Powered Armor catches an RPG-7 rocket fired at Christopher's command ship. Then it explodes in his 'hand'. He survives, though. The armor also has the ability to suspend incoming bullets in a force-field generated from one of its arms and then fire them back at the assailants although Wikus himself never uses this while piloting the mech (presumably because he didn't know how).
  • Bulletproof Vest: Most of the MNU employees wear them. Wikus has one with a calculator on it. Fadiswa was supposed to get one. He is also one of the only people not to get mauled.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Let's all commit horrible acts against an alien race that would be classified as crimes against humanity if they were human. Did we mention that the alien race in question happens to have the ability to tear a man limb from limb, insanely powerful weapons, Mini-Mecha only they can use, a huge ship, and a messenger who has escaped and is likely to return with friends?
  • Callback: Wikus' "This is quite a find, yeah?" upon discovering the alien ship. It's what Wikus said when he found the weapons cache during the MNU eviction sweep.
  • Camera Abuse: Koobus and his MNU mercenaries get pretty rough with the camera crew during the first half of the movie, and the camera lens ends up spattered in blood a few times. In the aforementioned scene, Koobus even yells abuse at the cameraman Trent, the actual cinematographer of the film.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: The Nigerians think they can do this by eating alien body parts (the alien DNA will let them use the alien weapons). The non-existent success rate does not discourage them.
  • Car Fu: Used twice. First by the Nigerians against the MNU, secondly by the MNU against the Mini-Mecha. In, ironically, one of the Nigerian's cars.
  • Catch and Return: The Mini-Mecha is capable of stopping bullets—lots of them—in mid-air before choosing the option "Return to Sender." Awesome ensues.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Wikus runs from the captured Christopher in the middle of the climatic battle. As Christopher is about to die he changes his mind. Unstoppable Rage meets mecha!
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The prawn Mini-Mecha suit, the falling wreckage from the mothership (later revealed as the shuttle), and more subtly, the anti-aircraft missile launcher.
    • In addition, Wikus's sidekick is shown in the documentary sections in an orange jumpsuit, which is the standard South African prison attire. Sure enough, at the end it's revealed that he's awaiting trial because he revealed the illegal genetic experiments. He's in jail because he broke into their computer system to get the information, which is a crime in most countries.
    • Tania mentioning that Wikus would make her handmade gifts, like the papier-mâché bowl she accidentally sat on.
  • Children Are Innocent: Well, as innocent as you can be when you're living in a crime-ridden slum. One of Wikus' worst acts is torching a shed full of alien eggs, and Christopher Johnson, despite planning his escape from Earth, works hard not to get his son's hopes up, for fear of having to crush them. Christopher even tries to cheer up his son by saying that D10 will be a much better place and that they should be happy. It gets crushed when Wikus says it's a concentration camp. Christopher is caught off-guard by this honesty, which is unfortunately a new desolation, helping to humanize (so to speak) both Christopher and Wikus.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Wikus seems to drop this whenever he's upset (which is a lot). Koobus and some of the other mercenaries drop them whenever. May challenge Casino or The Boondock Saints for sheer volume of f-bombs. According to the IMDB, it's dropped 137 times. This may or may not be partly due to all of Wikus' lines being improvised. He's actually cursing in Afrikaans, though the word in question ("fok") is the same as the f-word in all but spelling.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: MNU's experiments on Wikus after his transformation starts.
  • Colonel Badass: Koobus the mercenary commander. He's actually quite fearless, keeping his head even when faced by the awesome power of the alien weaponry. In the end he gets killed only when he runs out of bullets. He does, however, lose his head.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Christopher and his son are the only green prawns we see throughout the film. It might be that green prawns are more intelligent, or it might simply be a way to visually distinguish the important characters from the rest. Wikus transforms into a green prawn at the end. If green prawns are actually special, this might explain why the other prawns defended him.
  • Color Me Black: The Fantastic Racism version of the trope.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Wikus for Christopher.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: A Mega Corp. is involved; of course there's going to be those. Smit is the main one in the film.
  • Crapsack World: District 9 is pretty much the most run-down, degraded, depressing, hopeless hellhole of a town you could ever possibly imagine. And, for Truth in Television value, it was filmed in an actual South African shanty-town whose residents were being resettled by the government at the time of filming. In the commentary, the director pretty much describes it as Hell on Earth.
  • Daddy's Girl: Tania. Only that her dad is a manipulative liar.
  • Death Glare: Koobus gives one to his subordinate when he has to be reminded that they have orders Wikus is to be captured alive. He gives another to Wikus thrice during the final battle, once when he runs off to abandon his friend, the second when the mech is near-dead and is hit by a car, and the third when he's about to kill Wikus.
  • Death Ray: At least one of the alien weapons could only be called this.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The police brutality perpetrated by the MNU soldiers, the "No Non-Human Loitering" signs, and even the title of the film itself are all decidedly unsubtle, with chilling effect.
    • The MNU militant insignia shows a goat with two horns, two ears and an elongated beard that makes it look like a upside down star.
    • The shaven-headed Koobus seems very reminiscent of Neo-Nazis. Particularly the lines of how he "loved watching prawns die" and calling Wikus a "filthy half-breed". The actor deliberately gave Koobus an English accent and a loathing of Wikus (an Afrikaaner).
    • The aliens' drug-like addiction to cat food is based on a very common colonial occurrence: you find some substance the natives don't have (usually alcohol, caffeine, or sugar), get them hooked on it, and then make unfair deals with them that exploit their addiction.
    • The treatment Wikus receives from his fellow humans after the news media claims he's been infected with an alien STD recalls the social ostracism of people infected with HIV/AIDS.
    • The deplorable slum the prawns live in was an actual slum at the time, and continues to be a staple of South Africa.
  • Doomed Protagonist
  • The Dragon: Koobus Venter and Moraneau to Piet Smit.
  • Dramatic Irony: One of the first things we learn is that something happens to Wikus. When he is heading into D9, he tells his assistant he doesn't need to wear a protective mask or a bulletproof vest.
  • Drone of Dread: Parts of the soundtrack, used extensively on Prawnkus.
  • Duality Motif: Wikus has one alien eye towards the end of the movie. The movie's final scene also shows that one eye of the fully-transformed Wikus retains its human coloring.
  • Enemy Mine: So, team up with the former leader of your oppressors who is turning into one of your kind, is now at the top of their Most Wanted list, and can get you into their secure facility to retrieve the one item critical to your plan... all right, when do we start?
  • Establishing Character Moment: We get two for Wikus. His Jerk Ass attitude when evicting the shantytown is mostly a front he puts on for the camera to impress his MNU bigwigs, but it does indicate that his main concern is always looking out for #1. Later we see him freak out when forced to kill an innocent prawn, showing that as self-centered as he is, Wikus is no monster.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even though Wikus clearly is alright with aborting baby aliens, he clearly has a problem with the illegal experiments MNU is doing on the aliens.
  • Evil Gloating: Colonel Koobus really likes the sound of his own voice. He does shoot an alien in the head after a similar rambling speech in the beginning of the movie, so apparently he just likes to dick around with his victims before killing them, and just happens to get interrupted before the critical moment in the later confrontations.
  • Evil Versus Evil: A massive fight occurs between the evil MNU mercenaries and the evil Nigerian gangsters. Both want to use Wikus' corpse so that they can activate prawn weaponry, although the gangsters are considerably less scientific about it.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Moraneau, the MNU head doctor. Word Of God states those things in the jars were his attempts at fusing human babies with alien DNA.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Alien vehicles are piloted via holographic control panels that also provide a 3D map of the environment. While Wikus is able to demonstrate some of the more tactile-based controls, it's Christopher and his son who show what a master of the tech can do.
  • Eye of Newt: The native gangsters chop up Prawns for witchcraft in an attempt to gain the ability to use their bio-mechanically locked weaponry.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: The eponymous District 9.
  • Fantastic Racism: Aliens who arrive on Earth are treated as second-class citizens and forced into ghettos by the South African government. Parallels to apartheid are obvious, but the writer insists that it's not an allegory for apartheid. The film deals as much with hostility of black Africans toward the aliens as the white members of government. The director coaxed Enforced Method Acting performances from local South Africans by asking them what they thought of immigrants to use as "man on the street" criticisms of the aliens. The original short film, "Alive in Joburg," however, does specifically mention that the government used apartheid laws against the aliens.
  • Fantastic Slur: The aliens are referred to as prawns for the entirety of the film. We never learn what their race is actually called.
  • Fingore: When Wikus's fingernails fall off as he transforms into an alien, and later, when he chops off one of his alien "fingers". This is an homage to The Fly. Wikus even does the same fingernail-nibbling in the mirror that Jeff Goldblum did.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Wikus and Christopher, by the end.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: The Nigerians.
  • First Contact: A rather dark take on it. Just look at the trailer! Talked about by a sociologist during the mockumentary, who says that people were expecting bright lights and music from heaven.
  • First Name Basis: Koobus' last name is "Venter."
  • Fix It in Post: After Wikus is sprayed in the face with the fluid, he asks the cameraman to have it taken out of the final cut. If he did, we wouldn't be talking about it.
  • Foreign Cussword: Wikus uses several Afrikaans naughty words during his many, many rants. Moreover, every time he says the F-word, it's actually its Afrikaans counterpart.
  • For the Evulz: Koobus's only real motive is that he loves to kill prawns.
  • From Bad to Worse: Jesus Christ, does it ever. Wikus quickly goes from beleaguered corporate drone to actual alien drone, hunted by his former employers, and then gets his wife dumped, and then it turns out an alien - of whom he despised - wants him to help with a plan that just might get him killed or captured...
  • The Great Repair: Christopher's goal throughout the movie.
  • Genre Shift:
    • The first trailer makes it look like it's going to be a documentary about xenophobia in South Africa... then bam, the spaceship appears. It is a documentary about xenophobia in South Africa, just not the one you might have expected.
    • Within the film itself, the beginning is mostly shot in a mockumentary format with some conventional shots, then flips to mostly conventional around the time of Wikus's infection.
  • GIFT: Christopher is infinitely more fiery on his blog.
  • Going Native: Inverted, since the outsiders aren't native to Earth. White oppressor (Wikus) saves the oppressed outlanders after beginning his metamorphosis into a prawn, and twists the trope by clearly not enjoying his forced native-going. In fact, he almost leaves Christopher at the end out of pure cowardice.
  • Gorn: The alien weapons more often than not blow their targets into tiny, bloody pieces.
  • G-Rated Drug: Cat food. Practically the only G-rated thing in the whole film.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Wikus is one for a short while, but the alien DNA is taking over the human DNA quickly.
  • Handicapped Badass / Evil Cripple: The Nigerian gang leader is confined to a wheelchair.
  • Happily Married: Wikus and Tania, until Wikus' transformation begins and he's hunted down by MNU, and she thinks Wikus has an alien STD. To Tania's credit, she figures it out, and it seems that by the end of the movie she loves him again. It's too bad they're separated by, you know, Wikus being an alien at the end.
  • Harmful Healing: Wikus is sprayed with an alien fluid and injures his arm shortly after. Word Of God says the fluid is a nanite solution used to fix things, and sure enough, it starts to heal the wound and turn it back into a healthy arm. Unfortunately for Wikus, a healthy alien arm. And it doesn't stop there — apparently being human is entirely fixable, too.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: All of Wikus' lines are improvised.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Wikus couldn't care less about prawns and is interested only in curing himself, until the last 30 minutes of the movie.
  • Hermaphrodite: In a deleted scene, a scientist explains that the aliens have both male and female reproductive organs, being able to impregnate and become pregnant themselves. Whether this is still canon is unknown, but it leads to some interesting Fridge Logic. And, of course, the corresponding fanfic.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Christopher when he reaches the MNU lab and sees the horrible carcasses that have been dissected by the humans.
  • Human Shield: Wikus uses a scientist as one, threatening to cut out his eyes with a scalpel if the others attack him.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters:
    • And how: not only do they abuse the shit out of the aliens but once the main character Wikus starts transforming into one, they halt otherwise decent medical treatment and are authorized by his father-in-law to torture him with painful procedures, minus anesthesia, force him to kill an innocent alien with its own weapons, and attempt to dissect him while he's still alive. When it comes to the prawns themselves, one of the mercenaries says he gets off on killing prawns to Christopher's face, other people kill and eat prawns, and MNU has been vivisecting and experimenting on them in an attempt to create supersoldiers.
    • The pro-alien humans appear in a brief scene as a human (prawn?) rights organization protesting outside District 9. It's pretty clear that the reason MNU keeps their evil activities secret is so they don't come down on them like the wrath of God and since MNU's evil has been exposed at the end of the film, you can bet those activists will be going after that company big time!
    • The Nigerians crank this movie's use of this trope Up to Eleven in one of the deleted scenes: one of them features an MNU worker who finds an alien kept in a cryogenic chamber exported from the mothership. It is then explained that the Nigerians force anybody who can't pay up into staying in a cryo chamber until someone can pay up. It's one thing to go in there willingly, but unwillingly? MNU classifies it as illegal activity, but still...
  • Hypocritical Humor: After telling Christopher not to kill anyone, Wikus kills a guard after being shot at. When questioned by Christopher he responds, "He shot at me!"
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin: Apparently cat food is like crack cocaine to the aliens, though no health issues or psychoactive effects are mentioned. (Given the tone of the movie, there's a roughly one hundred percent chance that the cat food is detrimental to the aliens' health and the makers just didn't have a way to highlight it.)
  • Idiot Hero: Wikus' own mom refers to him as "not very bright", as does his father-in-law. The outtakes from the documentary say Wikus is playing dumb as protective colouring. Up to a point.
  • I'm An Alientarian: The Nigerian gang believes that eating prawn body parts will grant them power over the alien's DNA-activated technology. They eat the limbs raw. They don't even afford the prawns the dignity of paella. Trying to eat Wikus after he becomes a Half-Human Hybrid also kind of counts.
  • Immune to Bullets: The prawns' exoskeleton is tough enough to take a shot from a handgun, provided it isn't armor-piercing, but that's it. The Mini-Mecha is functionally immune to small arms, and can use its Gravity Gun to catch bullets and shoot them back at those who fired them; it's the big guns Wikus has to watch out for.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The goal of MNU and the Nigerian gangsters.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Pretty much every alien weapon suffers from More Dakka, Macross Missile Massacre, or Beam Spam. Consider especially the phrase "Needs more pig cannon!"
  • Improv: A lot of dialogue in the film was made up by the actors on the spot, including pretty much everything Wikus and Christopher say. Christopher's dialogue was first spoken in English by the actor, then later re-dubbed to alien speak, with the subtitles following the improvised lines. The acting directions, however, were mapped out in painstaking detail.
  • Indy Ploy: Wikus gets them into MNU headquarters, but hasn't bothered to work out how to get out again, mainly because he thinks it's a Suicide Mission anyway. Christopher has to think up a plan on the spot to save both their butts.
  • Innocent Aliens: The humans claim that the drones think setting fire to things and derailing trains is recreational and a bit of sport. Given that this was how the government would write off the exact same types of actions by violent resistance groups in apartheid South Africa, the validity of this claim is questionable.
  • Insectoid Aliens
  • Inspired By: The real life forced removal of over 60,000 blacks from District 6 in Cape Town. And the whole "Nigerians eating alien body parts to get their powers" thing is sadly inspired by what happens to Albinos in Tanzania. Similar instances of cannibalism have occurred during the Second Congo War, with the victims being Mbuti pygmies. In one of the DVD extras there is a brief conversation with Neill Blomkamp where he talks about growing up in apartheid South Africa. His decision to use this setting wasn't necessarily a decision to make a moralistic movie, but to put aliens and Sci Fi into a realistic third-world crapsack environment - and what better setting than what he knew growing up?
  • Interspecies Prostitution: Many wonder how exactly that works? Many would rather not know.
  • In Working Order: Averted, and a major plot point. Humans can't seem to find a way to operate the alien weapons. The only way you can do this is for someone to turn into an alien, which MNU tries to exploit when Wikus is halfway through his metamorphosis.
  • Ironic Birthday: Or, in this case, an ironic surprise promotion party.
  • It's All About Me: Wikus's father is more annoyed at the questions left unanswered, and by the inconvenience to him, than by his son's disappearance and possible death, which explains a few things about Wikus' milquetoast personality and quest for Piet's acceptance.
  • Jittercam: At least in the beginning.
  • Jerk Ass: Our first indicator that Koobus is this is when he yells at Wikus for no reason after Wikus tells him he needs to put on a bulletproof vest.
  • Jerkass With A Heart Of Gold: Wikus is extremely callous towards the prawns at the beginning, but we do see that he's quite in love with his wife. Eventually he manages to crack open his humanity toward the prawns as well.
  • Karma Houdini: Smit, Moraneau, and the rest of the MNU higher-ups. However, considering that the truth of MNU's activities were leaked at the end, it's likely they'll be under investigation.
  • Karmic Death: Koobus, who spends the majority of the movie just barely avoiding death several times, is eventually torn apart and eaten by prawns. And Obesandjo takes an electric rod to his brain mid-sentence, which charges and causes the rest of it to explode.
  • Karmic Transformation: Hoo boy, Wikus.
  • Kick the Dog: It is a little harder to like Wikus after the alien abortion scene and the attack on Christopher, the real hero of the story.
  • Killing For A Tissue Sample: MNU does some tests on Wikus to confirm his ability to use alien weaponry, then decides to kill him to examine his genetic material.
  • Last Stand: Wikus uses the Mini-Mecha to fight the MNU mercenaries while Christopher bolts for the ship and his son. The armor is already heaving and failing with him inside, but Wikus does not stop until the ship is safe. Even more heroic when you consider that Wikus knows that he will almost certainly not be killed, but rather captured and returned to the MNU for further "experimentation".
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The 82nd Oscars' montage of the film gave away the fact that Wikus starts to become an alien. As did the commercial spots for the DVD release, as well as spoiling the alliance between Wikus and Christopher, particularly the raid on MNU.
  • Left It In: Played for Drama. Early on, Wikus, while leading the documentary crew through a tour of a Prawn's home, gets sprayed on the face and arm with some kind of fluid, and he stuffily orders the crew to "Edit that out," because he's a pompous bully (to Prawns) who doesn't want to be exposed as the kind of idiot who gets sprayed with fluid when he didn't even wear a surgical mask. That footage is then preserved for In-Universe reasons: the Mockumentary begins recording what happens to Wikus two hours after exposure, eight hours after exposure, twenty-four hours after exposure...
  • Ludicrous Gibs: A common end-result of the usage of alien weaponry.
  • MacGuffin Guy: Eventually, Wikus, in the eyes of MNU and the Nigerians.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Mini-Mecha is capable of this, though it takes Wikus a while to set it up. The missiles robotech to the target, too. In the commentary, the director refers to this trope almost by name. He was a fan of Macross/Robotech growing up and added the effect as a Shout-Out.
  • Meaningful Name: Christopher Johnson. "Christopher" is also the patron saint of travelers. "Van de Merwe" is a generic name given to characters who are the butt of ethnic jokes against Afrikaaners. Dr. Moraneau's name, the MNU head doctor who attempted to fuse human babies with alien DNA, is very reminiscent of Dr. Moreau.
  • Mega Corp.: Multi-National United, or MNU, who are interested in the aliens' technology and are using them for cheap labor.
  • Messianic Archetype: Christopher Johnson intends to save the prawns from poverty and slavery, one way or another. If he comes back with firepower and a grudge, it might be a case of Dark Messiah, or Kung-Fu Jesus. Note that his initials are an inversion of those of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is a title not a name, it works regardless.
  • Metamorphosis: Wikus' transformation into an alien.
  • Mighty Whitey: Played with/subverted/deconstructed. Wikus is a very flawed character. Even though he becomes heroic at the end and gets the support of the prawns, he clearly has not become some great messianic figure usually seen with these type of character.
  • Mini-Mecha: Shows up pretty early in the film, traded to the Nigerians for cat food. Wikus gets inside much later, and awesomeness ensues.
  • Mockumentary: In the beginning, Wikus is seen talking to a camera in a documentary-styled trip through MNU's activities, interspersed with exposition-giving cutaways to various interviewees and footage. It continues to pop up from time to time, usually via other cameras, before making a full return in the ending.
  • Mood Whiplash: Given the tone, pretty much every joke in the film.
  • Mr. Fixit: Christopher's son.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: While it's not quite as in-your-face as the references to Apartheid, the unethical medical experiments including vivisection, the forced "abortion" of a shed full of larval aliens by burning them alive, and the description of the new District 10 as "like a concentration camp."
  • Nepotism: Wikus is the MNU manager Piet Smit's son-in-law, who lampshades this with a Suspiciously Specific Denial of such. In this case, however, events later in the film invert the trope: Smit clearly gave him the promotion knowing that he was out of his depth and hoping he would be humiliated or somehow end up killed by the aliens.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Pretty much all the footage in the trailers was filmed specifically for promotion, and does not appear in the finished film.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: It's shown at various points that the "present" of the story is August, 2010.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: "Prawns".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Christopher is the unfortunate victim of one of these. After the MNU mercs are done with the Nigerian gangsters, they get Christopher out of the truck he's in and Koobus starts beating him with metal pipes and rifle butts to get him to talk. He's so badly hurt that when Wikus comes in, he has to tug Christopher to his feet. Christopher is later lapsing in and out of consciousness because he's so badly hurt.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Again, every single time the alien weapons are fired — including the counterattack performed by the Mini-Mecha. It is glorious. Eventually reaches the point where all you can ask is, "Just what the fuck are the prawns used to fighting?" Though perhaps it's a case of Puny Earthlings, as the aliens seem to treat getting shot by a handgun as equivalent to a hard shove several times.
  • No Name Given: Christopher's son is never named in-film. It's given as Oliver in his "MNU Spreads Lies" blog, while the DVD subtitles give it as "Little C.J."
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: During a raid on Christopher's shanty, the mercenary taking point has his rifle on safe as seen from the gun-mounted camera's POV.
  • Not So Different: MNU and the Nigerian gangsters. They both want Wikus for the same reason. Given just how advanced the alien technology is, it's entirely possible that the scientific approach would wield equal results, that is to say: none at all.
    • To a much greater extent Prawns and humans. Christopher's blog shows that there are plenty of prawn bigots and extremists as well, a discovery that deeply shakes Christopher.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: Subverted as the humans find out that the aliens are helpless.
  • One-Woman Wail: Played perfectly straight, and foreshadowed by a One Man Wail.
  • Orgasmic Combat: The first sign that something is seriously wrong with Koobus is the breathy laughter and orgasmic sigh he lets out when he shoots an alien point-blank.
  • Overprotective Dad: Smit, who obviously thinks Wikus isn't worthy of his daughter Tania, from his first appearance in that interview.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Generally averted, as whenever the aliens use whatever equates to profanity in their language, the subtitles simply display regular English profanity.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements: Only prawns can use the prawn weapons. Thus Wikus becomes of interest to the authorities when he is infected with alien prawn DNA.
  • Plot Armor: Koobus. He's immune to machine guns, lightning cannons, rockets, Car Fu — you name it, he walks away from it. Boils away at the end, wherein aliens kill him to save Wikus, showing that they accept Wikus as one of their own.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Averted with MNU and the Nigerian gangsters, who can't work alien tech. Likewise, most prawns who can't explain it. Played straight with Christopher, who [[spoiler: lives on top of the command module for the mothership, and has been fixing it up for 20 years.
  • Precision F-Strike: Christopher yelling "Fuck!" in Alien when Wikus blows up a guard at MNU.
  • Previews Pulse: The film's second trailer featured pulses of many sizes.
  • Private Military Contractors: MNU's entire security force.
  • Product Placement: Wikus' Sony Vaio laptop, right in the foreground of the the first shot in the movie!
  • Psycho for Hire: Koobus and his bounty hunter team. "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this. I love watching prawns die!" To their credit, it seems that most of the grunts are just Punch Clock Villains, while the higher-ups (who have been presumably doing it longer) are the psychos.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Wikus starts out as one of these. The MNU people who aren't pure evil also qualify.
  • Recycled In Space: The Apartheid Era WITH ALIENS! Or, Alien Nation in South Africa without Rubber-Forehead Aliens.
  • Red Herring: Fundiswa Mhlanga, citing concern for his family, asks for a ballistic vest at the beginning of the operation to service eviction notices to the aliens. As he cannot find one, Wikus assures him not to worry about it. Not only is Mhlanga not killed, as expected, but he is the only character of the three who doesn't get attacked by an alien.
  • Red Right Hand: A major plot device is Wikus' alien arm, especially how it lets him operate prawn technology. Ironically, it's not his arm that gives him away before he can get to District 9; it's his moustache, his most identifiable facial trait. If he had shaved it after going on the run, the people in the restaurant probably wouldn't have freaked out during the news report about him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Wikus goes absolutely apeshit in the Mini-Mecha, trying to take as many MNU mercenaries with him as he can during his Last Stand, covering Christopher to help him get back to his ship. He yells "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT" while the mech is literally falling to pieces around him, still trying to take down more MNU mercs. Of course, he could be talking to the mech not the mercs; regardless, he's pretty much roaring to keep fighting.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The MNU mercs, after a fair amount of effort, manage to bring the Mini-Mecha down. However, it takes a lot of small arms fire, at least one rocket, no less than two trucks, and a huge-ass anti-tank rifle. In addition, the only reason they ever have a chance is because Wikus doesn't know exactly what he's doing.
  • Rule 34: Yes, there is actually porn of Christopher with a penis despite him being an alien. Not to mention that the aliens reproduce asexually.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Nigerians, with their black market cat food, illegal arms dealing, inter-species prostitution, and eating the flesh of the aliens, ostensibly to gain their "power", are working District 9 from every possible angle.
  • Scannable Man: The left side of every prawn's head has white paint with a decal on it.
  • Scary Black Man: Generally averted given that the film takes place in South Africa, but damn the Nigerian gang boss Obesanjo is one scary dude, despite being in a wheelchair and never raising his voice.
  • Scenery Porn: The choppers flying toward the Mothership is definitely this.
  • Scenery Gorn: Oh yeah.
  • Serkis Folk: The aliens are completely computer-generated. The deleted scenes on the DVD (only one of which has CGI added in, by the way) also reveal that Jason Cope played pretty much every single grown alien in the film that got more than five seconds of screen time. Blomkamp describes the animation process as "rotomation," a portmanteau of rotoscopy and animation. Basically, Cope was digitally erased from the footage and his performance was referenced by the animators, but not actually recorded move-for-move.
  • Separated by a Common Language: The "prawns" to which the aliens are compared are not the seafood, but the Parktown prawn, a species of cricket found in South Africa. Which are known to eat cat food if they can...
  • Sequel Hook: Christopher will be back. In three years, no less, which is a very reasonable timeframe for a sequel to be made. And the aliens are living in District 10 by the end of the movie, so there's your title right there. This is about as unsubtle as it gets.
  • Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Wikus.
  • Shock Party: "Baby, listen, I might've crapped in my pants—" "SURPRISE!!!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • During the attack on MNU HQ, you can see Tetra Vaal Biosafety on the wall. Also, the Mini-Mecha looks a lot like the robot from Tetra Vaal (also by Neill Blomkamp), and "Tetra Vaal" signs can clearly be seen inside MNU headquarters.
    • As mentioned above, the armor's Macross Missile Massacre is a reference to that trope's namer.
    • The mothership's landing module bears a strong resemblance to Serenity.
  • Situational Sword: Prawn weapons require prawn DNA to work. Most of the plot is driven by MNU seeing Wikus as their only shot at being able to operate the far superior Prawn weaponry.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Wikus. The F-word is dropped 137 times.
  • Some Call Me Tim: The only alien with a name is "Christopher Johnson". The origin of this moniker is explained through Christopher's blog, where he states that the MNU has assigned all aliens new, human names as a form of cultural repression. This is implied in the film itself, but never stated outright.
  • Starfish Aliens: Averted. Although the prawns are far from Rubber-Forehead Aliens, they still have humanoid shape and body language as well as recognizable facial expressions. Blomkamp originally intended on them looking more alien, but realized that they would be harder to empathize with. The original short has the aliens looking much more inscrutable.
  • Storming the Castle: Wikus and Christopher at the MNU labs.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Played horrifyingly straight with Wikus, who is fully conscious while his own father-in-law orders his vivisection.
  • Tested On Humans: Inverted when Wikus is forced by his captors to test an alien weapon on a live prawn. An offhand comment by Moraneau indicates that there have been previous (fatal) attempts to integrate human and alien DNA. Also played straight: a horribly mutated human fetus is visible in a jar during the assault on the MNU lab.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Unlike most examples, they damn well very happily would cut you up.
  • They Walk Among Us
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Wikus in the back of the MNU van, after he has been apprehended by Koobus.
  • Title Drop: "There's a lot of secrets in District 9."
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Nigerian gangster boss is apparently so megalomaniacal that his reaction to the alien Mini-Mecha slaughtering all his men is to start ranting at it in a fit of annoyed pique. Predictably, his head is impaled and detonated mid-rant.
  • Took a Level in Badass: By the look of it, Wikus. Then again: powerful, user-friendly, alien technology meets Wikus's rage, recognising him as family — that's a free ticket to Took a Level in Badass.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: The aliens love cat food, bordering on drug addiction at times.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: If you haven't seen the film, just watch the DVD ads.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Inverted; in South African Alien Apartheid, humans betray YOU!
  • Unreliable Narrator: We get our initial ideas about the prawns from possibly biased documentary footage and a making-of video for a bit of corporate spin. Not everything they say is true.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Wikus and Tania.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Wikus in his Last Stand. He keeps the Mini-Mecha going through what can only be described as pure Heroic Willpower, despite it literally falling apart around him.
  • Untouchable Until Tagged: See above Unstoppable Rage. Once a single missile gets through, he's slowly whittled to the mech's destruction.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: In the penultimate shot, when Wikus' wife talks about the handmade flower she mysteriously received, on the mirror behind her you can briefly see three ultrasound pictures. Those with some radiology knowledge would recognize them as abdomen cavity ultrasound images, with the top one showing what looks like a 8-10-week-old embryo.
  • Villainous Rescue: Subverted. The gangsters show up just as Wikus and Christopher are being taken away by the PMC troops, resulting in Evil Versus Evil as noted below.
  • Viral Marketing:
    • The in-universe Multinational United webpage, and Christopher Johnson's blog. In addition, signs have appeared in major cities, instructing people to report all sightings of non-humans to an MNU hotline, which has its own website.
    • At Comic Con, they had people handing out various fliers asking for donations to support humanitarian efforts in District 9.
    • The first viral ad was a sign outside a bathroom at Comi-Con '07, announcing "NO ALIENS ALLOWED".
    • There's a Facebook group called MNU Spreads Lies.
  • Viral Transformation: Wikus. After being sprayed by the black liquid, he begins to transform into an alien, starting with his left arm. This gives him status as an alien as far as their advanced technology is concerned. The movie keeps count of how many hours it's been since he was "exposed", and the progression of the transformation is evident onscreen. He eventually completes the transformation and joins the "prawn" residents of District 10.
  • Virus Victim Symptoms: Wikus.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A lot. Even a mech suit vomits oil at one point.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: It's very heavily implied (and even pointed out in the DVD special features) that this is why MNU can get away with what they do. Played absolutely straight in the fact that Christopher is easily the most compassionate character in the film. And he's one of the aliens.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Apparently, less than the dirt they're standing on. This movie is pretty much about exploring this trope. Lampshaded in the first five minutes or so. If you take Christopher to be a master alien to the drones stuck on this C-grade planet full of primitives, well we're the aliens and What Measure Is A Non Prawn? Nothing. Until one is willing to sacrifice himself for him and his son.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Happens to Wikus. He's alone, in an apparently invincible Mini-Mecha, and the soldiers thus far haven't tried to chase him. Then he hears that they're gonna kill Christopher. *beat* Roaring Rampage of Revenge!
  • Window Pain: When the mothership starts up, it causes a sonic boom that shatters every window in the city.
  • Your Head Asplode: The result of the alien weaponry, in the cases when it's not Your Entire Body Asplode. Most notably in the case of Obesanjo, whose head actually swells up before exploding.
  • You Shall Not Pass: The main character's real turning point. In a mecha no less.

Dead Space 2Creator/Zoic StudiosDragonball Evolution
WatchmenSeiun AwardPaul
Stargate AtlantisNebula AwardAvatar
AvatarHugo AwardInception
ColombianaCreator/Tri Star PicturesElectric Boogaloo
The Blind SideAcademy AwardAn Education
The Disappearance Of Alice CreedFilms of 2005 - 2009 Doghouse
Back to the FutureThe New TensPeter F. Hamilton
Red Right HandImageSource/Live-Action FilmsFantastic Ghetto
The Deadly SpawnScience Fiction FilmsElysium

alternative title(s): District Nine; District 9
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy