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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The Prawns...
      • ... are not inherently stupid and violent drones. It's a reflection of their refugee status: poor, lost, confused, exploited, oppressed, without jobs or hopes. They are only violent and listless as some ghettoized human refugees are.
      • ... were already unwanted brutalized refugees being dumped on Earth to get them away from an "alien Johannesburg."
      • ... are worker bees without a queen: they are dim-witted, listless, and have only the two modus operandi "obedient" and "violent". Equivalently, they are bio-engineered soldiers.
      • This last part really resonates if a few factors are taken into consideration:
      • "Workers" would certainly be more active in doing "work." Even in an ant colony without a queen (lost to accident/disease/etc.), the workers still go about their duty of foraging or what other tasks they do. The fact that all of the prawns basically sit around and get intoxicated and then start trouble really cements the fact that they cannot be workers. At the very least, their personal areas would be much neater, as they would not have a wish to have a cluttered environment. Look at a modern bee hive or ant hill, is there a bunch of trash laying around and lots of insects doing nothing?
      • The ease in which even the average prawn handles weapons. When carrying any kind of weapon, the prawns appear to hold them confidently and correctly. Would you arm workers this way? Would you give workers the ability to remote pilot a Mini-Mecha with that kind of firepower? Would the young child of a worker know instinctively how to operate such a machine?
      • With these factors taken into account, an alternative possibility begins to take shape: the prawns actually are an invasion force, or, if they didn't arrive specifically to invade our planet, they are at least a force capable of an invasion. They simply lack the organizational structure and/or any kind of leader (of the Hive Mind variety or otherwise) or motive for them to actually fight or no goal to achieve through doing so.
      • They are very quick to resort to violence, and the ability with which they can do so suggests a serious degree of, if not training, at least battlefield conditioning. Christopher's friend attacks the MNU goons and Wikus almost immediately, and literally tosses them around like rag dolls. We see that an unarmed prawn can still rip a fully grown and very trained man limb from limb in seconds. Now, consider the fact that all of the prawns we see in the film are starving and malnourished, frequently inebriated, and almost certainly rife with debilitating disease. If this is what they can do in the most horrible living conditions imaginable, imagine how dangerously strong a full platoon of these creatures would be if all of them were in perfect health.
      • The general attitude of the prawns. They have nothing to do, (and don't look for anything else to do) but try and get ahold of a substance that makes them intoxicated. They fight and bicker among themselves. They get quickly irritated at any interruption. What other profession has these same problems, due to an abundance of downtime? Soldiers. Just ask any soldier that has rotated home about what kinds of things they did to pass the time.
      • Their attitude towards the humans. Several times, Christopher admonishes his friend to "be polite" and to "not antagonize the humans." Why does CJ have to keep stating this? Because he knows his soldier friend does not take kindly to being talked down to like some kind of bug. Try and insult a professional soldier, and see how long it takes before they act just like the prawn did when challenged by Wikus and crew.
      • Consider the actions of the prawns, or the lack thereof. They can easily overpower humans one-on-one, and most of their weapons make even tanks look like toys. The only reason they haven't tried to take over is probably because either CJ told them not to, or they lack a command structure to give them orders to do so. Either way, this also explains their destructive actions: they are bored soldiers looking for any kind of outlet for their collective boredom and rage. Unfortunately, the only way they know how to express it is with random violence. For an example, note how they seem to beat on objects for no real reason, simply to feel the experience of hitting something.
      • The scene where CJ and the other two prawns are searching the junkpile for their technology, in order to find "fluid" also hammers this home. Christopher's unnamed friend doesn't even recognize his own technology. A worker would certainly recognize items that he/she would use on an every day basis. To be fair, it has been 20 years without any kind of education program so it would be hard for the average prawn to tell the difference, but wouldn't a worker recognize something as coming from their own people? A worker could see a part on a gun and recognize another piece of technology as being similar. A soldier wouldn't care. This is not to say that soldiers are stupid by any stretch of the imagination, as many are engineers and hold higher education degrees. However, this is a human conceit. Since the prawns are clearly caste-based, they probably would not have bothered giving soldiers the basic education in technology that all workers would get, as this wouldn't affect their job. All they need to know is where and who to shoot.
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    • Wikus: at the start, is he just an ignorant Punch-Clock Villain just following where his bureaucracy takes him, or does he edge into pure evil territory? Does he continue to help Christopher due to a newfound empathy for these rational, feeling beings, or because (at first) it serves his own ends and (at the end of the story) allows him to wallow in his rage? Consider this detail - when Tania is explaining the fact she has found a metal flower on her doorstep, if you look at the mirror behind her, there are ultra sound pictures. Wikus's rage and anger at his condition has suddenly become very understandable.
    • How many of the other aliens are creatures from another species transformed into prawns by the black fluid, like Wikus was?
    • Piet Smit, Wikus's father-in-law: he obviously disliked Wikus for being an idiot, but did he send him out into District 9 hoping he would get killed by the Prawns or by his own stupidity? Or did he really just give him the job because he was sleeping with Piet's lovely daughter Tania?
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  • Anvilicious: The promotional website and trailers drop anvils on racism, illegal immigration, and pretty much anything that can be tangentially related to Apartheid. The movie's only slightly more subtle.
  • Awesome Music: The soundtrack by Clinton Shorter combines traditional South African music with modern music spectacularly.
  • Catharsis Factor: The MNU troops, especially Koobus, are such vile and despicable assholes that it feels incredibly well-earned when Wikus and Christopher start slaughtering them like, well, bugs in the most cartoonishly violent fashion possible.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Koobus Venter is a sadistic member of a special ops team who gets his jollies off murder, and relishes being able to kill without repercussion. Koobus guns down a prawn after it's been subdued and later leads a violent hunt for Wikus, with full willingness to kill whoever gets in the way. Koobus psychologically tortures the Prawn Christopher Johnson while beating him and threatens to kill him regardless of getting Wikus, gleefully saying he can't believe he's getting paid to do what he loves: he just loves watching the Prawns die.
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    • Obesandjo, The Evil Cripple wheelchair bound leader of the Nigerian gangsters, sets up his racket in District 9 and distributes cat food to the aliens, which is like a drug that keeps them hooked. He also operates "interspecies prostitution" rings, offering the prawns human women. The worst, however, is when he has innocent aliens butchered, so he can eat their flesh and gain their power. When he captures Wikus, he fully plans to cut off his Prawn parts and eat them himself.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: This movie is a very serious and unflinchingly realistic look at the evils of apartheid and the horrifying effects of ghettoized treatment on poor refugees who did nothing worse than land in the wrong place at the wrong time. That doesn't make it any less hilarious, or awesome, when they pull out the really big guns that make people explode in giant clouds of blood. In some ways, that makes it even more funny after the hour-and-a-half of grim, depressing drama you sat through to reach that point.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: District 9 itself is so disgustingly filthy, the humans (Wikus included) so utterly loathsome, and the plight of the aliens so bleak that a good number of potential viewers have said, "No thanks, I'll pass." (And this isn't even getting into the high level of violence inflicted both on humans and aliens alike.) To be fair though, Wikus himself improves a lot, and the other humans being such utter disreputable bastards means it's all the more satisfying when Wikus whips out the Prawn guns and starts popping them like water balloons.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Christopher's son! Not only is he sweet, loyal, and utterly adorable, he's also fully capable of being a complete badass when he needs to be. You just want to reach through the screen and give the little guy a hug.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Hardcore D9 fans often face-off against hardcore Avatar fans because of the similar story structure and the fact that both films were sci-fi flicks nominated for Best Picture Oscar.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Upon the film's release, Neill Blomkamp was heralded as a visionary new voice in film. Now that his subsequent works have shown that Anvilicious race and class parallels are pretty much the only trick he knows, the hype has died down a bit.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: A pretty hilarious one happens in the Japanese dub of the film: Koobus Venter is dubbed in Japanese by Atsuki Tani, who is the regular dub voice for Master Chief in Japan. Taking into account the film was originally planned as a Halo film and the fact Venter's personality is the complete opposite from Master Chief...
  • Jerkass Woobie: Wikus. He's more than a bit of an asshole, sure, but he's been through a lot as well.
  • Memetic Badass: In much the same way as Col. Quaritch, Col. Koobus has developed a reputation as awesome.
  • Moe: Little CJ is the cutest goddamn space-cricket-boy you've ever seen in your entire life. Don't you just want to hug him and be his friend so bad?
  • Moral Event Horizon: Listing which named humans don't cross it would be many, many times easier than the alternative.
  • Nausea Fuel: A shit-ton. Body Horror, Vomit Indiscretion Shots and Gorn galore.
  • Tough Act to Follow: None of Neill Blomkamp's other film projects have garnered the same level of praise from critics or audiences, due at least in part to the fact that they tend to repeat a lot of this film's themes and tropes while not actually being a continuation of this story, which left plenty of loose ends to tie up to begin with.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • The prawns might be big, slimy, tentacle-faced bug-things, often with rather violent behavior and sour attitudes, but between their terrible living conditions, nauseating treatment by the human characters, long gangly bodies, big soulful eyes, and surprisingly expressive faces, they're often remarkably endearing and pitiable.
    • Christopher and his son in particular. Especially his son. Between his own youthful antics, Christopher's fatherly gestures, general tininess, and his various Crowning Moments, the little guy is just asking for a massive hug. Extra-specially when he compares his arm to Wikus's and says endearingly, "We're the same!" Awww... kinda.
    • The Mini-Mecha has tiny little antennae, like the prawns. Awwww.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Obvious just from the trailer. The aliens? The gigantic spaceship hovering over the city? All CGI. All made on a budget of just $30 million. While Weta Workshop designed the aliens (who, appropriately enough, resemble big crickets), at the time of the movie's post-production, Weta Digital was too busy working on visual effects for Avatar, and made only the mothership and the dropship. Most of the VFX were made by companies based in Vancouver (where Neill Blomkamp lives), with Image Engine taking the biggest part. Though already having worked on other Hollywood movies, District 9 was Image Engine's first big project.
  • Wangst: Wikus spends a lot of time flipping out and all the while saying bad words frequently. He'll come across as indulging in this to some viewers, especially those who think his killing of the baby aliens and his obvious corruption deserved some karmic retribution.
  • The Woobie: Christopher and his son both come to mind, being pretty much the only unambiguously good beings in the entire movie, and who suffer great hardships.
  • Woobie Species: The alien "prawns" are a racism-related example, combined with "What Measure Is a Non-Cute?"

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