Before watching this movie, I was worried that it would just be a simplistic story where humans are bad and aliens are good as in the movie Avatar. But as it turned out, the morality of District 9 is way more complex than Avatar, making District 9 the far superior movie, even though Avatar is far more polished
As usual, it’s impossible to say anything interesting about District 9 without giving away important elements of the movie, and in fact I think the movie would be more fun to watch the first time if you didn’t read this review or any other review, so proceed at your own risk (even though I don't write anything about the main plot or the ending).
District 9 is filmed in South Africa, and the director and screenplay writer is a white South African. He is most likely a liberal white South African who sincerely believes that apartheid was evil and it was correct to end it, yet nevertheless the perspective of a white person living in a majority black country seems to suffuse the movie in a way that would never have happened if this were the typical American movie.
Twenty years before the events in the movie, a huge alien spaceship appeared over Johannesburg (apparently the aliens have some sort of anti-gravity technology because the massively huge spaceship permanently hovers there). After three months in which the ship just hovers there without making any sort of attempt to communicate with the people of Earth, the humans go up to the ship and enter it (the ship hovering low enough so that it can be reached by helicopter), and discover that there are over a million aliens in there, stranded and without food. Being the humanitarians that we are, the aliens are taken down and allowed to settle in a refugee camp outside of Johannesburg.
The aliens are modeled after insects. The premise seems to be that the worker-class was left in the ship, while the “upper echelons” (to use the words of the director in the commentary track) and the “queen” are mysteriously absent. The refugee camp is modeled after the Zimbabwean refugees camps which exist in South Africa. Thus we can assume that the average “prawn” (as the aliens are referred to derogatorily in the movie because of their shrimp-like tentacles) probably has around the same IQ and same future time orientation of the average Zimbabwean refugee, around 75 or so. In other words, the aliens have nothing to contribute to the planet and they are unable to live in harmony with humans. Their refugee camp is a place of filth and squalor, just like Zimbabwean refugee camps, because the prawns lack the intelligence and future time orientation to improve the quality of the place where they live.
Like humans living in refugee camps, the aliens breed and their population is actually expanding. The humans attempt to limit the alien population by “aborting” any alien eggs that they find. No doubt, the writer/director used that word intentionally because it’s so morally loaded to a U.S. audience. But what’s the purpose of allowing the prawns to increase in numbers when they just suck up humanitarian aid and give back nothing in return?
Although the movie does include the standard cliché of the evil corporation which pursues wealth and power at the expense of any sort of morality (they do evil nazi-like experiments on aliens and humans alike), the movie does not in any way suggest that humans and the worker-class of aliens could ever live and work together in peace and harmony, or that the humans are in any way holding back the aliens from reaching their potential. We presume that the upper echelon of aliens had some way to control the workers and make them do labor, similar to the way that rich African whites make the blacks labor in the mines. In fact, it may very well be that the upper echelons intended to uses these worker-aliens as slave labor mining for rare minerals like “unobtanium” (to borrow a word from Avatar) on distant worlds. For all we know, the prawns are better off living in refugee camps than being slaves to the alien management class.