Part of District 9's impact has to do with the "realism " of the way the prawns are treated. That is, the reaction the humans have to the refugee prawns is driven by basic human traits such as greed, fear, and hatred. This inevitably leads to the emergence of...
Part of District 9's impact has to do with the "realism" of the way the prawns are treated. That is, the reaction the humans have to the refugee prawns is driven by basic human traits such as greed, fear, and hatred. This inevitably leads to the emergence of several themes. I'll just list the ones that strike me:
1. The omnipresence of capitalist greed. The prawns are housed in giant shanty towns that are run by a giant conglomerate that wants to harvest the prawns's alien technology. To this end, they perform horrifying medical experiments on the prawns, seeking to understand how their machines are connected to their DNA.
2. Xenophobia. The prawns are aliens, and are treated by the humans (and the protagonist, Wikus, at first) as subhuman. There is a kind of comic element in the prawn's love of canned cat food, but it is clear that the prawns are a stand in for blacks under apartheid in South Africa.
3. Exceptionalism. The prawns are helpless because their leadership class is mysteriously missing. When we meet Christopher later in the movie, it is clear that he must be part of this missing class; he is able to advocate for the prawns while working to revive the command ship and move them to safety. If we understand the movie as an allegory about apartheid, than perhaps Christopher is an alien version of Nelson Mandela.
4. The worship of technology: Not only do the humans want to monetize the alien's technology, the tech itself is a kind of "deus ex machina." As in many science fiction movies, Christopher manages to get the control module fixed and unleash its power at the climax of the film.
5. Empathy: Wikus is redeemed by his exposure to the fluid that alters his DNA. It is only by slowy turning into a prawn that he understands what their situation truly is, and this understanding makes him a better person. The closing shot of Wikus, almost fully a prawn, making metal roses for his wife suggests that his transformation has not erased his better human traits.
This is a fascinating film, and I'm sure there are many more themes that can be discussed!