Sometime in the 1980s a gigantic spaceship appears in the sky over Johannesburg, inhabited by aliens that resemble tall and thin crustaceans, who wander their interstellar home like many of the downtrodden humans living in much of the African continent below.
The crustaceans are dubbed prawns by the press for their resemblance to European shrimp and after being taken from their seemingly abandoned vessel, ferried below to take up residence in internment camps that soon begin to resemble the disgraceful shanty towns of metal paneling and concrete found all over Africa where the disposed of many nations struggle to survive.
In a successful mock-documentary style, the story of the Prawn’s survival from their arrival and now twenty years later in the 21st Century, includes plenty of their interactions with the citizens of South Africa. This results in just about everything you would expect from folks who themselves suffered through decades of apartheid even though there is plenty of evidence on board the spaceship that these interstellar crustaceans are members of an advanced civilization while being viewed by earthlings as disgusting creatures with no hygienic standards and addicted to cans of cat food called Puddi. The speech of the Prawns is a series of grunts and clicks and over twenty-some years many of the humans making their living on extorting the aliens have learned the language but for those of us without linguistic abilities there are subtitles.
Everybody on earth comes into criticism--often in a manner that without the history of Monty Python would not turn out to be so caustic and so true. The enemies of the Prawns range from the general TV audience, the government of South Africa, most other nations on earth, and range from international corporations (here marvelously represented by a company called M.N.U. the acronym for Multi-National United) who are out to divest the Prawns of DNA secrets to make money on the international pharmaceutical market down to a number of Nigerian thugs who openly operate black markets in an effort to find what they believe to be a kind of immortality possessed by the Prawns. Remember, the producer is Peter Jackson and the result while not for the faint-in-heart is Swiftian in its appraisals of humanity--not to mention award-winning special effects.
The M.N.U. executive currently involved with the Prawns, is Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a nervous Nellie whose father-in-law (Louis Minnaar) is the ceo of M.N.U., a man who hates his son-in-law and still wishes he could find another man to marry his daughter but is stuck with Wikus. Then there’s an accident at the camp and Wikus becomes a hunted man, unfortunately easily identified because he’s dragging around his right arm as it loses its humanity and becomes a Prawn appendage.
From here on "District 9" get’s even better and hang in there because like all great stories, this is partially a love story and there is an incredibly tender acknowledgment of this fact as Wikus awaits word from the stars.
"District 9" can best be summed up by remembering Pogo’s famous line about humankind: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us."