I’d describe District 9 as a movie about abuse of power. As a metaphor, we can link it to all human tragedy around slavery, xenophobia and discrimination (Apartheid’s District Six seems to be the main inspiration).
I was relieved that Mr. Blomkamp decided to avoid making this the usual “we are white men, we are mean!” kind of movie. Blacks get plenty of bad rap and even the “sub-human” way the Aliens behave is used to rationalize some of the violence.
The movie reminded me of a Discovery Channel documentary on nature. Lions eating deer, snakes swallowing cows… It’s your basic nature’s power play tragedy, when whoever is on top tend to get pretty selfish and nasty. At the same time, whoever is on bottom are not all angels either (in this case, that is implied by the fact that the Alien’s home planet is no more). For those of us who believe that humans are by nature mostly bad, the whole thing made quite a bit of sense.
Now of course there is the “corporations are bad” rap. The counter criticism against government is a bit too light and is pretty much based on the fact that the government lost interest and handed out the Alien’s fate to the bad corporation in the first place. You add that to the usual “private army” stereotype and you get the most unbalanced side of the movie.
There are some weird plot twists (like the fact that Alien’s weapons are super-duper powerful but they don’t seem to want to use it until the transformed human leads them). The escape to the mothership also felt more like a hook for a sequel, but in any way, these weird things don’t get in the way of the overall story.
All in all, it’s a clever and interesting movie. Depressing but good nonetheless.