Just about everyone we know loves, or at least strongly likes, District 9. That includes us. It's got a 90 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has critics using words like ferocious, provocative and original. It's also made more than $100 million at the box office.
So what's not to like? Apparently, quite a bit. We noticed that the few people who didn't love District 9 seemed to hate it. And we mean really hate it, calling it things like brainless, moronic compost and racist. When we decided to find out why, we found out they usually hate it for one of six reasons:
[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]
It really isn't that original.
"It's mainly a compost of other sci-fi movies, as old as RoboCop, Aliens and The Fly and as recent as Cloverfield and Transformers. It's a bad joke that District 9 will be hailed for its 'originality.' The movie's main fun comes from wondering what coin of the pop realm Blomkamp will pluck out from his memory bank next."—Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun
"The film becomes a ham-handed mish-mash of most science-fiction action movies you can think of. You start with Alien Nation, then add The Fly, stir in some of The Rock to get our closed-off military swagger on, and dump in a healthy amount of Aliens so we can get our bio-mech groove on at the end. The main problem is this film is a pale shadow of the films it references. Like a band which is inspired by a much cooler band, I would rather spend time with the source of inspiration."—Trey Hock, Scene Stealers
"Hailed as 'Wildly Original' by a lot of critics, I saw everything coming about 10 minutes ahead of time. Does that make me psychic, or does it mean that I have seen this story's elements a hundred times before? If you like science fiction, wait for this one to come out on DVD. If you need to see this movie right now, you'd get the same story elements by renting The Fly and Alien Nation."—Travis Saunders, The Lincoln Journal
Its science is senseless.
"The science of District 9 takes a nosedive when alien and human DNA intermingle, which makes a human suddenly grow a claw in place of a hand. It's hard to imagine alien biochemistry being so compatible with ours by chance, and absurd to think it would lead to overnight changes in someone's gross anatomy. (Human-animal hybrid cells have been created in real life, but the results are not as dramatic.)—David Shiga, New Scientist
"At every turn, District 9 presented me with one moronic scene after another. It's one of those movies that doesn't bother to explain anything thanks to one obvious reason: the creators have no idea. The more questions you ask yourself, the more ridiculous the movie becomes. How is the mother ship still floating in air 20 years after coming to a stop? Don't ask. Why didn't the aliens use the miracle goo from their technology to leave the planet when they were still aboard the ship? Don't ask. How come humans can understand the alien language? Don't ask. How come we didn't detect a huge command module buried 10' underground, despite television footage of it separating from the mothership? Don't ask. This alien fuel-goo also mutates people into aliens? Don't ask. District 9 is smart science-fiction? My god. If this movie is a sign of things to come, then the bar has truly sunk to a new low."—Jack Devore, Info Addict
"Ultimately the movie made no sense. Just a few quick 'What were they thinking' moments: the huge ship that sat up there for 20 years is suddenly able to move. The huge ship has a tractor beam that ultimately made getting the fuel moot. All the scientists and military in the world became bored enough to just leave the ship hanging up there—no science team, no weapons experts, and no permanent team on the ship. No one wants to study or help the aliens badly enough to study or help the aliens."—robohannon, MoviesOnline
The plot is full of holes.
"I found it hard to believe a government would cut into a mysterious alien ship. The risk of disease or accidentally triggering intergalactic war is too great. They then ferry a million aliens down to earth? It goes on and on. No one item is a deal breaker, but I found myself getting bogged down in these minor details instead of enjoying the story."—Steve Mullen, Byte Me
"This is the most overhyped movie I've watched in memory. The great failing of District 9 is not its actors, nor its directing (though it is questionable), but the terrible writing. The plot is far too full of holes for a movie that takes itself so seriously. I'm fine with accepting the premise that desperate aliens came to Earth, but everything that took place in the story after their arrival made no sense. The characters were simply cartoon cutouts—the only significant character who wasn't an inane plot device was the main protagonist, and even he was given short shrift by the screenplay. If you want some action, you'll find it, and it won't completely bore you. If you want to see a well thought-out story that actually affects more than your basest emotions, you will be disappointed."—John O., MetaCritic
"I don't want to suggest that District 9 is disappointingly stupid because it fails to meet up to the standard of contemporary written SF, because, frankly, I haven't read a 'contemporary' science fiction novel ... ever. I've only read the classics, mostly from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. No, District 9 is stupid even by the standards of a modern action movie."—Greg Lamberson, Fear Zone
"Why can't the Nigerians just be people with logical motives like money and weapons? Why do they have to go out of their way to be ooga-booga savages? The film would still have held up without the narrative elements of cannibalism and interspecies sex. Why do the blacks have to be sexual degenerates who will eat filth and violate the oldest human taboo by committing cannibalism? The only reason I see is to shoehorn some cheap visceral thrills into the movie. It's lazy, sensationalist writing, and it diminishes the potential for intelligent, nuanced allegory."—Nicole Stamp, Racialicious
" ... the depiction of Black Africans left a lot to be desired. In fact, the review was rather tame in describing the film's offensive and regressive portrayal of Black people in the film. First of all, despite the film being set in South Africa, practically most of the black people appearing in the film are nothing but background fodder as extras with a few given a line here and there. The only potential major black character in the film, who plays Copley's assistant, gets a few scenes in the beginning usually with a terrified, scared rabbit look on his face looking like he's about to run for his life, and is not seen again until briefly at the end. Not exactly heroic. The other main black characters are of course the evil bad guys ... " —Sergio, Shadow and Act
"Fools will accept District 9 for fantasy, yet its use of parable and symbolism also evoke the almost total misunderstanding that surrounds the circumstance of racial confusion and frustration recently seen when Harvard University tycoon Henry Louis Gates Jr. played the race card against a white Cambridge cop. Opening so soon after that event—and adding to its unending media distortion—District 9 confirms that few media makers know how to perceive history, race and class relations."—Armond White, New York Press
It's nothing more than another brainless blockbuster.
"Even given the emotional investment by the viewers, the story is little more than a two hour long chase scene with explosions and firefights. There is an emotional component, but it reaches as deep into the audience as body lotion. Every time it seems there could be a question of morality, or a moment of emotive genius, it is blown up, shot or runs away."— LaRae Meadows, Empire Report
"When the main character—Wikus Van De Merwe, who leads the MNU project—gets poisoned by an alien concoction and begins to evolve into one of them, the premise devolves into a common, visual-effects laden, disappointing chase flick."—Gary Wolcott, atomictown.com
"The picture is bursting with battles royal—with bullets buzzing, flames bursting, blood flowing, crustaceans crackling. The fresh premise over, the stale action returns. Having exhausted its blazed trail, District 9 simply steers back to the rutted road of excess."—Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail
And in the end ... who cares?
"There is no real character development, not even for the principal fellow who has the most direct contact with the aliens which are called prawns by the humans, nor does Blomkamp's tale provide suspense. That being the case, there is no one in the picture to care about, nor are we successfully prompted to have empathy or sympathy for the creatures despite the hard luck that finds them fish out of water, so to speak, desiring nothing more than to go home."—Harvey Karten, ShowBiz Forum
"This might have been brilliant 20 years ago as a piece of agitprop designed to stir the masses against the elitist white power structure. But coming so late in the game, District 9 is like an over-decorated yet forgettable Christmas present: attractive on the surface but extremely disappointing within."— Carl Kozlowski, Pasadena Weekly
"There's a difference between science fiction and faux science fiction. The difference comes in whether the plot and characters are believable and the audience actually cares. In the new Peter Jackson flick, District 9, I found that I could not care less about the stupid characters who plague this faux genre. ... Not only is this film disgustingly horrible, but I couldn't find any reason to care about the characters and whether or not they survive, or whether Wikus gets to be human again."—Kimberly Grant at the South Florida Times