Mastodon

12 min read


Context

These are the prawn-like aliens from Peter Jackson’s 2009 mockumentaryA video depicting fiction but presented as a documentary District 9.

The film serves as a parable about refugees. It also draws from director Neill Blomkamp’s childhood in South Africa during apartheid, and his previous short Alive in Joburg, which was about segregation.

(District 9 is the South African movie about slums and aliens. District B13 is the French movie about slums and parkour. Don’t mix the two up.)

This entry has S P O I L E R S throughout.

Advertisement

Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Other Aliases: Prawn (derogatory as bottom feeders), often called “creature”.
  • Known Relatives: Each other.
  • Group Affiliation: Their own species.
  • Base of Operations: Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Height: 7’0″ (2.13m). Weight: 185 lbs. (84 Kg.)
  • Eyes: Green. Hair: Sparse black or brown.

Powers & Abilities

District 9 aliens are crustacean-like humanoids. They have two arms and two legs. With two tiny arms folded under their ribcage. A chitinous insect shell covers their entire body.

Their hands have hard natural claws, good for chopping. Claws on their feet are for fighting – they can kick a full-grown man about 20 feet. They are strong jumpers too.

Their physical strength is greater than a man’s, though their own frame is thinner and lighter.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Crowd in the alien slums

Tech

Beyond their natural abilities, they have an intelligence level on par with humans. They have many high-tech items with them, though those aliens we see didn’t create these.

The following is seen during the movie:

  • Energy rifles.
  • Energy grenade launchers.
  • Mechs.
  • Electric one-shot rifles.
  • And of course, a spaceship the size of a city!

Non-Prawns can’t use these devices.

History

July 5th, 1982. Three months after the massive alien spaceship came to a halt over Johannesburg, South Africa. People decided, after much deliberation, to cut their way inside.

They found malnourished, unhealthy, and aimless aliens. The ship’s command module had been jettisoned and was nowhere to be found.

What do we do with them?

An aid camp was set up just beneath the ship. Initially, there was no plan and markedly insufficient supplies. Johannesburg couldn’t handle the one million refugees literally dropped on their city.

The aliens were given proper status and protection but the momentum stopped there. The refugees couldn’t live outside of their designated area, but they weren’t prisoners.

They could move around the city like anyone else… but some areas were designated as humans-only.

The aid camp became District 9, a fenced and militarized zone. Soon, it predictably became a slum. Criminal activity inside District 9 was rampant.

Mobs

The Nigerians inside District 9 were ran by a man called Obesandjo. They preyed on the Prawns and ran illegal activities from there. Such as:

  • Selling cat food to Prawns at exorbitant prices.
  • Betting on alien creatures fighting for sport, as if it were cockfighting.
  • Buying and selling exotic animals.
  • Selling interspecies prostitution.
  • Dealing in alien weaponry.
  • Running a chop-shop.

Twenty years later…

The alien population grew to 1.8 million. It was now clear to all that the aliens could not leave – their ship was inoperable.

Tensions rose, leading to xenophobic protests and riots. The people of Johannesburg had enough. The aliens had to go!

Enter the Multinational United (MNU) Alien Affairs. This multi-national group was created to engage Prawns on behalf of humans. It was entrusted with the monumental task of moving every Prawn in District 9 to a “safe place” – 200 kilometers outside the city.

To facilitate this action, mercenary groups were hired to protect the MNU workers, led by Wikus van de Merwe. Their task was to get signatures from every Prawn at least 24 hours before the move began. A signature meant the individual Prawn agreed to and understood the MNU’s right to evict.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Prawn baby watching hologram of Earth globe

So, what could go wrong?

The Prawns did not understand what was happening. Some took up weapons and fought what they saw as an invading military force. Surprised at knocks on their doors, others refused to sign.

The mercenaries caused situations to escalate. Some were quick to the trigger. They killed uncooperative Prawns.

Prawn homes were ransacked or burned when troopers discovered illegal activities. The Prawns themselves were removed, arrested, or killed.

The mothership connection

A couple of Prawns had searched for years for alien salvage. Some pieces held a small quantity of fluid, which was spaceship fuel.

They also found the lost command module – and hid it by positioning their shack over it.

Their plan was to fly the command module to the mother ship when they had enough fuel. Then to their homeworld.

Wikus confiscated the fuel, not knowing what it was. But a bit of it sprayed his face.

Advertisement

Old man look at my life. I’m a lot like you were.

Ironically, Wikus, who had mistreated the Prawns, started transforming into one of them. His left arm changed first. But further changes came rapidly.

Wikus learned first-hand how cruel humans can be to Prawns.

  • To distance themselves from him, his company accused him of various crimes.
  • People blamed him for the botched eviction of Prawns from District 9.
  • His wife separated from him because of the awful accusations.

Soon, he was utterly cast out from human society.

Get in. Get out.

Wikus hid inside District 9. He took alien weapons from the Nigerians, since he could now use them.

He then allied with the Prawn who was gathering the liquid. They broke into the MNU facility and reclaimed the fuel, surprising everyone.

MNU hadn’t even changed Wikus’ security clearance. He therefore used passcodes to bypass security doors, then fought his way out using alien weapons.

The Prawn and his child escaped to the mother ship in the hidden command module. They promised to return in three years and fix Wikus’ body. The people of Earth cheered as the ship left, glad to be rid of them.

Aftermaths

The MNU’s illegal genetic testing was exposed and condemned by the world.

District 9 was demolished. The Prawns were moved to District 10 where they are now 2.5 million and rising.

Wikus’ transformation to full Prawn completed. He twisted metal into flowers and left them at his wife’s front door.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - face closeup MNU more detail

Description

Humanoid prawns with chitinous bodies. Blue, red, yellow, brown, tan, and black.

Their eyes are human looking. They can be various colors, but usually, yellow or green.

A few wore pieces of clothing. Such as a vest, a hat, or cloth wrappings. Most wore nothing.

All Prawns are stamped on the left side of their head with an identification MNU number.

The Prawns were lucky – they were able to breathe the Earth’s atmosphere.

Eggs are laid in a cluster with a large animal, like a cow, hung over them for nourishment.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie -full body view

Personality

They can subsist on almost anything but enjoy eating cat food and chewing on rubber. What humans may find disgusting, doesn’t bother a Prawn.

The Prawns make quick, sudden movements, or run on all-fours then stand again. This can be interpreted as aggression.

They are complete carnivores. They attacked the colonel and ripped him apart eating him in a frenzy!

What humans say of them

  • What a Prawn might see as recreational, setting fire to a truck or derailing a train, is obviously for us an extremely destructive act.
  • They have no concept of ownership of property. We must explain it to them.
  • The creatures become obsessed with cat food. Like catnip for cats, only a lot more intense.
  • These are basically the worker drones of the colony. They can’t think for themselves. They show no initiative. They’ve lost all their leadership.
  • Prawns are stupid they’ll believe anything.

Some people believe eating the body parts of the aliens let them ingest their power. Others see it is a miracle cure. Curing diabetes… all diseases.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Face with breaking news chiron

Quotes

(clicking sounds).

Prawn: “No, it’s not my house. I don’t live here.”
Wikus: “That’s a pity, because you know this…” (shows a can of cat food) “Hell, this is a really nice cat food, you know ? It’s not your house ? We’ll give it to…”
Prawn: (excited) “Yes, it is my house !” (quickly signs the eviction notice and grabs the can)

Wikus: “Hello ? MNU. We are here to serve eviction notices.””
Prawn: “What is eviction ?”

Christopher: “I thought you said not to kill them.”
Wikus: “He shot at me.”

(Low growl with quick exhale in a huff).

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Mecha in a warehouse

Alien combat mecha.

DC Universe Adaptation

(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).

If the aliens had come to the DCU, the hero community could easily fix their ship and get them on their way.

But that would be too easy. The alien’s first contact with humans would be a villain or villain group. Perhaps the H.I.V.E.

Hellgrammite may find a kinship with them.

This way, they are used against the heroes. Before realizing who is on their side, getting help, and heading for home.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - combat mech mecha wide view

Alien combat mecha.

DC Heroes RPG

Prawn (Generic)

Dex: 02 Str: 03 Bod: 03
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 02
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 02
Init: 006 HP: 000

Powers:

Analytic Smell/Tracking Scent (Analytic Smell only): 01, Claws (hands and feet): 04, Growth: 01, Jumping: 01, Skin Armor: 01, Systemic Antidote: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

Skills:

Weaponry (Firearms): 02, Vehicles (Prawn vehicles): 02

Advantages:

Language (Their own alien language) They understand English but only speak their own language.

Connections:

District 9 (Low), Nigerian criminals (Low).

Drawbacks:

Serious Irrational Attraction toward cat food.

Motivation:

Varies.

Occupation:

Varies.

Wealth:

000

Equipment:

An individual Prawn might have one energy weapon on hand. It’s illegal to have any. A large amount of their weapons has been traded to the Nigerians. All are keyed to interact exclusively with Prawn DNA.

  • Alien Machine Gun [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 08, R#02, Advantage: Autofire]. Like an assault rifle if a bit longer.
  • Energy Weapon [BODY 05, Mental Blast: 07, Super Breath: 04, Range: 04, Bonuses and Limitations: Mental Blast and Super Breath are Diminishing, Mental Blast and Super Breath can be Combined, R#2]. This is the white one Wikus picks up at the Nigerian camp.
  • Energy Grenade Launcher [BODY 02, Range: 07, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Range can be Indirect (limited to ballistic arcs, +1), Drawback: Long Reload].
  • Energy Grenade [BODY 01, Bomb: 09, Lightning: 04 R#03, Grenade drawback. Bomb and Lightning are Combined].
  • Lightning Gun [BODY 05, Lightning: 13, R#2, Bonuses and Limitations: The shot from this weapon has no penetration at all. Whatever it hits takes the full brunt of the damage]. Men are blown apart where they stand.
Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - alien machinegun

PRAWN MOTHER SHIP

[BODY 27, Flight: 30, Range: 15, Attraction/Repulsion (Tractor beam): 12, Sealed Systems: 30, Sonic Beam: 01, Area Knowledge (Prawn known universe), Bonuses and Limitations: Flight is limited to 07 APs in an Atmosphere, Sonic Beam has Area Effect and uses Range, R#5].

Their ship acts as a floating city. By the time the humans cut their way inside, the Prawns had nearly depleted all supplies.

When the ship was re-activated it let out a warning horn blast (Sonic Beam) that shattered windows throughout Johannesburg.

All dormant Prawn equipment became active when the Mother Ship re-activated.

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Vikus with energy gun

Wikus with an alien energy gun.


Alien Mech

ALIEN MECH [BODY (Hardened Defenses) 08 STR 07 INT 01 WILL 01, AV 06, Attraction/Repulsion: 12, Data Storage: 01, Extended Hearing: 05, Jumping: 01, Lightning: 05, Projectile Weapons: 05, Super Ventriloquism: 02, R#3, Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Attraction/Repulsion may be used with Area Effect.
  • It has a Lightning Gun for the Left arm and an Alien Machine Gun for the Right arm. See above for these weapons stats.
  • Projectile Weapons and Lightning can be Combined. This represents the heavy taser used to kill the Nigerian leader.
  • Directly under the guns are robotic claw clamps for grabbing and holding objects.
  • The Mech can function without a pilot using its A.I..
  • It will neutralize threats to Prawns with deadly force.
  • AV is used without a pilot or the targeting system launches mini-missiles. They must be voice-commanded by the pilot. Voice command and targeting system cost an Automatic Action to use.

Alien Mech mini-missiles (Pulse)(X12) [BODY 02, Bomb: 05, Flight: 08, R#03, Grenade Drawback, Bonuses and Limitations: Multi-Attack Bonus +3]. Up to 06 mini-missiles can be fired at once. Each fired on a different target.

Notes:

  • The Alien Mech, when first activated, used an ability to catch and collect all the bullets fired at it. I used Attraction/Repulsion to catch the bullets, then repel them back at the shooters. It’s later used a second time, launching the body of a pig!
  • The Alien Mech has Data Storage and Extended Hearing. Conversations may be recorded and played back for the pilot.

Prawn pets

Scorpion-like alien creatures

Like dogfighting or cockfighting, these creatures are used in fights for sport.

Dex: 03 Str: 01 Bod: 02
Int: 00 Wil: 01 Min: 01
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01
Init: 006 HP: 000

Powers:

Claws: 03 (long tail spike), Running: 03, Shrinking: 01, Skin Armor: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

Shrinking is always on.

Advantages:

Lightning Reflexes.

Motivation:

Animal.

Occupation:

Survival.

Wealth:

000

Prawn aliens - District 9 movie - Fighting pet animal

Small alien fighting pet.


Design notes

District 9 is similar to the 1989-1990 Alien NationTV series where aliens crash-landed on Earth. Both films deal with issues such as xenophobia, prejudice, and racism.

Some Prawns took human names (like “Christopher”), but humans almost exclusively referred to them all as “Prawns”.

We see a Prawn toss a large man in full gear about 20 feet using only one hand. Looking at the charts, 20 feet is only 01 AP. So, a throw like this on a normal-sized guy could be done with a STR 03. The problem comes when the guy being thrown is over 200 lbs (03 APs). (I’m looking at you Thomas).

The answer is, individual Prawns have higher strengths. Prawns, like humans, vary in strength and a STR 04 isn’t out of the question. STR 03 being the generic Prawn.

Attraction/Repulsion at 12 APs was selected so it could catch all the bullets. Bullets travel at twice the speed of sound – 12 APs. It worked to keep it the same for the Tractor beam that lifted the command module weighing 09 APs.


Writeups.org writer avatar Ethan Roe

By Ethan Roe.

Source of Character: The 2009 movie District 9.

Helper(s): IMDb  , Rex Smith.

Writeup completed on the 18th of July, 2020.