Speaking of aliens, District 9 (now available on DVD) outclasses Avatar in every way. Avatar‘s “aliens” have sophomorically humanoid bodies, with navels, dreadlocks, broad noses from Sierra Leone, big adorable eyes from manga, and perky, perfect little light-blue breasts. This is an insult to the viewer’s intelligence. If we ever do meet some real aliens from another star system, the chances are very low that we will even understand what we are seeing. I guarantee to you that we won’t find them sexually attractive. We won’t understand, at first, whether they have anything like sex. Chances are, they will be so different from us that we will not be certain that they are alive. (They may have the same doubts about us.) They could be here in this solar system right now, and escape our notice because they don’t look humanoid, or even eumetazoan. They could look like haystacks, or lightning, or sunspots — or something we literally cannot imagine.

That being said, District 9‘s aliens are at least kind of alien. They are not appealing. The body plan reminds one of vultures, insects and crayfish. They don’t have Kate Moss breasts. They do have something like lungs, and you can see them working and it is not pretty. They eat garbage. They fight over garbage, seemingly. They came in a spaceship, but they don’t know how to work it, apparently. They live in a government slum. They are repulsive and pathetic.

Then you get to know them. And they turn out, despite their grotesque anatomy, to be more appealing, on a humanitarian level, than the humans around them. You get to know them, and you remember things like “beauty is only skin deep” and “the only way to be good is to do good” and “the best things in life aren’t things”. District 9 is that rare, glittering gem: a movie that makes you think.

It’s not perfect. I would not call it a great film. But I rented it, and enjoyed it, and recommend it to you.