From this weekend's major releases, the movie generating the most excitement: District 9, a relatively low-budget thriller about human-alien relations in South Africa. But it - like many films like it - has a heavy theme: goddamn aliens!
District 9's set in Johannesburg. Aliens in the film end up stranded in South Africa after not being able to get their ship off the planet. Years later, and they've been integrated into society there in a ghetto, in what basically amounts to an existence as a science experiment. Sound familiar? Anyway, they try to move the aliens further out, and then the aliens try to start some ruckus.
But this isn't the only film in which aliens and humans interact in a way in which something meaningful may be produced. There're plenty of these films! But these are the five I picked. If you've got any better ones, throw them in the comments, where the Alien-Evil factor, the Human-Evil factor, and the social message of these films shall be subject to intense debate. Aliens of the universe: live long and prosper, or die a shitty death. Just don't mess with humans.
District 9, 2009, directed by Neill Blomkamp.
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 3/10. Without spoiling too much, meh, not so bad. Like any oppressed people, they get worse the more they're encroached upon. They (supposedly, ooh) just want to go home!
How Bad Are The Humans? : 7/10. Total assholes! They put them in the ghetto and life sucks for them. A few people are alien rights advocates.
Social Message: 7/10. Apartheid's bad, most humans are inherently bad, but occasionally, there're a few people who will stand up for the rights of the oppressed.
Cloverfield, 2008, directed by Matt Reeves
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 8/10. Okay, so maybe just a monster, but it could be an alien! We don't know! The point here is that it's just another monster who wants our ass on a plate. Apparently, this one's been sitting off of Coney Island for a few hundred years - maybe - but he wakes up, is pissed, and decides to murder everything in sight. If I lived that close to Coney Island, however, I'd be pissed, too. He basically wrecks Manhattan and as far as we know, avoids Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. I don't know if this makes him tasteful or despicable.
How Bad Are The Humans? : 4/10. I mean, they didn't do anything wrong, but at least one of them is a trust fund baby who lives in the Time Warner Center, and they're total downtown gentrifiers. Also, they're whiny.
Social Message: 8/10. It's incredibly subtle. Basically: if you gentrify/destroy New York of its culture, one day, karma - in the form of a thirty-story, hungry, pissed-off alien - will come and finish the job for you, stomping Manhattan, you, and your Beatrice Inn-missing friends out of existence.
Independence Day, 1996, directed by Roland Emmerich.
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 10/10. They want to kill us all. Somewhere, out there, there might be something that will bring the pain to all of us, and we're gonna have to unite to kill it.
How Bad Are The Humans? : 3/10. For the most part, we're pretty decent when we band together for a united cause. Like killin' some alien. Unfortunately, as it turns out, we were hiding alien tech in Area 51 forever, so, we kinda knew what was happening when the world was getting destroyed.
Social Message: 2/10. Basically: "The Fresh Prince Will Save Us All," which is true, kind of, but if an alien invasion like that actually happened, we'd all be completely fucked.
Alien Nation, 1988, directed by Graham Baker
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 4/10. Again, meh. Not so bad. Just as bad as your average human. How bad can an alien race in which one of them is played by Mandy Patinkin be? Exactly. But there're always a few bad eggs, you know? James Caan has to find this out the hard way.
How Bad Are The Humans? : 6/10. Think True Blood: we're curious, but there're a few human purists who want the aliens to go away. Which is to say: hicks are a time-honored American tradition, and that Americans are inherently bad.
Social Message: 4/10. Cliche, but basically: we should give all members of the universe an equal chance, because odds are they match up spiritually to every other member of the universe. Some are shitty, some are awesome, some are mediocre, and there're always gonna be hicks on every side.
E.T., 1982, directed by Steven Spielberg.
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 0/10. Are you fucking kidding me? They're cuddly wrinkled midgets whose tummies glow that are fascinated by Reese's Pieces. They come from the Planet Cute somewhere around the Solar System of Awesome in the middle of the Snuggle Galaxy.
How Bad Are The Humans? : 8/10. Total dicks! They try to take E.T. and make an experiment out of him. Luckily, some kid gets on his bike and E.T. makes it fly.
Social Message: 5/10. Special friends are special: did you know Spielberg invented E.T. as an imaginary friend during his parents' divorce? Humans are afraid of things they don't understand, like cuddlemonsters. That being said, the power of telecommunications, amongst other things, will save us all.
The Man Who Fell To Earth, 1976, Nicolas Roeg
How Bad Are The Aliens?: 1/10. David Bowie plays an alien who needs to save his home planet. He's pretty nice, but is over-reachingly weird. Think the boring version of Starman. The song, not the movie.
How Bad Are The Humans? : 8/10. David Bowie plays the pervy, less cuddly version of E.T., and humans do everything they can to make his tenure here suck, including but not limited to a bunch of experiments on him causing various levels of discomfort. But, spoiler alert: once he realizes he can't save his home planet, he becomes a nihlist alcoholic dick.
Social Message: 6/10. Meh. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, while storied advice, is kind of old. So is the great "in times of trouble, resort to drinking" wisdom that's gotten many through rough times.