I must say that D9 was certainly one of the most unique science fictions that I have seen. There are two aspects of a science fiction that appeal to me; (1) The cool graphics, CGI, technologies, space shots, space ships etc…basically the toys; (2) The opportunity to speculate as to a human future, human evolution and of course the many ways in which we could consider a different structure of social/moral conduct. Basically a thought experiment on the philosophical construct of “Possible Worlds” and what some of these may look like. D9, for the most part, met both of these expectations.
There is certainly no mistaking the writers/directors intentions to show how we (humans) may very well perceive and ultimately treat, visitors from another planet/civilization. Our historical (and current) acts of racism, moral/social segregation/judgment and of course wide-spread xenophobia, may indeed reflect how we may treat/view non-human visitors. And of course there is the unmistakable connection to South Africa’s history of Apartheid and most blatantly, District 9’s similarity to the South African “Bantustan” or “homeland” which are the “black states” of segregation created under the apartheid regimes. So in this regard, I felt what many may have likely felt—shame and embarrassment as we witness what is an extrapolation, or caricature of our shameful conduct towards other races, cultures, civilizations, portrayed as a “First Contact” scenario. I thought that District 9 was social commentary (attempted) through science fiction. This is a good thing, IMO.
I also, liked the attempt to speculate on a human/biological and machine/technological interface. Since this is expected to be entertainment, I can forgive the writers/directors for the standard warfare gore and military technology, violence etc. I laughed, or uttered something guttural each time a body was magnificently exploded, almost evaporated, by that strange pulse-energy weapon! IMO, slow-motion button’s exist on remote control’s for this purpose! I use that button often in order to fully appreciate things like an exploding head, vaporizing body, dis-articulation, or for that scene where a pig was used as a projectile weapon! Even my girlfriend had to see that one more than once!
My complaints? D9 could have used a bit more creativity when it comes to the “character”, “personality” or “intelligence” of the aliens. I do recognize the necessity to create/depict aliens in a form which we will understand and can, in some way, relate to. Hence their human form, human characteristics, human morality etc. However, since our morals are a human invention, I would like to see a science fiction make a least some attempts to create/depict an alien civilization with an entirely different form of morality. And not just an “advanced morality” since this would be nothing more than an extension of our own, human-created morality. A simple evolution along the same human moral continuum, likely based on Kohlbergs “Post Conventional Morality“. Rather, I would like to see a science fiction make some attempt at a NEW and unique morality. At least as new or unique as one can be while still using language, concepts or allegory’s which will reasonably represent a structure of social, human conduct which we as humans could identify with, and maybe even assimilate into our own, current morality. Maybe this is too much to expect for “entertainment”, but I do think its possible to entertain, as well as educate the audience. Or at least leave the audience thinking.
All in all, I enjoyed the movie for its attempt to depict/present social commentary through science fiction and to draw attention to our less-than-humanitarian treatment of “foreign” civilizations. I also enjoyed the writers attempts to draw attention to our primitive or nascent (young/new) human morality. Yes, I consider humans to be very, very “young” as a species and our morality….well, naive, underdeveloped, self-serving, fundamentally primitive and as we have seen, self-destructive. Although we do currently have many examples of individuals with truly “advanced” moral development, represented by more universal ethical-thinking (like Kant’s categorical imperative) these rare individuals are vastly outnumbered by the majority of humans possessing “conventional” (Level 2) moral reasoning (or lower). Conventional moral reasoning can be represented by the expression I like to use (often in a derogatory way), which is “mistaking morality with legality”. Morality based on authority and social systems. Although this stage of moral development (Level 2 – Stage 4) is typically reached by most children around 15-17 years, it is also (unfortunately) as far as most people reach as adults. IMO, once we can shift the proportion of humans operating at a post conventional level of moral reasoning to being LARGER than the proportion of humans operating at lower levels of moral reasoning, our planet may indeed evolve in a sustainable (physically and socially) and optimistic direction. 🙂