District 9

Movie released: 2009 | Set in: 2010

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Alien contact very low at any time

Approach to the future

Lens for exploring contemporary issues, from racism to privatized security.


Futurism: 5
The movie touches on only one topic — alien contact — and does not advance our understanding of it.

Entertainment: 8

Plausibility: 6
Humans always seem capable of this basic reaction to “the other”.

Future events depicted

Alien contact:

We learn very little about these aliens, other than that they are humanoid, use technologies broadly analogous to human technology, and have close familial bonds.

We never learn, for instance, why they are stranded on Earth, and why they seem so disorganized and passive.  Lots of explanations are plausible: they may be dependent on some technology that has broken down, or they may have some cultural reason that is obscure to us.

As for people’s reactions, one might hope we would do better than this, but we know we might act even worse, when confronted by such an unattractive alien race that happens to evoke some of our basic fears of insects and reptiles.

One of the more interesting questions the movie raises is who gets jurisdiction over alien contact.   As this movie points out, it is not a given that they show up over New York or Washington.  These aliens seem to have arrived over apartheid-era South Africa, though one can imagine that government having a more enlightened response to aliens than it did to its own citizens.  Jurisdiction would likely be determined by power: strong countries would try to keep the aliens to themselves, with a veneer of international input, but if the aliens stopped over, say, Kinshasa, international forces would simply seize the whole region and run the contact operation themselves.

See: A note on aliens.

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The futures depicted in the movies