Any 4th grader who has seen Avatar understands that message, which is no surprise; the movie is pitched at the elementary school level and told with the subtlety of a left hook to the liver. But there is a deeper message hidden among the Na'vi.
District 9 has greater ambitions, until the movie loses the courage of its convictions and morphs into a splat-fest halfway through, but its main message is the same. Man is bad, even Black man, even (gasp!) Woman man. But District 9's "Prawns" also are trying to tell us something less obvious.
Avatar has humans in an alien land, District 9 has aliens in a human land. In both cases the aliens are cruelly oppressed by humanity. In both cases the human villains work for the iconic repository of all human evil, the multinational corporation, in the most despised of human professions, the mercenary soldier. And in both movies a hidden, more profound message lies right there, if you know where to look.
The deep, hidden message in both movies, maybe hidden even from their creators, Messer's Jackson and Cameron, is in the alien technology. Both the Prawns of District 9 and the Na'vi of Avatar have technologies that are more human than anything humans have. Their technologies are organic, they work like flesh, there is no disconnect, no operating system to learn, no manuals to read, no rebates to apply for, no wires and plugs, no 115V AC.
The Na'vi braid their tails up a tree's roots and they're good to go. The lobster people of District 9 have wonderful annihilating weapons that only work through their DNA link, flesh itself as a weapon of mass disintegration. Unlike the human version, there is no gap between either species and its technological marvels. They are one.
People made those movies. People who hate what human technology is doing to people. James "The Terminator" Cameron and Peter "The Ring" Jackson--these two masters of the highest technological arts, these two men who have become zillionaires bringing slick, polished, technological products of stunning visual beauty and shabby storytelling into a world hungry for dramatic depictions of its diseased decadence--despise human technology.
The Na'vi may be Gaia, and the Prawns the Six Million Dollar Crustacean, but they have the same technological message. There is no space between the being and the device. Their technology is seamless, it is flesh, it is nothing like our technology at all. Ours is frightening, it works against us, like Hal in 2001 or Zuckerman in 2010.
No Na'vi ever said, "Frigging Tree of Souls crashed on me again." The 1.8 million Claw Creatures of District 9 weren't hooked up to 1.8 million iPods with 1.8 million different playlists. There was community there, in both movies. And both communities had living, flesh-and-goo technologies that responded to their every alien thought. Their technologies were empowering, not alienating, organic, not mechanical, servants, not masters.
Their technology is rich where ours is poor, in the one dimension where it counts most: spirituality. The Navi's technology is all spirit. Their forest of life, when you get right down to it, is heaven, and all the Na'vi angels. The Prawns of District 9 also have a deeply spiritual technology. It's the spirit of the warrior, a kind of tribal weapon/energy source/goo-booster, but it too is godlike in its power, and the Prawns are boorish and dull, barely alive without it. With it they are demigods.
If you want to know how a culture really feels about itself and where it's going, look at its arts. All our important arts appear on screens now. And about the only place we share artistic experiences together is on the movie screen. A temple of 19th century technology, of lamps, film and projectors where Thomas Edison would feel at home, now gilded with 3-D and more Dolby audio channels than we have ears, insuring that for some, the movie going experience is now accompanied by nausea and lingering headaches.
But the cosmic message in those movies, the most popular movies of the day? Our society is an amoral sewer and our technology is alienating, draining, unnatural and ultimately helpless against the pure technology of a living spirit. And the name of that spirit is God.