Audiences seem to love or hate the new Sci-Fi film Arrival. We loved it. People who hate it complain that it does not have enough action. Those people are missing the point. Arrival is not trying to be an action movie. Arrival tries to explore one possibility of what might really happen if intelligent beings from outer space suddenly came to earth.
In many Sci-Fi movies, beings from outer space are beautiful men and women who happen to speak perfect English. Even in movies where they are strange looking creatures, they still speak English. Communication is never a problem. Arrival shows that communication would be the main issue. Creatures from another world would not just speak a different language. They would have a completely different communication structure. In fact, their idea of what communication is would be almost incomprehensible to us.
Arrival begins when huge ships from another world come to Earth and hover menacingly over various locations around the globe. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a brilliant linguistics professor who is brought in to try to ask the aliens one question. “Why are you here?”
Thousands of scientists throughout the world are trying to ask the same question. As the weeks drag on and very little progress is made, General Shang, the head of the Chinese military ,urges other world leaders that we must assume the aliens are hostel. Chan (played by Tzi Ma) urges a military attack against the aliens.
Aliens does not try to have “good guys” or “bad guys.” It avoids the usual Sci-Fi cliche of having the scientists as good and the military as bad. The groups are working together to try to do what is best, even if they have different points of view. Forest Whitaker is American Colonel Weber.
At one point Professor Banks urges patience and points out how difficult it was for the Europeans to originally communicate with the Australian Aborigines. Colonel Weber asks her to remember that the Europeans ended up almost completely wiping out the Aborigines. In fact, every time in history an “advanced civilization” has come into contact with a more “primitive” one, the primitive people have suffered horrible consequences. The military leaders have good reason to be worried. Humans are now the primitive civilization.
The acting throughout Arrival is excellent Jeremy Renner is physicist Ian Donnelly, who is working with Louise Banks and trying to use mathematics to crack the code of alien communication. Abigail Pniowsky is Hannah, Louise Banks’ daughter. Dr. Banks is plagued by bittersweet memories of Hannah, who eventually died of cancer. However, Dr. Banks knows that the key to learning the Alien language is somehow the same as the way Hannah originally learned to communicate as a child.
There are ways Arrival could be better. It verges on being a little too preachy. All of the countries on Earth only have a piece of the puzzle , and must work together to solve it. The fact that the world is a mess and people cannot get along has been a theme in Sci-Fi movies since film was invented. The way the aliens look is also a little cheesy. They are kind of a mix between a giant elephant and a giant octopus. They also wear no clothing, which drives us crazy about many Sci-Fi movies. Why is it always assumed that creatures from other planets never have clothing?
However, these flaws are minor and do not take away from the general uplifting theme of the movie.
- We give Arrival our highest rating of Five Stars *****
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