Arrival – audiences love it or hate it

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.

Alian ship hovers in Arrival

Alien ship hovers in Arrival

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.

Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams in Arrival

Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams in Arrival

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?”

Tzi Ma as General Shang in Arrival

Tzi Ma as General Shang in Arrival

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.

Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber in Arrival

Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber in Arrival

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.

Abigail Pniowsky as Hannah in Arrival

Abigail Pniowsky as Hannah in Arrival

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.

One thought on “Arrival – audiences love it or hate it

  1. Thank you for pointing this out. After reading many reviews, it is clearly one of those films where viewers love it or hate it- there is barely any middle ground. It could be that there are two types of viewers going into this: those that are looking for an Independence Day type of shallow blockbuster, and those that are in it for an interesting story and a heartfelt experience. The emotional complexity and twists delivered all the way- a heartfelt experience very few films pull off. This isn’t a perfect film, but it is a moving one if you give it a chance from start to finish and go in with no expectations. The haters giving this film one star and bashing it must have one fundamental thing in common- I would like to understand what that is so I can become wiser and less likely to “hate” them all the same.

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