Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.
Language; it is the cornerstone of human civilization. It is what enables us to communicate. It is what allows us to express love, loss, longing, curiosity and care. And, in some cases, it is all that stands between cooperation and conflict.
This last characteristic of language is what director Denis Villeneuve seeks to explore in his film Arrival, the latest entry in the “first contact” sub genre of science fiction. When twelve massive UFO’s arrive on Earth, the US military hires an expert linguist (Amy Adams) to try to communicate with the Aliens. Quickly realizing that oral exchange is useless, since the extraterrestrials aren’t talking in the classic sense, Adams and her team decide to use written language to try to decode what the creatures are, and why they’re on Earth. And now we have a big mystery, which, I’m sorry to say, never really gets solved. But before I launch into my complaints, I would like to list some things that really worked about this movie.
First off, the film sounds amazing. The music, the noises the creatures make, and all the weird sounds produced inside the UFOs, work to create an altogether surreal, and highly suspenseful, experience. There are scenes in this movie that, based on sound alone, had me hanging on the edge of my seat. The film also looks incredible. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in here, like the one where we first get a view of the UFOs, and the special effects are all superb. The performances are also top notch, with the one possible exception being Forrest Whittaker, who plays the Colonel in charge of the whole operation, and whose accent is… questionable. But, setting that aside, this movie is technically brilliant, and on the merits of its craftsmanship alone, I would recommend it to you all.
It’s just that the movie’s storytelling isn’t quite up to the same level as its visuals, acting and sound design. The film moves extremely slow in some places, but then jumps around super fast in others, with voice over narration being used as a crutch to explain everything. There are also some weird artistic choices that never get explained, like the fact that the scientists always bring a caged bird with them when they go to talk to the aliens. But worst of all is the fact that, when, at the end of the film, you start to learn what the Aliens are, and what they’re trying to do, the movie doesn’t really make sense anymore. What I mean by that is, with certain films, there are small details that either gget glossed over or flat out ignored, which, when you stop and think about them, prevent the rest of the story from happening. Citizen Kane is a prime example. The movie is all about trying to learn the hidden meaning of a dead billionaire’s last word, “rosebud.” Except, when you watch the film, you see that no one was in the room when he said the word, so, logically, there’s no reason for the rest of the movie to happen. Something similar happens in Arrival. See, throughout the film, Amy Adams character keeps having these visions, these memories of her now dead daughter. Except, at the end of the film, we learn that those aren’t memories. They are, in fact, premonitions. See, the Aliens are able to predict the future, and they want to teach us to do the same thing because… reasons? And Amy Adams isn’t remembering her dead daughter. She’s seeing the life of her still-to-be-born daughter. Knowing all this, I have three questions. One, why do the aliens want us to do this? Two, why do they leave right after they accomplish their objective? And three, if those aren’t memories Amy Adams is having, if they are, in fact, premonitions, how did she not realize that fact before? In the real world, things like a marriage and the birth of a child leave marks. They leave tangible evidence of their existence. In the real world, if you got married and had a kid, there’d be wedding photos, a birth certificate, and your body would be physically different from having a baby. If Amy Adams doesn’t have any of these things, as we’re led to assume she doesn’t, why does she believe she had a daughter? Why doesn’t she realize what these visions are sooner? It makes no sense.
But, like I said before, it’s impossible to not acknowledge this movie’s many technical achievements. They almost, almost, outweigh its narrative shortcomings. For that reason, I have decided to give Arrival a 7.5 out of 10. I do think it’s worth watching, but you should know that it isn’t perfect.