Arrival Movie or the story of the corny flying almond

Went to see Arrival last night and it must have been the corniest s%4t I’ve ever seen. And I have seen Bridget Jones’ Diary… The story itself is nothing much, I’ve seen it before in movies like First Contact, Deep Blue Sea, ET, (and even though I don’t want it on this list, that crappy Keanu Movie – The day the Earth stood still). I love a good Alien encounter movie – it appeals to my curiosity – are there any other beings in this universe (of course there are), are they intelligent, conscious, driven, do they look like us?

And Arrival does try to answer all of these questions and it’s quite smartly formulated at points but loses the plot close to the end.

It all starts when 12 of these ships land in different parts of the world (notice the symbolic number 12 – 12 apostles etc) and the military immediately wants to determine if they are friend or foe. I was surprised the American’s didn’t nuke them first and ask questions later, as this is what they seem they do in every other Alien Invasion movie.

Now, they get this linguistic expert involved because she had clearance from another Farsi translation job she did for the military and because the other expert on the list did not know the meaning of the Sanskrit word for “War”…

the Sanskrit word for war literally means “a desire for more cows

Yet for a film so preternaturally involved in the deep roots of language and communication (its few jokes are riddles about the Sanskrit word for war and the etymology of the word “kangaroo”) Heisserer’s script is surprisingly unwordy.

The Sapir-Whorf concept, which posits that language determines how we think and suggests that full immersion in a foreign language might therefore be a way to change the workings of the mind at the most basic level, is casually referenced despite being the crux of the plot. The aliens communicate in phrases that begin and end at the same time, in circles, making references that time is circular.

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So we see pretty pictures that you normally get in a psychiatrist’s office and the main lady and the main man have to figure it out – what does it mean. Here is where the movie gets smart. How do you learn a new foreign language? You point at objects and you say the name and then you hear back the response.

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The aliens themselves look like giant hands (with 8 fingers which terminate in a starfish form). Reminded me of sepia octopuses by the way they dropped ink.

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The movie is peppered with this woman’s memories of how she lost her daughter to cancer and you start getting annoyed after a while. You just wanna sit her down and tell her that personal drama has no place in the workplace and that when you are dealing with translating an alien language you can’t mope about.

It’s only when the aliens respond to the question “What is your purpose here?” “Use weapon” that all collaboration with other countries ceases and war on these things start. Some soldiers put an explosive in the inside of the study chamber and kill one of the beings (talk about clearance and security) and the almonds float out of distance ceasing communication.

This woman then takes it upon herself to go and privately talk to them and you can see some of very badly animated hair around her face. Very badly. It was supposed to look like it’s floating but it looks like someone put a wig in there… She is then told she already has the weapon as she can see the future! I was like wtf are they on about and then it turns out … * SPOILER * that the memories of her dead child were actually things that never happened. Or haven’t happened yet.

And she stops the entire attack by remembering a future memory of her meeting the Chinese General and him telling her word by word what she had said to him on his private cell number (which he then proceeds to show her) in order to get him to stop.

Head scratcher? yes. Implausible? Possible. So the movie then proceeds to show her become a hero by stopping a war, writing a book on translating the signs, marrying her science-mad co-worker, having a baby and raising it lovingly until the day she dies of leukemia. And her telling her soon to die daughter that her daddy doesn’t want to be with her because she told him someday somebody precious will be taken away from them from an incurable disease.

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Well, all is well when it ends well. What I didn’t find out from the movie is How the beings got there, where did they come from? How did they travel? How did they communicate? Why did they want their language learned? What technology did they have? …. basically a lot of the sci-fi questions that anyone would normally ask.

Instead I found out that their translator will get married one day. ^^

Arrival is an alien invasion movie for grown-ups; one that’s lacking in action, explosions and all-out war, but heavy on tension, drama, and raw emotion.

Thank you for the cornyness, oh great almond in the sky! But I still prefer some action, some (more) explosions, some all-out war. I want the return of “The Edge of Tomorrow”

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25 Comments

  1. If you’re going to critique a movie, you really should watch it thoughtfully and pay careful attention.

    The heptapods have 7 legs, not 8. (Hence the name, heptapod.) Even in the photo you posted on this blog, it’s clear that their 7 tentacles terminate in starfish-like hands with 7 fingers.

    They want their language learned because that will enable humans to see the future, to no longer be bound by time. In essence, they have invented time travel through language.

    Even more importantly, after the bomb goes off one of the heptapods clearly tells Amy Adams’ character that they are sharing this knowledge (or tool, or weapon) freely with humans because 3,000 years from now the heptapods will need a tool or technology to save their race, and humans will help them. Which the heptapods know because like Amy Adams’ character, they can see the future.

    So that’s why the heptapods are here, and it’s clearly answered. (Apparently they communicate with each other simply to seeing into the past and future of other heptapods.)

    Your questions are much like those of Jeremy Reimer’s character in the movie, where as a physicist he is focused on the science and math. Amy Adams tells him “Maybe we should just talk to them first.”

    One of the major points of the movie is that what technology they use and whether they have faster-than-light drive is less important than understanding their unique view of the world.

    Having said all that, I agree the movie could use a more dramatic climax and a more satisfying denouement. For one thing, since Adams’ character can now see the future, they could easily show how humans help the heptapods in the future. Maybe they’re saving it for the sequel.

    It’s also annoying that some of the female linguist’s most amazing insights are delivered in voice over by the male character. Apparently even in fiction women don’t get the credit they deserve.

  2. It would also be interesting to see what the greater impact on the human race is, when more people learn the heptapod language and can see the future. Does it change the destiny of the human race? Or are we the same idiots as always?

  3. Jeremy RENNER, Susan. The difficulty I had was that Louise was having precognition before meeting the heptapods.

    1. I truly thought she lost her daughter for half of the movie. Plus the Chinese General showing her his number and then whispering the dying words of his wife was pretty convenient for the plot if you ask me.

      1. Interesting critique. I thought the same thing about the daughter, but I hadn’t considered she hadn’t been born yet until I started reading reviews. (I kept wondering why there wasn’t much tension between the linguist and physicist if they had been married “before” the arrival.) And the Chinese general thing was throwing me for the biggest loop of all: if he told Louise his wife’s last words in the future, wouldn’t she also have “remembered” having called him from the army tents in the future? (She acts like she doesn’t.)

      2. Yeah! And the way she looked like she was living in the future at the same time she was remembering it! The surprised face and all. Still corny :

      3. I think the idea is that time is not linear..so whereas we view time as following a path from past to present and then to future they are arguing that each point of time is interconnected so there is no linear path. This means that an event in the future can also affect an event in the past and vise versa. I agree that the timing was convenient but it heralds how unpredictable time can be. I think that was one of the big takeaway messages it gives. Amy can now see her future, one where her daughter Hannah will be born and then die due to a disease. She can choose not to embark on that journey but it seems that when she sees the future she also feels the connections and emotions she has, so she feel the bond to her daughter already. Despite knowing that her daughter will die and knowing that she will lose her husband in the process she chooses to move forward with that path because she already has that relationship with her daughter. Its like if i asked my mom right now, if she would have choosen not to have me if she know i would die from an illness…except for amy this is happening even before the child is born. The movie is complex but I like it alot.

      4. The general sharing the information is part of a casual loop (future affecting past causing the future that affected the past, endless loop that maintains itself). It’s commonly used with time travel in movies/shows, though usually with persons and actions through time, rather than just knowledge and “memories”.

      5. She does lose her daughter, you just don’t realize it’s happening in the future and not the past until the big reveal. Her choice at the end is to go through with it, understanding what will happen.

        Also the Chinese general is giving her the numbers and dying words because he understands how the language works, and realizes he needs to give them to her if his mind will ever be swayed in the past. By not giving her the information she would never be able to relay to him in the past. Hence, he says “I have a feeling I’m supposed to show you this.” Remember this is in the future where the world is more unified, their is a giant flag hanging along the wall dominating all the others at the party and its a heptapod symbol. We can assume from this that earth has moved forward collectively with shared knowledge of how the language (tool/weapon) works, and thus the general can surmise what he needs to do.

  4. I came away with the notion that, yes, the daughter DID die….and Louise was realizing that seeing that past was showing her pieces of what she would need in her work with the aliens. I felt they somehow called forth her memories. She was working with her ex-husband and they kept it
    professional until the hug where she
    asked if he regretted knowing the
    future and would he do it again still. I
    think they were gonna make a 2nd
    baby…..so they hot to give life together a second try. This theory works if ypu recall that Louise told her husband that the girl would die and he thereafter couldn’t look at her the same. They split bc of the death and her being able to tell the future.

  5. This review is a huge accolade for Arrival. If, like the reviewer, you want ‘explosions’ and ‘all-out-war’ then you won’t like this. However, if you’d like to see something more thought provoking about the experience of being a human, about our relationships with each other (personal and cultural), about language, communication, reality and free will, then this film will speak to you on many different levels. It really is an excellent example of the sci-fi genre. It’s not as exemplary as, say, Tarkovsky’s Stalker, but for Hollywood in 2016 it’s magnificent.

  6. this is not a movie about aliens. it’s about communication, about time as a non-linear concept and about how language affects who we are and how we think. nobody tries to answer that questions that you ask in your first paragraph, so there is no use judging this movie for something that it isn’t.

    1. The Calamari People, who float in a room of steam, write in circles – which is apparently how they experience time. Without a beginning or end. They can see their lives in their entirety. And the Calamari People are here to give humanity a gift, we find out: Once you unlock their language and become fluent, you will experience time in the circular way they do. It’s a lot like becoming fluent in French and suddenly realizing why the French love Jerry Lewis so much.

      From the lack of character and character development to the way the story unfolds, the movie is like watching a real-time long shot of a grave digger digging a grave on the grayest of all days. It’s morose and filled with dread. Monotone and monotonous. Shovel after shovel after shovel, and he never seems like he is getting anywhere.

  7. I literally just finished watching this movie and clicked on this blog because it described the film as corny, and I couldn’t agree more. The sentiment was more ham fisted than Instellar and so drawn out. I don’t need weeping string instruments and a million shots of a little girl to understand this film is supposed to have an emotional core. I actually think it ruins the more interesting elements to this movie.

    It also failed to rouse emotions in me as an audience (aside from a sense of general annoyance) because the story of Louise’s daughter always felt like a bit of side-show or exposition to establish the backstory of the character, etc. Even after learning the plot-twist I was more like “Oh, yeah. Okay. Eh.”

    Compare the story to Solaris (the remake) – Clooney’s character is haunted by his dead wife. He is given the opportunity to stay with her manifestation on Solaris, but at the cost of never moving on from his past and knowing that it will always be a kind of fantasy. He has to make a choice and we see the build towards his choice in the story because he has to keep confronting her as a temptation. He wrestles with the problem over many instances.

    Now, Louise also has to make a choice – to go through with having a child even though she will die. She too is apparently haunted by the future/past memories of this death. But the “build” towards her choice is so separate from most of what happens in the movie that I just didn’t “feel” the connection even though I understood it intellectually. It didn’t really “mean” anything for her to eventually choose to live a life she already knew because she didn’t seem to wrestle with that concept throughout the film, even figuratively (being haunted by visions doesn’t count because it’s too passive). All she actively did as a character was fight to understand the ink squirts from a couple of squid dudes.

  8. I can’t see how you can describe this movie as corny, when you clearly can’t understand the point of the thing. (Hint: It’s NOT about aliens)
    What’s more, whether you consider yourself a writer or blogger or reviewer, better learn to write creatively, and to use spell and grammar check.

    1. If like me, you enjoy Sci-Fi there are dozens of better films out there. Arrival is not original, the story line is weak, the monsters are dire and their ships are dreadful.

      The film tries to be cleaver by lots and lots of random cut scenes combined with a weak story line and characters which fails to connect with the audience. The language used by the aliens in my opinion would take years to decode and the antagonist of the movie manages to crack a written language based on circles in mere months.

      “Man this really gets you thinking”, yeah it does, I was thinking where the freaking nearest exist was 1/2way through the movie.

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