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.
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.
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.
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 leukaemia. 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.
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”