Me Klaatu, You Jane!
- Arrival review by Count Otto Black
Most critics have praised this film to the skies for its subtle, thoughtful approach to the subject of aliens landing on Earth. Personally I think they may have overrated it simply because it's so rare for a serious film about extraterrestrial visitors to portray them as anything other than terrifying monsters, in the same way that some people thought "Batman Begins" was the greatest movie ever made because it depicted the activities of a superhero almost plausibly.
The best thing about "Arrival" is that its "heptapods" are genuinely alien. Their motives aren't just unknown but unknowable, and the entire point of the film is that something as basic as asking them why they're here is an almost impossibly difficult problem, but it has to be solved quickly because the entire planet is getting increasingly nervous. And it does indeed make a nice change to have completely passive aliens sitting around doing nothing, while it's the humans who provide the ticking clock of dramatic tension by worrying about them to the point where they're thinking of launching nukes from sheer xenophobia.
The worst thing about it is its third act. For most of its running time, "Arrival" is superb. But its final half-hour unravels in very odd ways, as if they were having trouble thinking of an ending. After numerous scenes in which the difficulty of communicating with these beings has been explained in very logical ways time and time again, suddenly they've got every amazing superpower required by the script, and they literally know everything except a few very specific things that would ruin the plot, such as how to communicate in even the most basic fashion with humans. It's almost like that trope whereby Doctor Who knows everything about the past and future of every planet in the Universe so long as the information is trivial and useless, but is strangely ignorant about the planet he's on right now where rubber monsters are trying to kill him.
I found myself thinking: "Oh come on, these aliens can't be that clever and that stupid at the same time!", and my willing suspension of disbelief went up in smoke. Other details began to bother me too. The government of a major world power, having failed to get through to the heptapods in human language, tries using a ludicrous method of communication absolutely guaranteed to result in misunderstanding just because at this point the plot needs ET to say something that sounds like a threat. And there's a very odd surprise revelation that has nothing whatsoever to do with the aliens, and requires two major characters not to mention the elephant in the room for almost the entire movie just to throw a totally pointless plot-twist at us very late on.
The other thing that has to be said is that if the Razzies were real awards as opposed to a talentless clique's boring ego trip, this film would get one for its cinematography. The entire movie is weirdly murky, including scenes taking place outdoors in broad daylight, and at times it looks so bad that if it was old and obscure, I would have assumed they couldn't find a better print. The aliens and their environment are minimalist to the point of being dull, and the Surrealist hovering rock spaceship is kept offscreen in an extraordinarily clumsy way for as long as possible as if it's going to be a huge surprise, despite being on the poster, and then presented to us in a very matter-of-fact fashion that makes it look strangely undramatic. I've never seen a major movie in which the director was less aware of the visual elements. And that does kind of matter when you're making a film.
Overall it's a bit of a muddle that's two-thirds great and one-third woefully contrived. And it really does look amateurishly terrible in places. I'd say it's overrated in a very unfortunate way, because it's nearly superb, but makes some inexcusably clumsy mistakes.
7 out of 10 members found this review helpful.
- Arrival review by PT
Amy Adams plays Louise a linguistic expert drafted in by the army to try to understand what the aliens have landed here for. The pods of the aliens are all over the world. This leads to different interpretations of their intentions all over the world. So you've got paranoia of the aliens and paranoia of the different countries regarding each others moves.
Adams has baggage, haunted by the loss of her child, she obviously suffers intense memories of her daughter regularly. Aided in her quest by a caring scientist Ian (Renner}, who is concerned for her and attracted to Louise, the pair set about learning the alien language as quickly as possible.
Nothing spectacular in the special effects department, which strangely made it more real for me. Great emotional performance by Adams who steals the show here.
The ending really threw me and moved me to tears. I did not see it coming at all. A clever, emotional and terrific film.
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
Thoughtful Sci-Fi without a Monster of Actio Fight in Sight!
- Arrival review by CS
This really is a one woman show, with Amy Adams given the main and literally only starring role, whilst Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner and the rest of the cast are side lined and really only play minor supporting parts!
The film literally concentrates almost exclusively upon Adams role and her relationship with the Aliens.
There are lots of confusing flashbacks, which muddy the picture, that is until you realise that they are not flashbacks at all, but glimpses of the future!
The main protagonists on both sides are America (predictably as usual) and China. However in line with current comments about China being the third biggest box office earner in the world, and as a result dictating to Hollywood who and what appears in their films, China go from being the main protagonist to the main saviours in the film! So it’s highly suggestive that the script writers, producers and director were guided by current political and financial events in the making of this film!
This has lots of elements from Space 2000 and The Day the Earth Stood Still, in it, where the Aliens are here for a reason, yet as usual Humanity misinterprets this as an aggressive move and reacts accordingly!
It also suggests how society as a whole may react, with glimpses of, but again doesn’t really offer any concrete side stories, it simply concentrates on the main theme of Adams relationship with the Aliens, so not a lot of other things really going on.
Whilst I found the film quite engaging and it kept you thinking, so not an action movie at all, more a thinkers movie! I found the ending a bit limp wristed and predictable and thought it could have been wrapped up with a bit more gusto, almost as though they had told the story but didn’t quite know how to end it!
I can see this being successfully transferred to the stage, as it really is a one woman show and could very easily be staged with a pared down cast and simplified set. The effects are good and the scenes well designed. If you love Sci-Fi action, with all guns blazing, then this one’s probably not for you. But if you enjoy, well directed, thoughtful movies, that make you think and give a strong message of love, peace and unity, then this is bang on!
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful.