A film that think’s it’s a lot smarter than it actually is
When the first trailer for Arrival appeared, it showed off a slow paced suspense drama about the difficulties humans would face when trying to communicate with alien lifeforms. As more trailers dropped, excitement grew, it was looking to be a mature and adult take on a pretty Hollywood and glorified subject. Then the film came out, and oh god what happened?
Gone was the dark and mature movie about relationships and communication, and in it’s absence stood a mere shadow of what could have been.
Arrival follows world famous translator Louise Banks (Played by Amy Adam) as she is chosen by the United States military to be the head of communications for an alien ship that has recently appeared in the sky. Around 12 have appeared across the globe, and humanity has to band together to discover just exactly why the aliens are here.
While the premise sets the scene for a dialogue heavy, clever story about humanity and it’s inability to connect with itself, let alone aliens, is let down massively shortly after it starts by the films inability to tell a cohesive story.
The plot moves at a highly incoherent speed. At times it moves at a snail’s pace, having characters often stare into the distance and sometimes breaking the cinema sin showing flashbacks to scenes we’ve already seen in the film. It will then jump forward weeks or even months, completely skipping over sections that would warrant interest by the audience.
Want to know how they figure out how to understand the alien language? Too bad, instead we’ll skip over it so you can see a scene with guns and explosions!!!!
Want to see two strangers who are forced to work together slowly bond in a way that reflects the same way they connect to the aliens? Oh well, here’s a scene where we make China and Russia look like bad guys by having tanks and really big guns!!
It seems like Denis Villeneuve wanted to tell a much slower, longer story about relationships and how everything can bond even when it can’t communicate verbally, that language can be the most powerful weapon in the world, and how we as humanity are only halting progress by refusing to talk to each other.
Instead we got a film that goes for the “oh look at that, isn’t that cool” audience. Choosing to have explosions, strange effects, heavy handed plot points, and laughly bad twists rather than anything of any substance. Instead of having a script with intelligent conversations about the very world we live in, instead we have characters speaking in short, two syllable word sentences that have little to do with the actual plot.
The film set out to challenge the conventions of the alien genre, but somewhere along the way it ended up becoming what it sought out to overcome.
It wanted to be something new, something we’d not seen before, something alien. But upon arrival, it was more recognizable than anyone could have possibly imagined.