Monday, November 14, 2016

Arrival Review and Explanation

Monday Movie! Arrival

On the DZA Review Scale, I give it a spectacular, or a go see this now, like right now. It's engaging, riveting, and a bit twisty-turny that confuses some people (hence the spoiler-filled explanation at the end of this review). And it's incredible. 

I have literally no complaints about this movie. The actors nailed it. The story perfectly captured human complexity, sociology and suspicion. The aliens were mind-blowing. It relies very little on special effects and almost entirely on script, which is a refreshing break from most sci-fi blockbusters. Not even the romantic subplot annoyed me, because it wasn't annoying and was critical to the story. 

If I wanted to be knit-picky, (minor spoiler here) the only thing that comes to mind is the fact that China was Bad Guy No. 1. They're the first country to declare war on the aliens. I found it mildly racist, but since America didn't do much better and it was trigger-happy soldiers that killed one of the aliens, I don't think anyone's going to cause much of a fuss. 

Also, if you have neutral feelings about linguists, this movie will make you respect them a helluva lot more. 

Explanation (Spoilers!)

For those of you who saw the movie and are wondering What the hell just happened, allow me to explain. The opening scene is Amy Adams' character, Louise, raising her daughter Hannah, from birth to Hannah's death as a teenager from a rare disease. We're led to assume that that's Louise's backstory, but the truth is it hasn't happened yet

The aliens' gift to humanity is their language. As the characters explained, the theory is that the language you use primarily determines how you think and view the world. Since the aliens think in a very fluid manner, they also view time as fluid. Basically, they can see the future (which is the whole reason they're on Earth in the first place; we help them out in 3000 years). Once you understand the language to the point that Louise understands it, you can see the future, too. 

The chronology of the story is: 

Louise is a linguist professor with some military history.

Aliens show up.

Louise cracks the aliens' language and learns to see the future. 

Louise uses her new skill to convince everyone, specifically China, to calm the fuck down.

Aliens leave.

The international celebration happens, where General Shang shares his phone number with Louise and tells her the critical information she'll need (or rather, needed) to get him to stand down. 

Louise and Ian get married. 

Louise neglects to tell Ian, "So our future daughter is going to get an incurable disease and die before she's old enough to drive. You sure you want to have a kid?"

Hannah's born. 

Louise writes a book about the alien language and begins teaching it at universities. 

Louise decides that now is the best time to let Ian know about their kid's imminent death, and it pisses him off so much that he leaves. 

Hannah dies. 

So not only is it an alien movie, it's a time-travel movie of sorts. And it poses a very interesting question: if you knew exactly how the rest of your life would go, and that the next decision you make will bring immense happiness and unbelievable pain, would you go through with it? 

I know I quoted this on my Blair Witch review, but I'm showing it again. Because Doctor Who really does explain it best:


Thanks for reading! :)


  1. I'm ready for an intelligent movie of this variety, so I'm glad to hear it's done well. I love that it posits that time travel and language are linked, and I love time travel so I really want to see it now. I didn't know much about it but this looks like a must see!

    1. It is absolutely a must-see. It's one that I would recommend seeing in theaters rather than waiting for Netflix because, while the special effects are limited, they do make full use of the space, and helps to fully immerse you into the story.