Thoughts on “Arrival”

So, while browsing in Walmart for horror movies, I came across a number of movie collections, probably because people staying in more for some reason that we all might have heard about means that if you release collections for a decent price people who either still rely on DVDs or who don’t have those movies on their streaming services might pick them up for something to do.  For me, I kinda treated them like I treat the cheap horror movies I buy:  for the price, if I find any of them good then it makes me back my money, and if they aren’t then at least I might get to talk about them on my blog, so I really can’t lose.

The pack I’m going to be talking about for the next few weeks was a three movie pack that I think I picked up for about $5, or maybe $10 at the most.  Obviously, they’d been sitting on a shelf for a few months but I finally did get around to watching that pack, and I managed to get into watching those movies for a couple of reasons.  First, when my area went into lockdown again it meant that I wasn’t going to Walmart as often as so wasn’t picking up new things to watch.  And second after watching “Hunter” I scheduled my evenings to have a shorter watching time, and so on Friday evenings I had a little bit more time to watch some movies, and so decided to try to make it a goal to work my way through my stacks, and figured I’d start with this pack of science fiction movies.

Now, what I’m going to do is something a bit odd for me.  I’m not going to say at the end of this post if I’d rewatch the movie or not.  Instead, I’ll do that as part of assessing the entire set after talking about all three movies.  Yes, you will probably be able to guess if I’d watch the movies again after reading my comments on them, but I’m not going to say that until the very end.  So with the preamble out of the way, let me talk about “Arrival”.

The basic premise of “Arrival” is that a bunch of alien I guess spaceships start appearing all over the world, and follows most prominently a group in Montana that is led by a linguist.  As they attempt to learn how to communicate with the aliens, a number of social and other issues threaten to lead to war.

One of the interesting things about this movie is that it takes a more scientific approach to investigating the aliens and their language.  Unlike some other movies — you know the ones — where things are resolved through some miraculous breakthroughs that are somewhat incredible, and where things like language barriers are presented as momentary inconveniences.  “Arrival” takes them seriously.  It also does tie in some of the potential social and political factors that would come into play in such a situation, which is also nice.

However, it doesn’t really seem to go all in on any of them.  While the scientific exploration is highlighted at the beginning, some of the moves made during that investigation are suspect, and then later the actual hard scientific work seems to be pushed aside to make it far more like the normal plot.  And the social and political aspects are touched on but not explored.  As a backdrop to the movie’s plot, those elements just aren’t that interesting and the focus on them often seems wasted by the end of the movie.  At times it seems that the movie doesn’t really know what it wants to do, and so takes interesting premises and somewhat squanders them.

I also find the personal elements a bit problematic.  The personal elements get looped in because at the ending ultimately the main character will experience the past, present and future, and so she finds that she has and loses a daughter (which is important to the ending).  And then it turns out that her husband is … the somewhat cranky scientist that she meets on the team.  This smacked of a twist for the sake of a twist and was an uninteresting one as well.  There was no need for her to take up with him, and the person she falls in love with is, ultimately, unimportant to the entire plot.  So to make it be the male lead is eminently predictable.  Leaving it as someone mostly unknown — that she meets, say, at the end of the movie — would be less cliche and would also tie better into the end message, which is probably that even if you know what will happen you may not want to change it, even in the face of tragedies.  Ending it with her meeting the person she would fall in love with would highlight that despite the tragic death of their child the love she experienced with him and her was worth it anyway.

Anyway, that was the first one, “Arrival”, whose biggest benefit is that it really is science fiction of a sort that isn’t that common in a Hollywood world of action science fiction.  So the next movie I’ll be looking at is clearly in the same vein:  “Tomb Raider”.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on “Arrival””

  1. Thoughts on “Tomb Raider” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] the second movie in that three pack that I watched (as referenced last time) was “Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider”.  Yes, the movie spawned from the successful video […]

  2. Thoughts on “Annihilation” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] could potentially watch Arrival again.  The attempt at doing something like real science is somewhat interesting, and it might be […]

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