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"Arrival" 2016 Movie Review

Updated on July 30, 2017

Movie Cover:

Review:

Movie: Arrival

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer

Based on: "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang

Genre: Drama, mystery, scifi

Release date: November 11, 2016

My Rating: 8.5/10

IMDB: 8/10

Verdict: A unique alien invasion movie. For alien/scifi lovers, linguists, and philosophers

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Review:

This is an alien invasion story. With a major twist. And I loved that twist, contrary to a lot of other people who complained about the movie being too boring or whatever.

I don't want to criticize those people. Some had valid reasons to criticize it (heck, I myself will criticize it a lot here..the only difference is..I still enjoyed it overall). Some found it too boring - those people usually are not the niche group for this kind of movie. It doesn't always mean that the movie sucks because someone thought it was boring. It just means that those people didn't like the subject tackled, and so it did look boring for them.

It's kind of like having an artist sit through a math class. Yeah, math is not bad or stupid...but it sure is boring for most of them!

Plot:

We follow Louise (linguist) and Ian (physicist), who the government tasks with meeting with the aliens in the weird alien ship, and learning their language to understand what they want and why they came.

While this movie is from the perspective of the US government and it's employees, we are told - and shown - that the same thing is happening in other countries. There are 12 spaceships around the world...so each powerful country tasks their geniuses to do about the same thing: figure out what they want and if they're a threat to humanity.

And this is where language plays a huge role.

Some critics thought sending a linguist in was stupid. I thought those people didn't know what they were talking about. Even in war between different countries, translators play a huge role. So, I felt that the linguist playing a key role in this film was very true to life. And we do have to keep in mind that we still have a physicist next to her, who thinks of all the same findings in a different light from Louise.

I did wonder why they didn't have more scientists...but I think they did, they were just under the supervision of Ian. It's not uncommon for the government to pick a few to play leaders, and have a bunch of other genius do the rest of the work from afar, with the guidance of the leaders.

In this respect, I was more able to put that criticism to rest.

So we follow these two, and how they help each other decipher a new language in a shot amount of time, and prevent any miscommunication - which can start a war.

One thing I had a problem with was why the aliens didn't just straight up tell them why they were there and what they wanted, but I think it was on purpose.

They had to force humanity to learn their language, then decipher what they wanted, which in turn would help them speak with one another. I won't say any more because it might be a spoiler. But at the end of the day, I had to play devil's advocate to realize that maybe it wasn't because the aliens were stupid or short-sighted..but because they already knew everything, including the outcome of their influence (and the right way to influence us), and had to get us there through this trial.

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Conclusion:

A great scifi alien film that completely approaches the alien invasion story from a new light. It's a completely fresh idea, and for that, I loved it.

I don't know about you, but even if I like alien invasion movies, I get bored with the theme of aliens coming to kill humanity and take over the world...and somehow these puny humans kill the aliens against all odds.

I wanted something new. Something that got my brain thinking.

This was it.

If you're tired of the generic alien invasion films, you best try this one out. What's the worst that could happen? "2 hours of your life wasted?"

Like that's something that could end your world. It's just 2 hours. Nothing to fret over. Give this a go. You might surprise yourself by how much you enjoy it.

Language:

One thing that people need to understand, going into this movie, is that while it has aliens and all that good stuff...it's center of concentration is Language. And how language itself can alter how you think of time.

People who study language, even if you hate aliens, stop complaining and go watch this movie.

People who study philosophy, go watch this movie.

Seriously, this movie is right up your alley if you study one of those two.

But if you're into scifi in general, it's a love or hate kind of deal. If you hate time paradox scifi mumbo jumbo...you will probably hate this movie. Or think it's really boring.

But, for the sake of critical thinking, even if you hate the theme of the movie, watch it and see how you can criticize it and find what's wrong with this movie and it's theories. It's fun!

Also: that quote from the picture. It is hilarious. I love how they speak. It's really funny, how when you think about it, translation can be so funny if translated exactly as spoken in a native language vs a new language. Sometimes the adjective or verb or whatever is in front of the other..which sounds perfectly fine in that language, but when you hear it in another language, it sounds silly.

And I love it.

Also, can we just stop for a second and admire their language? I honestly think it's the most beautiful language ever. I think us geeks should unite and make it a real thing. Kind of like how Klingon can be learned, although it was a language from a star trek series!

Kudos and much respect for the artist that made these beautiful designs/words.

Heptapods:

One thing I remember having a long debate about with someone when I first saw the trailer was the probability of having aliens this advanced when they resembled an octopus.

It's not very believable.

I honestly used a whole lot of science and statistics and evolution to back up my claims. Which basically supported the argument that if we encounter aliens that are advanced and have built technology and space traveled, they will not have those kinds of "hands" or "fingers" or whatever they are. There was a lot of other scientific facts I threw in there..(the person I was arguing against - it was very amicable, I promise - was very supportive of the possibility of aliens with those kinds of features being advanced).

While I don't want to explain all those arguments here (it would literally be over 5 thousand words. Probably 10). I won't torture you like that.

I'll just summarize in simplest terms:

The probability of octopus like creatures becoming advanced is so improbable, I'm more likely to believe that another humanoid creature created those technologies and died off, leaving it to these Heptapods to take over and utilize them. I can believe in them using what's already created, but in no way can science support them creating it themselves (think of it like this: humans create all these tech, die off, and one day octopus or chimps evolved enough to use our tech). Literally, their fingers would not allow them to create what's created.

We have to think of these aliens from a starting point: they probably started off as even less advantageous. They were probably meeker or had even less of a grip on their "fingers". They're really huge...so how can we assume that they were able to make these spaceships? How did they utilize the tools? Remember, even our biggest rockets and such have a lot of microscopic things in it. And while our robots of our day make them, something really small still was used to create them originally. It's a lot of headache to think about it...but the bottom line is that I had an extremely hard time believing that these aliens would be this advanced.

It wasn't that I was "close-minded", it was merely that science doesn't support them being able to create those tools, because their body literally restricts them from creating it.

It's kind of like trying to tell a human to fly when we have no wings.

Those "fingers" in the picture might look tiny....but in real life, they're huge! Bigger than our heads. If they even had precision, their technology would be much slower than ours because their tech gadgets would be bigger (our small hands gave us the ability to compress things extensively and still make something very fast). In reality, we are more likely to invade the Heptapods planet than they ours.

For that reason alone, I had to suspend this believe to enjoy the film. But I'm sure a lot of other people either don't care about this science, or just like creepy looking weird aliens compared to humanoid aliens (even though, statically and empirically, evidence shows that humans advanced as much because we were fortunate to walk on our feet and use our free hands - with an opposable thumb and good precision grip - to make small tools to create cool bigger things), so they're less whiny about this topic.

I guess taking physical anthropology and learning about evolution and all that stuff makes us more likely to criticize. But hey, even still..I enjoyed the film!!!! It didn't bother me much because the story was concentrating on another completely different subject the whole time. And that subject was fascinating!

So I say, go watch it!

and hey...who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the odds are against them, but they're more ancient than us...and maybe they were slower than us...but because they were older than us...they advanced further than us.

So yeah...maybe I could be wrong.

But either way....these creatures were fascinating and the story different.

Ending (Spoilers!)

God. I loved-hated the ending. Let me try to be more clear.

You should know already that this section is going to spoil the ending of the story.

Louise and Ian:

What I liked:

So Louise calls the Chinese General Shang and through future memories, says in Chinese "In war, there are no winners, only widows." The director decided not to include the translation in the movie, but the screenwriter thought it was stupid and later told us what she told Shang. Thank you screenwriter, because it was bugging me like crazy what she told Shang. I mean...it's not like it's a big secret that will somehow make the movie change dramatically if there are translations or not...the only difference is, with translations, less movie watchers are pissed. Because at least now they know what she told Shang that made him stop the attack.

This was just a minor nuisance. I was just really curious what she told him..and now I know. I'm back to happy.

Okay...she stops the war...realizes that all the memories she's been having lately are because.....wait. I need to reword this whole section.

This movie is slightly confusing for those who are not good with the scifi genre or anything relating to time not being linear.

Time = Language:

Okay..so one thing the viewer needs to understand from this movie is that it's extensively centered on language. And time. If you get confused about this part, you miss the whole point of the movie and then the movie ends up being a big confusing mess.

So to clarify in the simplest terms:

Louise is good at deciphering language. She slowly learns the language of the Heptapods. The more she learns, the more she "rewires" how her brain thinks.

The language of the Heptapods literally changes how one sees time. Time is linear for humans. There is the theory that in reality, time is not linear..but that everything happens at once. Therefore, if you can rewire your brain to think like this, then you can see the past, present, and future at the same time. It does bring into question a whole lot on destiny/faith and not being able to change ones actions if it's already set in stone....but I'll cover that later. Let's get this straight first.

So:

Louise learns the language of the Heptapods.....therefore she has rewired her brain to think of time as happening at once. She then realizes that the "memories" she's been having of her daughter are not random or weird. But that they are her future. She is seeing her future in the present time.

Clarification:

Louise learns Heptapod language = rewires brain to think of time as happening at once = sees her future thanks to learning the language.

So....this is where it gets even more mindbendy.

When she calls the general..she has no clue what to say. But then she sees the future. She hears Shang tell her the same quote: "In war, there are no winners, only widows."

The plot hole is that even Shang himself doesn't know why he's telling her that. I mean, after all...Louise has already told him this in the past. Are you confused yet?

Clarification:

Louise calls Shang = present.

Louise sees the future while calling shang = future shang (United Nations event) tells her the quote.

Louise in the present tells Shang that quote = Shang stops the attack.

Okay...I hope that clarified. I knew how to follow this story easily. I've seen some really messed up time paradox/temporal stuff..so this was really easy for me to follow (when I review predestination, you will be more confused than this)....but the average person who doesn't watch stuff from this genre was probably really confused. Nothing to be ashamed of, it's confusing stuff. The more you "practice it" (in my case, the more movies I watch in this weird genre), the more you get used to the idea.

This is what I loved about the film. The way it messed with ones mind.

What I didn't like:

Louise decides to have the baby without telling the father about the future.

So remember, the father - Louise realizes - is Ian. The memories she had of this little girl growing up and having an incurable disease and dying young - will be her future daughter.

But we see this moment in the end of the movie where she chooses the exact same path. Or...at least, it's heavily assumed.

Which brings me to one of the more fun topics: do we have free will? Can we change our future if we know our future? Will we want to change our future? Hence the quote on the picture above.

I think we do have free will. I think if we did see our future, we would be able to change it. There are so many theories going around about this. And a few are:

Causal Loop:

"A causal loop is a paradox of time travel that occurs when a future event is the cause of a past event, which in turn is the cause of the future event. Both events then exist in spacetime, but their origin cannot be determined. A causal loop may involve an event, a person or object, or information.The terms boot-strap paradox, predestination paradox or ontological paradox are sometimes used in fiction to refer to a causal loop." (Wiki)

Grandfather paradox:

"The consistency paradox or grandfather paradox occurs when the past is changed in any way, thus creating a contradiction. A time traveler can do anything that did happen, but can't do anything that didn't happen. Doing something that didn't happen results in a contradiction.Consistency paradoxes occur whenever changing the past is possible." (wiki)

Has your brain fried yet? Okay...so the easiest way to refute the grandfather paradox is through the theory of the multiverse (the one I believe has the most accuracy of being true). This basically says that we are one timeline. But any different choice we make splits the timeline into two, three..hundred, thousands versions of our life/planet. Basically, anytime you have a deja vu (another movie I can't wait to review) - that feeling that you've done this before - is when you converge with another version of your life. It's when 2 universes intersect for a short period of time. God, I love this stuff, but it gives one a headache thinking about it. Ha.

Clarify:

The multiverse theory - where many versions of your life exist at the same time (think of many parallel lines side by side, where each line represents another version of your life) - basically gives me reason to beleive that even if Louise saw the future, she would in fact have free will to change it. This would, in effect create a different timeline.

There would now be 2 timelines that we would be aware of:

1) Louise marries Ian, has a child, doesn't tell Ian the child will die. Ian leaves Louise because he's upset for being kept out of knowledge. The child dies.

2) Louise marries Ian, tells Ian their child will have an Incurable disease. This is as far as we know...but some options can be:

a) they still decide to have a child- no divorce

b) they decide not to have the child

I liked the second one more because it was less backstabby. I mean, she KNEW her daughter would die before even having the kid. The LEAST she can do is tell Ian that their child will be sick. I just thought it was really cruel.

Heck, there is even a third option:

3) Louise marries Ian, NEVER tells Ian that she knew their child will die. They have the child, the child dies. Ian never leaves her because he doesn't know she knew their child would die.

Honestly...any of these options are better than what she chose. They're less cruel towards Ian. I just lost all respect for Louise because of this choice. I just think that if you're going to have a child, both parties should be willing and aware of all complications/information and make the final decision together. It's not rocket science, it's respect and honesty towards your partner. I'm not asking for much.

This is really the biggest reason why I took off half a star. That's how annoyed I was about it.

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Humanity and Aliens:

God, I loved this part of the movie. The ending, the implications...just everything!

I am sooooooo curious what will happen in like 3,000 years (because remember, the Heptapods came to give humanity the "weapon" of understanding time in a different way so that they could later help them when they are in need). So curious that I really wish they would make a sequel for that story! LOL. At least then, we'd see how humanity has evolved because of the new language that effects their linear timeline, and how they're supposed to help these aliens in the future. It's soooo coool.

Gahhh. Why can't they make a sequel.

I'd like to understand how the Heptapods even became aware of humanity, and how they even saw a future with humanity helping them. Though, this very implication supports my theory of a multiverse. Why? Because originally, the heptapods must have seen their future of doom...so they sought out other aliens, and envisioned altering the timeline where humanity helped them in that new future- therefore changing their future. AKA future not set in stone.

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Conclusion:

Regardless of my gripes with Louise, I still loved this film. Probably because it deals with time paradoxes and aliens. I mean...it's like my dream come true or something.

Just go watch it if you're into scifi, aliens, time travel/paradoxes, linguistics, or philosophy. It is thoroughly enjoyable and if you actually concentrate, it will make you think like crazy.

Note:

I'm not sure if the author knows their story is online for free(not posted here, just in case) (often, short stories get posted online by the author...or others). You can either support the author by buying their short story, or read the free pdf by googling it.

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    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 3 months ago from Louisiana, USA

      I thought this was one of the most original sci/fi movies that had come out in the past 5 years or so. Did not have to involve blowing up buildings or a lot of new weapons and destruction. I really enjoyed this movie. It makes you think. A lot along the lines of Interstellar.