First Impression "Arrival"
When I first saw the trailers for Arrival, I was underwhelmed. It looked like it was going to be another Gravity, which I also didn't see because the trailers alone gave me anxiety attacks. Even the poster for this film is misleading; people wearing fatigues, choppers hovering over this strange pod looking thing, Amy Adams looking...somewhere. Who knows. It looks like your basic aggressive alien movie.
Which is exactly what this movie is not about.
The basic plot of this story--if such a thing can be attempted--is that Amy Adams' character, Louise, has lost her child to what looks like Leukemia. She is living in this big house alone, having flash backs of her daughter and seemingly trying to grab on to the moments of her child's life that may not have seemed important at the time. She is a professor at a university. She teaches languages.
Her life seems sad.
One day, as she is walking into the school the news and students are all hyped up about these UFO weird looking pods that have popped up all over the world--not unlike Signs. No one is sure of their intentions; that seems to be real driving point for most of these characters: What do these aliens want to do?
Military people show up to Louise's office and it is then become known that she is a world renowned translator and has worked with military ops before. They ask for her help to decipher what the aliens seem to be saying and she eventually accepts.
She is taken to a base camp a few miles from the pod that landed in the USA. She is taken to the creatures, who are behind glass in their own spacecraft, and quickly discovers that it is not the noises they are making that are going to be translated, but visual vocabulary. Through weeks of wipe board usage, Louise has accrued a large enough vocabulary of the alien's circular language to hold conversations with them. Things start to escalate around the world, of course. People fear what they don't understand. China and Russian threaten to attack their own pods while Louise urges to let her continue her work with her own two (there are two creatures in each pod) aliens before escalating it to a war threat.
At some point the aliens say something that Louise interprets at first as "Give Weapon". The world goes mad over this, and take it as an immediate threat and a demand for weapons from the human race. What Louise eventually discovers is that the word for Weapon is the same for Tool and then, eventually, Gift.
Eventually, they invite Louise into their ship, through a tiny podlette that lifts her into their side of the glass, where she realizes she can now seamlessly communicate with them. The information she is given by the last surviving alien (the other dying while saving Louise and her coworker from a bomb placed on the ship) is overwhelming. She asks, "Who is this little girl I keep seeing?" and we quickly realize that she is not having flashbacks of her daughter's death, but seeing into her own future. Everything seems to come together in large ways: Louise's future seeing get's stronger and aids her in informing the entire country, even the aggressive China, that it is not a weapon they want. They are not demanding anything. They are offering something. At first it had been thought that these pods had landed to be used as weapons against the entire world to finally put an end to us all but no, what they really are saying is that they are giving a gift.
Universal language; and that through that circular language not only can world peace be achieved, but that time itself is circular. Once learning, truly learning, their language may the ideas of time change from the long held linear way of humans.
At the end it is shown that Louise writes a book on the language for everyone to learn from, is highly separated and marries her co-worker Ian and having a child with him. The child that is doomed to die.
After their work has been achieved, the pods disappear into the earth's elements; rocks, mountains, air, the sea. They had been here all along, part of this planet just like us.
The first word that Louise introduces to the aliens is "HUMAN" pointing to herself, Ian, anyone else in the room. This is the first contact between the two species.
But what makes us human? These creatures walk up right, they are social, they have a language, and --most importantly--they are from Earth.
What if the things we fear the most while looking up at the sky are buried deep within your back yard? Would that make it less threatening, knowing that another species is laying dormant on our planet, and never making a move to produce violence on us? I think it does. I think it changes exactly what it means to be an alien, as well. We use the word "alien" to describe people in our country from another country; someone who doesn't belong and now currently someone who needs to be monitored. We have always referred to other species making contact with us as aliens; but these creatures are not from another planet or orbit. They are from earth; they literally make up our earth. Are we that out of touch with our own planet, are we so distracted at looking at foreign places, distant far away spaces, that we have no idea what is happening on our planet?
Yes, we have.
This movie is not about an alien invasion. This movie is about what humanity means. What universal means. What humanity can be capable of if they lower guns and extend hands instead.
A universal language that would eventually turn into a universal understanding. Barriers would be dropped. Instead of a planet with nations run by massively different rulers, our countries would come together--a proper UN would form. Decisions would be made differently. Actions would be carried out differently.
Time would be different as well. At the end of the film, Louise asks Ian, "If you could see the entire expanse of your life, would you change it?" Ian doesn't get it and we never get a real answer from Louise except for more flash fowards.
If time was circular, if dejavu wasn't just a feeling but a second chance to come back again and try it differently, how many of this planet's issues would be rendered void? Most of them.
In the end, we see Ian and Louise married--we find out he will later leave her when she tells him that their daughter will die--and having the little girl who had haunted Louise's mind for so long.
She names her Hannah. A palindrome. A word that is the same from the front to the back and the back to the front. A circular word within a circular time where arrivals and departures are no longer linear and you find yourself saying goodbye at the same time as saying hello.