Not All Sci-Fi Films Are Created Equal
Arrival: Not your average alien invasion movie.
*Warning: The following article contains spoilers*
For decades, alien invasion movies have revolved around similar plot points—hostile alien race invades Earth to take over the planet, but gets defeated by "so-and-so." Of course there is nothing wrong with this type of story for a sci-fi, alien film; there will always be a fanbase for them. But one film in particular, gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a foreign alien race coming to Earth.
The 2016 sci-fi mystery thriller, Arrival, is a completely new take on the alien invasion category. The movie is seen through the eyes of expert Linguist and Professor, Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is recruited by the United States Military to communicate with an alien race. Banks' ultimate goal is to determine why the aliens have "invaded" Earth.
Louise and her colleague, Ian (Jeremy Renner) slowly begin to interpret the alien language, while simultaneously teaching them English. Throughout the film, the audience is shown scenes that appear to be flashbacks of Louise with her daughter. However, as Louise and Ian increase in their ability to communicate with the aliens, the flashback scenes also increase, and become more detailed and mysterious.
It is eventually realized that Louise is not seeing the past, but the future, with the help of the aliens. Contrary to most other alien invasion films, the aliens in this movie come to Earth in an attempt to help mankind, explaining that humans will help their extraterrestrial race 3,000 years into the future. Using their unique form of communication, the aliens provide Louise and Ian with their entire language, which is the key to seeing through time.
Another interesting aspect of this movie, is that it sort of switches the role of the extraterrestrials and the humans, in a way that causes mankind to examine themselves. In most other alien invasion movies, the aliens come to Earth with the intention of wiping out, or taking over the planet in some way, which obviously results in humans defending themselves in an equally hostile manner. Arrival, however, presents the invaders as peaceful beings, who do not attempt to overpower mankind. Despite their lack of hostility, mankind begins to view the creatures as a global threat which leads to initiating an attack on the aliens, without having a substantial basis for doing so, other than fear.
I appreciate the undertones in this element of the film, because it exposes mankind's innate tendency to respond with fear and aggression, rather than taking the time to understand the aliens' purpose.
Needless to say, director, Dennis Villeneuve's stunning visuals, coupled with the deep and mysterious story of writer, Eric Heisserer is something to be appreciated. Not to mention, the exceptional performance by Amy Adams, and a high caliber cast. The intellectual purpose of this film is entirely unique and unlike any other alien invasion, action flick. To be totally honest, I found the absence of fighting/action sequences with grotesque-looking aliens, to be a refreshing perspective in the genre.
The creativity and insight with which this film was made, is evident in the compelling story that leaves the audience intrigued until the end. Some viewers may think the movie is "boring" or too slowly-paced, but I encourage those who feel that way to look at this film from a different point of view. While this movie may not have action like the many other films in its category, it challenges the audience to really pay attention, and think on a deeper level. As one who is not a huge fan of a lot of the alien movies out there, the face that I enjoyed this movie so much, testifies to the fact that this film should be viewed as a work of art.