*NOTE: This is a full spoiler review
It seems like there has been a lot of these serious sci-fi movies lately which have dominated the theaters over the last few years: Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Oblivion, Ex Machina, Edge of Tomorrow, etc. And so I sort of find myself excited about them, yet resisting them, not wanting to pigeonhole myself into always liking the same type of movie. But then again, why not just embrace it? After all, the next offering, Arrival, is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.
Arrival is a story about aliens arriving on earth yet again, but this one focuses on the struggle to communicate with them. Granted, the humans are doing most of the heavy lifting in the translating. It follows Amy Adams as a linguist who proves to be quite cunning. There is an emotional core to this film as we learn early on that she has lost a daughter. And though you may think “Oh, just like Gravity”, yes, but its treated differently a little more existentially here.
The first thing that jumped out at me was how the film was able to capture the terror involved in entering the spaceship and confronting the aliens for the first time. Great, great scene.
What we learn when we finally see the aliens is that they are actually a lot like Kang and Kodos, to be honest. And we also learn that their language centers around coffee stains. And while I’m being flippant with these descriptions (yet accurate), I actually enjoyed their design quite a bit. It was unique, to be sure.
The film ends up going into some more cerebral areas near the end, as Amy Adams begins living the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of language mentioned earlier in the film; that embracing a new language enough actually affects the way you think and perceive. As such, she is able to see her life in an entirely new way, which puts a twist on most of what we had seen up to that point. It works. I don’t know exactly what it means thematically yet, but as far as scientific fiction, its certainly interesting.