Arrival: good drama, unconventional sci fi

If you go to this movie expecting to see laser fights and explosions and space battles, you will be disappointed. If you want creepy aliens and jump-scares you will also be disappointed. But if you’re after a movie that puts a lot of thought into the story, the science and the characters, then you will have a good time.

It was terribly refreshing to not roll my eyes or groan at anything in this movie. As Mike at redlettermedia said, it’s like a long Star Trek episode. There are aliens, we don’t know what they want, and we have to figure out how to communicate with them, using logic and science.

And that’s the movie. No one is trying to figure out how to blow them up, or defend against their giant blue laser. It’s a movie about communication, about words, not weapons. And I really didn’t realize how much I’ve missed that kind of thoughtful way of looking at things until seeing it here.

The revelation at the end of the movie is clever, and done well, but it’s seamless with the rest of the story. It’s not the entire point of the story, but a part of it as a whole. I love this, as too many movies get obsessed with having a twist at all costs, and making it as big and unpredictable as possible. My wife predicted the ‘twist’ and I’m sure many other people did too, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s not the reason the story was being told.

There is a lot of buildup, a lot of talking, a lot of emotions. There are no slow-motion gunfights or cities being exploded, and the climax of the movie is a phone call. If that sounds like your kind of thing, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

 

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