IMDB Summary: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.
I wanted to see this film when it came out, despite not being a fan of either lead. Renner ruined his stance with me when he called the Black Widow a slut while on the movie tour for Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. (Chris Evans lost some points with me for that one as well.)
Amy Adams has just never appealed to me, but maybe that’s because the first time I saw her she was trying to oppress her poor cousin Tara on BtVS to:
“Come home and cook and fetch for the menfolk like a good woman should! How dare you be so selfish you want to educate yourself, and have a life of your own! You know your ignorant brother and father will starve, what with no one there to open the canned beans for them! Yer evil!”
Yes, I know it was a character she played, but she played it so well that almost twenty years later, even remembering that shit, makes my skin crawl. *shivers*
It’s entirely possible that, that is a testimony to her acting skills, as much as Renner’s downer is a testimony to the double standard of sexuality being alive and thriving. However, now that I look at the reasons I am not a fan of either, in black and white, I just realized they are exactly the same thing.
Both are about oppressing women. Hrm.
[Sidebar: Honestly, I have always been slightly more tolerant of men who behave this way than women, because to me it’s a deeper betrayal for a woman to oppress another woman.
Logically, I realize this is not fair, because oppressive behavior, actions, and speech, are learned behaviors for both men and women. Both sexes are equally capable of being warped by learning the behaviors of the people around them, with all that implies.
Still, I hold the bar higher for women, and expect more, reasonable or not. End sidebar:]
As I watched this movie I thought what I always think, which is, why do we keep inviting aliens to Earth when inevitably in film, and in real life our first go to reaction is to kill them?
I remember I was floored when I learned that in 1977 aboard the Voyager spacecraft, we sent out a map to our world, some of our basic mathematics, and DNA samples. Yeah, think about that. There was some Mozart, too, but still.
How do we behave when move to a new neighborhood here on earth? Do we offer up anywhere near that level of information to strangers that actually, share our DNA? No. We get to know them before we tell them the spare key is under the fake rock by the back door. We get to know them before we have them over to listen to our old Dobbie Brothers vinyl’s.
We sent another invite out this past year on another probe, and all I can think every time I hear it is: FFS, STOP IT!
All you have to do is look at the news to see that the most advanced civilizations on this planet can be xenophobic assholes, even when it comes to other human beings. What do you think is going to happen if a different SPECIES takes us up on that invitation?
Now, I used to think that the great Think Tank of scientists, and the movers and shakers must be more ready than I know to so flippantly yell to the universe, “PARTY ON THE THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN! FOLLOW THESE COORDINATES!” and then just wait around to if anyone shows up.
However, if we’ve learned anything in 2017, it’s that the brain trust who might have handled this with reason and diplomacy is gone. We, the entire world, seem to be regressing back into a period of low tolerance for diversity among our own species.
What the ever-loving fuck would be the point of bringing someone else into this, at least until we can grow up a little more? Again, if the parents are fighting, do you invite your friends over to sit on the couch and watch? To possibly get hit with a flying dish as they scream and battle it out? Probably not. At least I hope not.
In Arrival, they do try and talk to them first, but eventually it does end up in the predictable, if honest, spot of, we can’t trust them! We can’t trust the Chinese! We can’t trust the Russians! Fuck it, let’s kill everyone! (See, it’s not like we don’t know this about ourselves, I don’t know why we play.)
But, at the last minute the day is saved, and we hold off long enough to learn something. The reason this ending works for me, is because of what one of the aliens told Amy’s character close to the end. The aliens HAD to make this work, and I believe that they would have stayed, and sacrificed themselves repeatedly, until they found someone, one person, smart enough to understand what they were offering. I can believe that much more easily than having people suddenly become rational and intelligent beings.
This movie is a master class in the complexity of language, and how it is, as stated in the movie, “the greatest weapon.” The imprecise nature of how we communicate is illuminated, and shown to be a potential source of so much of the strife we have today in our world. I recommend this movie to any writer or linguist, and caution this is the deep end of the pool.
Overall, I love the concept of the story. I have a deep and abiding love for the higher ideas that exist in this film, and have since I was a teen. I knew it was special, I just didn’t anticipate how special, or how much I would love it.
Currently renting on Amazon Pay per view at $3.99 for SD, and I think it’s well worth it.