Tea & Review: Arrival – A Perfect Modern Sci-fi

There’s an art to any story. For me personally, I have an issue with loving new science fiction movies. Specifically modern day science fiction movies.

Why? Well, we’ve been kind of spoiled. In terms of popular science fiction, we’ve peaked really quickly. When Star Wars debuted in the 80’s it kind of setup a template, a marker if you will as to what a good science fiction movie should look like.

This isn’t a diss against Star Wars. As you’ll see in December we will be all about the new Star Wars movie Rogue One. But let’s be real for a second. Star Wars created a format for any future science fiction film. We got a bad guy, good guy and  space in-between.

And then we move into the modern day version of a science fiction with movies like Independence Day. I can’t speak for every movie goer but after the first Independence Day came out it seemed like Hollywood was hell bent on sticking to the humans vs. aliens format.

It becomes problematic when you start seeing the same storylines over and over again. Hollywood then sees that people like it and they seem the same concepts on repeat.

This is literally what makes Arrival an amazing film. It defies all the common expectations. It distinctly doesn’t allow itself to devolve into a cliche, which any moviegoer can appreciate.

It doesn’t hurt that Amy Adams is basically one of the most underrated actors out right now. Her pairing with Jeremy Renner was spot on for this.

My Tea & Fiction partner made a great statement that this is one of the few movies that a linguist is the star and that it isn’t an army person, and that we’re actually trying to talk to the aliens verses the immediate move to shooting guns at them. Obviously, this isn’t completely true. If we’re using Close Encounter of the Third Kind as an example of that it has that amazing last scene with the humans and aliens communicating with music, then her argument isn’t valid.

But her assertation that this is probably our first “linguist hero” is kind of amazing. It really pushes against all the stereotypical images we’ve seen as what a ‘hero’ is.

The Amy Adam’s character is not even our typical hero. Louise Banks is a smart cookie. She knows a ton of foreign languages and has a concrete grasp on the importance of language and communication being a major turning point in Earth’s interaction with the aliens. She’s not exactly comfortable with venturing into a literal foreign territory either.  But lucky for us she grows into the film’s hero and really elevates the film on an emotional level.

The structure of the film, without giving anything away, is really interesting. What’s great is that the audience is literally with Banks at every turn. We are equally as confused as she is. We go through all her shocks, awes and fears. The film’s director really embraces the theme of “non-linear” in many different ways and gives the film a very stable foundation to work from.

It wasn’t till I saw the movie a second time around that the various layers of memory and story really clicked into place for me. Even when I wasn’t clear about the jumps back and forth between scenes it didn’t detract from the beautiful construction of the film.

One of the few things I really appreciated what the emphasis on how the English language, at least from our point of view, is a critical juncture in the progression of the story. I really hope English teachers take their students to this film just because they can literally say, “In case you end up needing to save the world? English, yo”

Mic drop.







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