Arrival had all the promise of being something special, something interesting in a filmland of remakes and reimaginings. The trailers alone were stunning, and we were really hoping this would be good. The story Arrival is based on the award-winning novella Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which was published in 1998.

Unfortunately, the film falls flat for the most part.  The visuals are the strongest part of an otherwise lackluster movie.  Most of the action is predictable, for anyone who saw Interstellar that is. However, the focus on language rather than immediate terror and violence was a nice change of pace from the average space people showing up fare.  The more calm and collected military (with two exceptions) depiction is also refreshing.



Amy Adams is more believable here as Doctor Louise Banks the linguistic expert than she was as Lois Lane, but she’s fast becoming the “talks to aliens well” leading lady.  Amusing, but she’s better than that. We get flashes of her backstory throughout the film, which also causes some temporal confusion as the plot unfolds.


We get some familiar science fiction tropes, like Jeremy Renner as “math is the only true universal language” expert Ian Donnelly. There are also moments of “aliens speaking through dreams”.


There could be any number of real or imagined subplots at work in Arrival, from as simple as women need to study more things like linguistics to anti-Chinese sentiments.  That last one stems from a poorly made poster for the film featuring a Shanghai landmark in the middle of Hong Kong. No really, that’s a thing that happened.  More people talked about THAT than the actual trailer.

The red X is on the Shanghai tower in the middle of Hong Kong, the green checkmark has it in the correct place
The red X is on the Shanghai tower in the middle of Hong Kong, the green checkmark has it in the correct place

The film breaks down towards the final act, the big “Ah-HA!” moment was telegraphed profusely through a few lines of dialog that could have been cut to help preserve the purity of the denouement.

SCORE:  5.5 OUT OF 10, viewed in standard non 3d

Sure, my score might be a little harsh for an otherwise well made film but it was the little things building into one big annoyance.  The score, while inventive, was at times incredibly distracting.  I say this because at moments when you couldn’t tell if the Zimmer-esque War of the World horn sounds were meant to be the ship/aliens/warnings or the score.  That shit took me right out of the enjoyment factor, and it happens SEVERAL times.

Arrival opens worldwide on November 11th 2016.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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