‘Arrival’ includes typical alien movie clichés but delivers intellectual, philosophical questions

Science movies have been popular the past several years. Last year we saw “The Martian” and the year before that “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” were nominated for best picture. “Gravity” picked up some awards in 2014.

This year, we get “Arrival” and “Hidden Figures.” The latter hit the Daily Double by dealing with science and race, so we’ll save that for later. Besides, “Arrival” is about aliens, and we haven’t seen an alien movie nominated for Best Picture since “District 9” back in 2010.

In “Arrival,” 12 alien spaceships land in various locations on Earth. Of course, one lands in the United States. A pleasant surprise: It wasn’t New York City this time. At any rate, these aliens want to give us a message, but rather than just give us the message, each of the 12 spacecraft has a piece of the message that must be assembled, requiring humans to work together.

From here, it gets pretty predictable. Some cliché alien movie plot devices used:

  • Military intervention – World militaries are running the show. Even though the U.S. military brought in scientists to decipher the aliens’ language, they undermine them every chance they get and are resistant to take their advice. Happens every time.
  • Humans are stupid – Despite this being true, it would be nice to have an alien visitation movie where we may not necessarily be the superior beings, but at the very least not borderline retarded in comparison. Not this time.

There were other cliché moments, but those two had my eyes rolling every time they popped up.

Even though “Arrival” hit all the typical alien movie notes, it did get pretty philosophical towards the end. We learn that the main character can see the future by learning the aliens’ language, which does not see time as linear. Now that we’re getting into what is essentially time travel, a bunch of paradoxical situations occur.

The major question at the end: If you could see the future, would you refrain from making certain decisions if you knew for certain the negative consequences of said actions?

For our main character, the answer is “no.” Despite knowing the tragic outcome of marrying and having a child with our leading man, she decides to go ahead with it anyway. A lot of hypothetical, philosophical debates are raised, making the movie more cerebral than most alien movies. Because of this intellectual stimulation, I’ll have to overlook the shortcomings and give this movie a more favorable rating.

Movie rating: B

Projected awards:
Best Writing Adapted Screenplay (Likely to lose against stronger nominees, but this seems to be its best shot. i.e. this film will probably walk away empty handed.)

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