Films about alien invasions, abductions and visits are usually a dime a dozen. The popularity of science fiction and the money making potential that results from that very popularity means that we are often bombarded with films and shows from what could be called the extraterrestrial genre. This even led to The X-Files rebooting for a few episodes 14 years after it stopped airing, and as much as it was enjoyable to see Fox Mulder behave as if Hank Moody was an FBI agent, the whole effort felt gratuitous save for the excellent third episode.
Arrival, the latest film from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is different. While the premise sounds familiar - mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe an elite team, lead by an expert linguist is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers - Arrival promises to provide a very different kind of experience. We are genuinely excited about it, scroll down to find out why.
Realism Is Key
As touched upon above, one of the issues with the extraterrestrial genre is that much of the reason we see so many films that fall within it is financial motivation.
Even directors who consider themselves artists know that in order to keep making movies, their films have to make profit. However, this can muddy the waters and lead to films whose only purpose is to sensationalize and rake in dollars, whether it be from stereotypical depictions of extraterrestrials (Mars Attacks type satire excluded) or taking the all too predictable “aliens vs. humans” premise into an all-out action thriller. Independence Day: Resurgence is a perfect example of this.
Arrival seems to take a different route, an albeit more realistic and intelligent one, that harkens back to 2010’s Monsters, or even 1997’s Contact. By focusing on language, and making a linguist the main character brings a lot of depth to the premise, as it immediately becomes about how to relate to the visitors instead of how to eradicate them, a much more realistic scenario if this were to actually happen.
Aliens! To wonder about the unknown, in particular to contemplate whether or not humankind is alone in the vast universe (with a sober mind or other) is distinctly human, and at first glance, Arrival seems to be an honest attempt at adding to that conversation in a real way, rather than seeking to dumb it down for the sake of “entertainment.”
A Talented And Well Chosen Cast
Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner (we’ll overlook his wretched Jason Bourne role…) bring great experience and versatility to a genre that is notoriously lacking in emotion. Expect subtle performances, outbursts and emotion to run rampant with this all star cast, with a talented and experienced director getting the best out of them.
An Excellent Director
It isn’t too often that you get a director of Denis Villeneuve’s talent and caliber directing a large budget film about an alien visit. Following his excellent (and devastating) 2010 film Incendies as well as 2013’s Prisoners and the drug war thinkpiece Sicario, you can expect direction of the highest quality. He is also slated to direct the untitled sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner.