Sunday, November 20, 2016

Movie Review: Why Arrival (2016) Ending is Disappointing

Arrival Movie Poster

The movie, Arrival (2016) started out strong, but crawled across the finish line (in my opinion), and this review will tell you why. But first, know that the following contains spoilers about the movie.

First: Don't Get them Confused

Arrival (2016) stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. The Arrival (1996) stars Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Crouse. These are two separate movies that are unrelated, but easy to get them mixed up.

The Arrival (2016) Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Before Arrival (2016) even hit the theaters, the movie trailer aired on TV proudly boasted that it had 100% fresh rating on the movie review site, RottenTomatoes.com (link here). If you visit the movie page today November 11, 2016 -- it is now at 93%. Obviously, they saw that critics all gave the movie a fresh rating - which means the movie is good on Rotten Tomatoes website - but it has since being in theaters. Even so, a "fresh" rating in the 90th percentile is a relatively good rating for a movie.

Continue reading to find out my honest opinion on the movie.

Arrival (2016) Movie Synopsis & Review (Contains Spoilers)

Going into Arrival (2016), movie goers can assume pretty much one thing about the movie, it is about aliens and shows first contact between the human race and aliens.

Not much else is known from the trailer until you see the movie.

Amy Adams plays a linguist - Dr. Louise Banks - that has done prior work for the U.S. Military. When 12 UFO spaceships appear on Earth in seemingly random locations. They look like elongated beans that are elevated above the ground in a vertical manner. This changes later.

Colonel Weber, played by Forest Whitaker, seeks out Dr. Banks as a subject matter expert to decipher their language - which at the time is just a garbled audio recording.

Dr. Banks tells Colonel Weber that she would not be able to translate the audio file, as it is inadequate, and she would need to go to the site in person. The U.S. site of the UFO is in Montana. Col. Weber is not keen on this idea, but after scouting out his 2nd alternative person - another linguist - he comes back to Dr. Banks at her home in the middle of the night to fly her out to the UFO site.

On the helicopter ride over, she meets Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), a scientist subject matter expert, who is skeptical about the importance of having a linguist along.

Col. Weber brings them both to the UFO site, where the military has set up a base camp within a short distance of the spacecraft. This is where Dr. Banks and Ian make countless trips to the spacecraft to interact with the aliens. The door to the bean spaceship opens from the bottom every 18 hours.

Once they enter from the bottom, gravity appears to be distorted, allowing them to walk on the side walls of the ship and enter a room at the top.

Once inside Dr. Banks, Ian, and a military film crew, have interactions with 2 aliens. In the beginning, when introducing themselves, Ian names the aliens "Abbott and Costello."

The aliens are only seen through some sort of white fog. They appear to swim there. They have 7 legs, and are called heptapods. They write circular symbols on a glass wall between Dr. Banks and Ian, and Dr. Banks begins the lengthy process to decipher their language. 

She eventually determines that their language does not take in the concept of time (past, present, future). They continue to make breakthroughs, to the point of where Dr. Banks is able to communicate with the aliens via the use of a monitor to display symbols to the two aliens - albeit they still have difficulty making the exact meaning of some words at such an early understanding of the alien language.

The important question that Col. Weber wants answered is: "Do you come in peace?"

Throughout the time Dr. Banks and Ian are working, there is a control center where video feeds are connected to the 11 other sites. At one point in the movie, they learn that China is communicating with the aliens via the game Mah Jong, where there is inherently a winner and a loser at the end of the game. The U.S. team finds that to be problematic, as they are hoping the aliens are peaceful, and there can be a "win-win" scenario that comes from interactions with the aliens.

At one point, China starts interpreting the word "weapon" and the phrase "Show us weapon." Immediately China shuts off their feed, and ends further information sharing with the other sites, resulting in a domino effect. Russia follows suit. The U.S. also decides to cut their feed after their communications gets to "give weapon." Dr. Banks on her limited knowledge of the language believes this could easily be a failure for the aliens to understand her earlier question about "Do they come in peace?"

Also, there is a growing unrest among protesters that believe we must show force to the aliens and eliminate them, because they can't be nice. The two-man military crew that was doing the filming are listening to this message, and decide to do something. They plant C4 in the alien chamber. Dr. Banks and Ian urgently go back a second time to ask the aliens a question, and there is less than 5 minutes on the C4 timer. The aliens knock on the glass to warn them, but Dr. Banks doesn't understand. The aliens quickly force Dr. Banks and Ian down the chamber and close the door before the C4 explodes. Costello is mortally wounded.

Editor's Note: After this point in the movie, I feel that the movie loses the momentum and my interest as it becomes less plausible in my mind.

When the alien chamber is blown up, all of the alien ships change from a vertical posture to a horizontal one. There is essentially no way to get back in contact with the aliens -- or so we think. 

Dr. Banks Visits the Aliens from a Drop Pod

At the point of no contact, Dr. Banks now has a special connection with the aliens. When she walks out toward the spaceship, they send a pod to encapsulate her and bring her into their white foggy expanse. At this time, the aliens reveal that they need the human race in 3,000 years from that point, which is why they have put 12 spaceships on the Earth, and each spaceship gives 1/12 of the answer needed to solve the master problem. At this time, Abbott tells Dr. Banks that Costello is going through the Death Process after the C4 incident.

Time for Hallucinations


By this time, Dr. Banks is working on very little sleep, to the point of hallucinations. She is not only dreaming of the aliens, she sees one in the room with her as Ian is talking to her. This is somewhat explained in the movie that when a person learns a new language, it creates new neural pathways in your brain, but also "unlocks" a brand new concept in the movie -- one that makes the movie lose it's credence (in my opinion).

Big Spoiler...About Dr. Banks Flashbacks with her Daughter

Throughout the movie, even in the beginning, Dr. Banks has flashbacks of her daughter. We assume these are flashbacks. She loves her daughter so much, but we see sad memories as her daughter gets cancer and dies. At this point, can only assume these are flashbacks. But we later learn that these are not flashbacks, but actually events that take place in the future, which I refer to as "flash forwards."

This is where the new concept of new neural pathways come in. The movie hints that by learning the "universal language" of the heptapods, it allows humans to almost exist at any point on the timeline. This means that you can recall events that take place in the future. As Dr. Banks learns this language, she is seeing these memories, but she does not actually verbally discuss them out loud. However, at the most suspenseful moment in the movie, she makes a call to the Chinese ambassador to the number he gives her from his cellphone in a flash forward into the future. She calls him and says to him the dying words of his wife on her death bed, which convinces him that she does in fact know him.

This sets in motion a chain of events that brings all 12 of the alien sites together, which is needed for planet Earth to all be on the same page in peace and unity. They all live happily ever after. The end.

One More Thing about Dr. Banks Daugher

The father is Ian Donnelly. Throughout the movie, they are working side-by-side to "crack" the secret to the alien language. They grow close and fall in love by the end of the encounter. Later, in a flash forward, the daughter tells her mom that "Daddy was angry." Essentially, when he finds out his daughter has cancer, he leaves Dr. Banks and she is left to raise her daughter as a single parent. We don't find this out until the very end of the movie after the concept of flash forwards are introduced.

Lastly about Dr. Banks

Dr. Banks writes a book explaining Universal Language (seen as a flash forward), which I assume gives the entire human race the ability to see into the future.

Editor's Comments on the Resolution of the Movie

This was a movie about aliens - which intrigued me - however, the events that took place after the humans attempted to blow up the spacecraft, resulting in Costello dying, didn't seem plausible.

I think the aliens would have retaliated or left the planet completely. However, the fact that they can see the future might have allowed them to see that they need the humans, however destructive they are.

Next, the introduction of seeing the future is a new and different concept. While the movie really hinged on this in order to bring everything full circle, it left me feeling underwhelmed at how the movie wrapped up. It attempted to bring the sadness of Dr. Banks back into the picture, in addition to Ian leaving her, and it was sadness compounded with more sadness. The intrigue of the aliens was completed wiped out with a lot of sadness.

I hope you now understand why I felt that the ending of Arrival (2016) was disappointing. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the movie (below).

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