Having seen Arrival, I can enthusiastically recommend it to everyone out there. There you go. Close this tab and get your ticket now. Know that, if you keep reading, you’re going to see spoilers and those spoilers might have an impact upon how much you enjoy the movie in the moment.
Okay, are you still here? I assume that you’ve either seen it or won’t mind being spoiled somewhat.
The movie is one of those that has a somewhat big reveal in the last quarter or so. Now, lest I summon memories of The Sixth Sense, I’ll say that the big reveal is more of a moment of clarity rather than a twist. The movie spends a great many moments telling you a number of things without giving you the context for the things it has told you… and then, at the moment of clarity, you’re given the context. This is a rather lovely moment and more takes the form “ooooh… I’ve heard that word a hundred times but I never understood what it meant until now” rather than “ALL OF YOUR ASSUMPTIONS UP TO THIS POINT WERE WRONG”.
It’s a science fiction movie with an emphasis on the “science” and it’s the sciency part of science rather than the engineering part of it. Do you like linguistics and language theory? Well, you’re going to love this particular movie.
Now we get into the weeds. I am 100% down with the whole “different languages cause you to wire your brain differently” thing. I like that. It absolutely makes sense to me that knowing one language would cause you to think in one way and knowing another language would cause you to think differently, even if you spent your life dealing with the same phenomena. Language is like a tool that will help you deal and interact with these phenomena. Some languages are like a saw or a wedge, some languages are like a leatherman. I’m 100% down with that.
Where the movie gets me, and I’m putting the details of this complaint behind spoiler tags, was where we got into one of the time travel problems out there.
Specifically, the “Information Loop”.
The scene where we see her getting/transmitting information across eras? Where the Chinese General gives her his phone number in the future so she can call him in the past, where she relays his message to her that she gave to him?
That bugged the heck out of me.
I was running with the movie with the language thing. I was running with the movie with the aliens thing. I was running with the movie with the language can cause you to see things differently to the point where even time is seen differently… but I couldn’t past the whole “bootstraps” thing.
That problem was a very, very small problem, though.
A strong story, with a very strong female protagonist, interesting discussions of language theory, fun special effects that don’t particularly feel “special”, and plenty of fodder to argue about on the car drive home? That right there is money well spent.
If you haven’t seen it, you ought to.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?