Friday, December 30, 2016

My Departure from the Consensus on Arrival

I’m not a big fan of science fiction although I did enjoy the high-kitsch of early Star Trek. I also loved 2001 a Space Odyssey and Blade Runner is one of my all time favourite films. Generally however I have problems suspending my disbelief and like my films to engage with a world I know. A failure of imagination I suppose although I do retain the belief that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. In lists of the best films of 2016 Arrival was much mentioned and the fairly reliable barometer of Rotten Tomatoes read 94%. So off I trotted to see what all the fuss was about. It has its positives but I exited the cinema feeling there was less to it than meets the eye. Firstly, Amy Adams was outstanding in the lead role. She must have one of the most subtly expressive faces in the modern cinema and she dominated the film. However, the rest of the cast were lumpen cliches played by stock types: Forrest Whittaker as a soldier again. The aliens were played by giant octopuses with finger-like tentacles. They sprayed an ink-like substance to communicate and lo and behold Adams as the linguistics expert was able to both understand them and empathise wth them. Parallel to her efforts to communicate with these aliens was her unresolved sorrow at the loss of her young daughter to cancer and the opening of possibilities of communicating with her also. This was more implicit than explicit but added an eerie and mysterious sub-text to the blatant nonsense on view: A space craft shaped like a giant rugby ball in a muted green landscape, helicopters flying around to no great purpose, troops massing aimlessly, much brute pragmatism from military etc. The ending was fairly risible: world peace ensued and Adams regained her lost paradise. I didn’t believe a word of it. Very disappointing.