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Posts Tagged ‘Alien Communication’

arrival

 
Twelve giant mysterious alien space craft the shape of avocado halves land in different areas of the globe. Mankind, as you would expect, goes crazy and in the frenzy escalates itself to the edge of global war. The American landing takes place in Montana. American Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) is in charge of the makeshift tent army base at the ship. Since communications with the aliens is crucial, he recruits Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a world-famous physicist, as the team leaders in their fields. Backed by a team of military specialists, they enter the vessel. They learn quickly that physics as we know it does not hold true. For instance, as soon as they are inside the ship and make contact with its surface, artificial gravity allows them to walk up vertical walls.

And then they meet the aliens.

This is my kind of movie. When it was advertised at 100% on the Tomatometer, we went to see it on opening night. It has meanwhile been downgraded to 93%.

There are a lot of things about this movie that I liked, and a few things that I want to criticize.

I loved the soundtrack. It is a perfect match for the movie and its ambiance. I also loved the fact that the aliens are not little green men, or greys, or humanoids at all. The aliens are very, very different from us, which is what I would expect aliens to be like. I also enjoyed that the movie’s central plot relates to the relativity of time, something I am also inherently interested in. It portrays those concepts well and effectively by using them as central drivers of the story.

Here is what I had trouble with, and it’s also related to the central plot of the movie: Communications with aliens. I have written much about alien linguistics over the years. One review titled  Dolphins, Myths & Transformation – by Ryan DeMares is an example.

The fact is: We have aliens right here on our planet: dolphins. They are as intelligent was humans are, as far as we can tell, they have language, and our genomes are basically the same. We have lived with dolphins around us since antiquity. Roman writers talk about dolphins: the Latin word delphinus is the origin of our word for dolphins. And yet, in all these centuries of trying, and in recent decades with powerful computer technology, including the application of neural networks, we have not yet broken the code. We cannot even communicate with dolphins in a rudimentary way. We don’t understand them, and they don’t understand us. We don’t have a dolphin dictionary yet – even though there are many teams working on one now.

Yet, Louise Banks, in a few weeks, figures out a dictionary of rudimentary terms and even a sentence structure that allows her to communicate with the aliens. Their written language is not based on symbols like ours, but concepts projected in inkblot-type rings that are seemingly formed out of an ink-like material. You can see some of the alien “sentences” in the picture at the top of this post, represented by the circular structures pasted on the wall behind Ian and Louise. Not only do the Americans figure out the language, but the Russians, Chinese and a few other countries independently do also. And all of them, within a short time, come to the conclusion that the aliens mean us harm because they’re talking about “weapons.” How the humans figured out a translation between an alien ink cloud and the word weapon, among many other words, is not explained.

The central plot about Arrival is how we communicate, and how our communications affects our lives – and times. Perhaps I know too much about the subject, and therefore it didn’t seem real and believable to me. Perhaps I am overly critical. It just didn’t work.

However, if you simply accept that we’re going to be able to communicate with aliens, while everything else about them remains completely and utterly mysterious – ahem – alien, then you might enjoy this film very much.

Rating - Two and a Half Stars

 

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