ARRIVAL Review: Pushing Sci-Fi to new heights

Amy Adams in Arrival.
Amy Adams in Arrival.

V Smith-Matsalia

Originally posted on Black Girl Nerds

Paramount Pictures’ Arrival is this season’s most promising science fiction film. I know, I know! You are thinking Dr. Strange and Rogue 1, and that I must be crazy, but hear me out! Arrival is not your typical smash-bang-boom science fantasy film. This is not your “Independence Day” rip off… or unfortunate sequel. Arrival is something completely different from what the box office has offered those of us in nerd kind in quite a while. Arrival is the thinker’s science fiction film.

So it is safe to say that Arrival is the story of first contact with alien life on earth. If you’ve seen the previews, and we all have, you know this already. This is not particularly new to science fiction. In fact, a huge amount of science fiction is based on this same premise. I have to say, though, that this film takes a much different route with this particular first contact than what we all expect when we hear “science fiction film.” Arrival is not chocked full of explosions, machismo, witty quips or traditional Americana heroism, but it maintains all the major trappings that make SciFi, SciFi.

I know what you’re thinking. That sounds boring, right? Wrong! I admit, the film seemed to start slowly. The exposition didn’t seem significant, in fact, I thought it was a bit cliché at first. I took notes on how annoying it was that the female character was immediately connected to motherhood as if her sole existence and involvement would be tied to traditional female roles. Boy was I wrong! I want to tell you how wrong, but I won’t spoil this film for you. You’d hate me, and I am in no mood for pitchforks and torches this week. You are going to have to trust me when I say that things are not always what they seem.

Okay, so let me tell you what I loved about this film. This movie really got having a female lead RIGHT, and I mean really right. Amy Adams is strong, brave, smart and maneuvers through alien contact so smoothly compared to the men around her that you’d laugh were it not for the serious tone of the film. And the idea of a linguist, a college professor as the protagonist was so refreshing! Usually, we get a mad scientist, a wise-cracking soldier or some hottie with cool one-liners, but Arrival gives us a woman who is incredibly intelligent, comfortable in her skin without bearing it all, and at the same time very, very human. Best of all, she is not driven by a love interest at all. She does what is right because it is right. Her academic prowess is what drives her, and that was beautiful to watch.

Now let’s talk about Jeremy Renner. I don’t think this man is capable of not being adorable. I mean, seriously, have you seen him? Renner’s character, Ian Donnely, is as likable as Renner seems in real life. What I love about Ian, and I expect you will too, is that he is so real. He is impressed by alien life in a real way. Renner’s reactions seem so spot on to how I imagine a scientist might deal with alien encounters in real life. He is floored! To make it better, he NEVER underestimates Adams’ character and follows her consistently throughout the film. Renner and Adams play flawlessly off of one another.

What you should know is that this really is the thinkers Science Fiction film. If you cannot enjoy a film without constant witticisms, explosions, and murderous aliens (though the CG on these guys is AMAZING), this film is not for you. However, for the rest of us, put your thinking caps on and pull up your favorite thinking chair (yes, I just referenced Blue’s Clues… deal) and think… and enjoy. This one is for us!