Arrival – Hokey Malarkey – Review

Courtesy Paramount

Courtesy Paramount

Why are so many going so gaga over Arrival?

Did the election drive us to the point where we all need a hug, and Amy Adams is standing there with her arms wide open in the form of a soft, soulful alien movie?

Adams stars as Louise – a leading linguistics professor suffering from personal loss.  One day, a group of 12 strange alien space ships arrive on Earth, and Louise is recruited by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to begin communication with the visitors to determine why the heck they showed up here in the first place.

As Louise interacts with the aliens and learns their language, she begins to hallucinate, dream, hear voices and all around act like the stress and pressure are causing her to fall apart.

Is she learning their language or misconstruing it all?

Has she become compromised by the work or the alien interaction?

Arrival wants to be a heady, intellectual alien movie, but it turns out to be hokey malarkey.

We are used to our alien movies focusing on how we earthlings will start blowing up the invaders and chasing them back to their pathetic universe (complete with a snarky one-liner from Will Smith), but Arrival is all about TALKING to the aliens and sharing our FEELINGS.

That might be refreshing to some, but it was so boring to me I couldn’t tell if Louise was having those dreams or I had fallen asleep and had them myself.

Arrival takes on a dreamlike, hallucinatory feel after starting off promisingly as a mysterious film with impending danger just around the corner driving home the tension and giving us pause each time disaster seems imminent.

However, director Denis Villenueve and writer Eric Heisserer (based on the short story by Ted Chiang) remove that edge to plunge the audience into murkiness.  It’s an alien movie that has lost its fangs or had its claws removed as the main focus shifts away from the aliens and onto Louise and her personal struggles.

Villenueve provides great imagery as we see the alien vessel standing tall in a vacant field as the fog rolls in, or a helicopter emerging over the horizon destroying the tranquility.  It’s a wonderful way to support the themes of isolation and loneliness that become central to the ending and the rest of the story.

Arrival is all Adams despite the presence of Whitaker and Jeremy Renner.  Yet, even with Adams emoting her heart out, the film fades as Villeneuve tries to make it mystical with some sort of hippy dippy new age feel.

Arrival should have stayed home.

2waffles_sml2 Waffles (out of 4)

Arrival is rated PG-13 for brief strong language