Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movies: Arrival

(Drivebycuriosity) - How would humanity respond if aliens suddenly appear on earth? The science fiction movie "Arrival" has a plausible answer (imdb).  The film is based on a short story by Ted Chiang. I am a fan of the Chinese-American writer because he translates science into interesting stories. He`s a master of hard Science Fiction in the tradition of Heinlein, Clark & Asimov. In his story "The Story of Your Life" a scientist, a female linguist, is communicating with aliens in order to find out what they want from us.  The story, which has just 62 pages (paperback version amazon), doesn´t have much action. Instead to author focuses on the science of language & communication. I was curious how Hollywood would translate a relatively abstract & intellectual story into a big movie.

It worked out well. Director Denis Villeneuve  - and screen writer Eric Heisserer -  had to stretch the plot and to add narrative elements of course, but they stayed close to the original (this is a spoiler free blog, you can find a synopsis here  wikipedia). Both, story & movie have an important fictional & speculative implication (which I don´t tell). But neither Chiang nor the movie makers went too far into fairy tale land.

The aliens were plausible visualized. I believe that an encounter like this that could really happen sometimes in the future. The communication - which is the pivotal part of the plot - was done by writing, because the very different anatomies made acoustical understanding impossible. The movie makers invested a lot of money, energy & talent into the visualization of this communication (businessinsider). They consulted university scientists and employed artists & software developers to construct beautiful & elegant symbols which carried the alien`s messages  (no images here to avoid spoilers). So they created some highly intense & fascinating scenes comparable to the highlights of Kubrick`s "2001: A Space Odyssey".

I enjoyed watching Amy Adams as linguist because the actress combines beauty with an intellectual aura. I also liked the economical use of special effects & action scenes.  The decent sound fit perfectly throughout.

"Arrival" is one of the best movies of the year and the proof that Hollywood can turn ambitious hard science fiction into films for the mass market.

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