Arrival: Spoiler Discussion

So, as you see from the title, this page will discuss spoilers for the movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet and you want to figure it out for yourself [which is much of the enjoyment] you can read the spoiler-free review, or you could just go off and see the movie first, not giving a toss about what I think. Alternately, you could check out some pics of sexy sexy Ravishing Rick Rude, or browse poodle grooming videos. With today’s internet, the options are endless!

So by the end of the movie, we have learned that all the flashbacks to Lousie’s child are actually flash-forwards, and that everything we’re seeing in them actually hasn’t happened yet. And then we see that she’s going to marry and have the baby with Jeremy Renner [making this the year’s most out-of-this-world romantic comedy!], and that she knows that he’s going to leave her not long into their marriage, because she tells him their child is going to die. So I like the poignancy that, even knowing that the marriage is going to end and her daughter will die, she chooses to go through with it anyway and have the experience, even though it’ll end poorly. This whole angle is my favorite thing about the movie.

I could do without the idea that the man fucks off because why invest all that time if she’s going to die, although the movie sets up enough that it seems like a character choice. What I don’t appreciate is the basic, Oprah-level-feminism idea that all children need is a mother, and men provide nothing whatsoever to children except the sperm to get them started.

Looking back, however, one notices that Adams’ performance is… a bit one-note. Even during the movie, I was wondering: “Doesn’t she think it’s strange to be having all of these vivid memories?” Once we learn that they’re actually from the future, it seems even more odd that she doesn’t seem fazed by them; You’re having all these vivid thoughts about a child you never had, and you don’t think that’s odd? I was surprised she didn’t ask Renner if he was also having strange thoughts. She just kind of doesn’t react, or rather, she projects a generic “concern” that works well enough, but in retrospect seems inappropriate to the situation as we come to understand it.

Also… does this live-life-despite-the-consequences attitude she has COME from her experience with the aliens? There’s no reason to think that it does, and I guess it doesn’t have to, but it sure would make the movie a bit more rich and resonant, and give the events of the film a larger significance on a personal level.

Ultimately, this will continue to get good notices and might win an Oscar or two—especially given the lameness of this year so far—but I doubt it’s going to have much lasting impact or be many people’s favorite movie. But as DeBarge once so sagely observed: time will reveal.


3 thoughts on “Arrival: Spoiler Discussion

  1. Was she psychic before she came in contact with the alien pod or did they activate that “weapon” in her? Remember when they told her to use her “weapon”. It turned out her gift of sight was that weapon, right?


    • Not sure about the sight thing, as my hearing is slowly going and Adams whispered the entire role… but I don’t think she was psychic, before or after. They said the nature of the alien’s language allowed for speakers to see the future [not sure how that works, but it contains past, present and future tense at once], so she saw the future JUST be learning their language. That was my understanding, at least.


      • Mine too. Much like communication through mah jongg was posited to condition the learner’s mind to perceive things through a competitive lens, the aliens’ language reshaped her experience of time away from our linear fashion. “Weapon” was considered a possible mistranslation of “tool” in the film; it was *her* tool because she was the most immersed in their language.

        I was wondering though whether Louise might be … not psychic, but a little on her own wavelength. There’s the moment early on in her visions when she quickly “sees” a heptopod in the corner of the room she’s having a one-on-one with Ian in: sleep deprivation hallucination? visualization of what’s stressing her? proof she’s unhinged? Before the alien contact, she’s definitely a little off-kilter with other people, as with her disinterest while heading to class in whatever the students are flocking to, and her not-very-empathetic phone chat with her mom. In the end I took her who never fully developed socially because of her heady immersion into linguistics. Her intellectual pursuits have her accepting the job with minimal emotional engagement; the fear of imminent death upon first entry sparks her emotions at the most primal level; the need to put herself in another person’s headspace *before* linguistics can enter the picture opens her further. Maybe not wide enough at first to share vivid yet disturbingly context-free and intrusive “memories” with friend-of-four-weeks Ian, but ….


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