Jan 18, 2021
On the podcast this week, Steven and Sean are making friends with a couple of giant squid aliens from outer space in the 2016 film from Denis Villeneuve, Arrival.
Now this is the sort of sci-fi we can get behind! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of fun to be had with your various Stars, both Wars and Trek, but those are so fantastical that it’s nearly impossible to find anything real in them to latch onto. Granted, giant, Pringles-shaped alien crafts filled with the aforementioned squid beings aren’t any easier to relate to, but there’s still so much reality happening outside those ships in this film.
With this one, we get to follow the journey of real people, with real lives. Heck, one of the characters is a university teacher. Doesn’t get much more real than that.
It becomes less “science fiction” and more of just a story about a woman learning a new language, and one that alters her understanding of time. Also, there just so happens to be aliens. This is a dazzling film, with big ideas and a huge heart at the center of its story. Still, it almost feels like what happens to Louise, Ian, Colonel Weber, and the rest of the planet could actually happen to you and me. Sure, it’d be the most remarkable, mind-breaking event to ever take place, but maybe it could actually happen.
Would we learn to speak the nigh inscrutable alien circle language with the seeming ease and expertise that Louise exhibits? Maybe yes, maybe no. Would learning such a language allow us to see both the present and the future concurrently? That’s a bit harder to agree with. Would certain nations in the world completely overreact to the presence of alien beings and try to destroy them out of ignorance and fear? Oh, most definitely. There will always be awful humans.
What we can say with great certainty is that this film is worth your time. It’s got an amazing story that invites deep thought and extended debate, as shown in this episode. The sound design is captivating, lush, and booming. The cinematography is staggering in its ability to depict these towering alien creatures and also echo the turmoil inside Louise. This is a must-see film, made by one of the greatest living directors.
(Recorded on November 30, 2020)
Links to Stuff We Mentioned: