‘Arrival’ Is Smart, Stylish Sci-Fi About Language, Not Laser Beams

The premise sounds quite interesting. Realistically I doubt I’ll have the chance to see a movie until Christmas, but this is something to look forward to.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-5-06-49-pmSo it’s time to move onto written language, and the most thrilling elements of the film are the geekiest ones: when Louise gets to explain what she’s trying to teach the aliens and why. To broach the essential topic (“What is your purpose on Earth?”) she needs to make sure they can understand and communicate concepts like pronouns, questions, and locations. She has to decipher their own chicken scratch, which is a cross between a Rorschach blob and a coffee ring. And she has to make all necessary progress before the Chinese get too antsy and declare war on the foreign entities. Along for the ride is a physicist (Jeremy Renner) who gently ribs Louise about the building blocks of the society they are now fighting to preserve: “Language isn’t the backbone of civilization,” he tells her. “Science is.” Or maybe, to an outsider’s eyes, they’re one and the same. —NPR

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