Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Arrival


  This was another sci-fi flick I snagged earlier today on my continuing quest to watch a ton of good science fiction. Little did I know that like the previous movie I watched, Timescape, this too was written and directed by David Twohy. Once I found out, considering that Timescape was really good, and I'm also a fan of Twohy's Riddick movies, my expectations were set moderately high for The Arrival. It's basically a fairly off-beat alien invasion movie starring Charlie Sheen as a manic and paranoid astronomer who stumbles across a signal from outer space. Okay, so far- interesting. I was eager to see where the movie took me, and when all was said and done I certainly wasn't disappointed.

  It did a bunch of stuff that earned it brownie points with me personally. This might be a little spoileristic, you've been warned. First, they reveal the aliens by the end of the second act. There's no point in dragging things out in a movie like this. You, the viewer, know there's aliens. The protagonist knows there's aliens- and unless the movie is specifically trying to cast doubt on this, there's no point in hiding them from us until the very end. Because this usually means either they have no convincing looking aliens to show us in the first place, or the movie is pretentious as hell. Sometimes both. The Arrival isn't shy about showing off their aliens. There's a whole nerve wracking sequence in which Sheen's character discovers their base on Earth and their master plan. It's great stuff.

  The second thing that won major points with me was that the aliens were not good guys. I've seen so many movies like this that build up tension and suspense only to reveal that the aliens aren't invading at all, they're actually trying to help humanity. Screw that noise. I don't like being yanked around like that. It's a crappy twist and I say 'fuck off' to any movie that ever pulled that shit on me. I hate that 'twist'. It's such a cop out. The Arrival doesn't do that crap. The aliens are pretty much the bad guys. They're not the melodramatic invaders that you see in movies like Independence Day, no, these guys have more tact and strategy. They want Earth for themselves, so it does them no good to fire massive lasers at it and scorch the whole damn planet.

  Thus, this movie isn't a big action/adventure spectacle. It's a paranoia driven thriller like any one of the Body Snatcher movies. What sets The Arrival apart is it's unique designs for the aliens and their tech, and some surprisingly advanced special effects (for 1996 at least) that still hold up incredibly well. Not to mention some really intense scenes throughout the movie. Overall, the movie is nothing terribly special, but it's a smartly written and satisfyingly entertaining flick. It also manages to make good use of an environmentalist angle. Global warming? Nah, this is way worse. The movie spins it in a really haunting way that is thankfully organic to the movie and not shoehorned in. I hate last minute environmental messages that get tacked on to movies that don't need em.

  The Arrival uses it as it's jumping off point, and as a core concept. It's interesting and never more relevant than it is right now. If you want a 90's sci-fi thriller about aliens with some cool visuals and a fast pace, you could certainly do worse than The Arrival. It was a fun watch. Again, it's nothing overly special- and when I'm in the mood for alien invasions usually I reach for Independence Day or one of the Body Snatcher flicks- but it's nice to have another option on hand now. This is one I could see myself watching on a lazy Saturday some time down the road. I enjoyed the movie a lot and would easily recommend it to anyone hankering for some 90's sci-fi conspiracy thrills.

  It's certainly a damn sight better than all those Mars themed flicks that flooded theaters and video store shelves in the early 00's. Ugh. I don't think I'll ever quite wash Mission to Mars out of my mouth entirely. (Red Planet was alright though. Just saying) Anyways, I hope that my luck with sci-fi flicks persists. Final judgment on The Arrival? It gets a recommendation from me. Not a bad movie by any means. The acting is solid, if not a smidge melodramatic, but it works. It's also a little dated, a teensy bit predictable and a little too long- but those things didn't stop me from enjoying it. In fact, some of it even added to it's old school charm. It's ultimately a harmless, inoffensive thriller about aliens and stuff. Could've been a lot worse.

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