This will be a short post, and I’ll endeavour to make it as painless as possible. Yesterday, as some of you might have heard, I watched the sci-fi drama Arrival at the Burwood cinemas. I went there with a friend on a rather humid day. We were tossing between Fantastic Beasts and the former, which stars Amy Adams and Forrest Whitaker. Both had stellar reviews. I told mi amigo that there are lots of action adventure productions, so we picked Arrival. Theme alert: my friend and I have seen a sci-fi type movie at the cinemas for at least the last three years (Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian).
A formidable cast
Boy were we wrong. I guessed from the trailer that this was to be a slow film, and I wasn’t mistaken. A neo noir thriller, the story revolves around 12 alien shells who’ve docked on various sites on earth. Officials of the hosts are having ants in the pants trying to figure out this mess. Amy Adams is one of those tasked with communicating with the unwanted arrivals, together with the scientist Jeremy Renner. Meanwhile, Whitaker is the no-nonsense army colonel who mostly oversees their progress. It was dialogue heavy, and the stunning cinematography I imagined was not there. The picture just dragged on and on that I kept zoning out like Walter Mitty. The theatre per se was a window into this mess. The regular session had maybe 20 people watching, and a HIGH SCHOOL couple were talking incessantly. ‘Could you keep quiet’, someone said. You never know, maybe those school kids owned the cinema.
‘Language is the foundation of every civilisation’, said Adams’ character in the snoozer. Not surprisingly, the film tries hard to be immersed in signs, language and connections. However, the plot was banal and repetitive. It was pretty much just going back to the shell for another day of fruitless deciphering. Some outlets have interpreted this as ‘questions about fate, loss and the meaning of love’. I see warring governments and presumptuous US leaders, who would never listen to poor Adams, in spite of her mastery of semiotics. There is a scene in the movie where Adams’ character speaks Chinese. My Asian Australian friend didn’t understand her, saying that ‘was really bad, but you could see that she’s doing her best’. That pretty much captures the essence of Arrival. It’s a heavy movie that huffs and puffs, but won’t blow away any three patrons. No wonder they can’t break even on their $47 million budget.
Meanwhile, this is a learning experience for me. Great reviews don’t mean great movies; less sessions after the first week mean unwanted movies. This is the worst movie I’ve seen all year, almost as bad and cumbersome as the last joke, Age of Ultron (2015). I regret not going for Nocturnal Animals lol
**/5 (given begrudgingly)