Arrival (movie)

Friday, November 18th, 2016 10:25 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
If you're considering seeing the movie Arrival, and you HAVEN'T read the story it's based on (Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life"), I would strongly recommend you keep it that way until after you've seen the movie. Because I've read the story and it definitely got in the way—I mean, I can't guarantee the movie would have attained cohesiveness if I hadn't, but it's getting very good reviews, so I think more likely, at least.

I'm glad it exists as an example of successful smaller-scale prestige SF, and I'm glad I saw it, but more to be up on the conversation than because it really worked for me.

SPOILERS, all the spoilers, both for story and movie.

I realize if you're not making a short film you need more plot, but I have an almost complete inability to comprehend time travel-adjacent plots and I have no idea, none whatsoever, what the hell was supposed to be happening with the Chinese general subplot.

It's a little bit cheating to not age Louise up at all in the scenes of her daughter's death, making it easier for the audience to mistake those for past memories. Also I don't think it was a good choice to change it from an accident to a rare illness, or to have her tell the father after the daughter (here named Hannah) was born (edit rest of this paragraph on rereading), or to have Louise ask the father whether he'd change anything if he knew his whole life from beginning to end, because these raise questions of consent and free will that the story views as impossible and therefore irrelevant, and implies that her choice was "worth it," something she specifically says she doesn't know in the story ("But am I working toward an extreme of joy, or of pain? Will I achieve a minimum, or a maximum?"). Wow, those are much bigger changes than I realized, and much more conventionally sentimental.

Regrettably, when the heptapods are first shown, all I could think was "Yip-yip-yip-yip." (Giving them a head-analogue toward the end was a mistake, as was having her in their atmosphere, it was needlessly mystical and also logistically ridiculous.)

Chad pointed out that he liked the heptapods better with entirely inscrutable motivations, which I think I agree with.

Ugh, I don't know, I thought it was blazing hot in the theater and Chad didn't, which is so exactly the reverse of our usual reactions that I may be having new and excitingly different symptoms in my cold, so I'm going to find some Tylenol and fall into bed. So this is far from useful but tomorrow is going to be ridiculously busy so I figured a few impressions now were better than nothing.

Oh, trailers, super-quick:

Allied: oh, look, Brad Pitt gets to angst over whether Marion Cotillard is secretly evil and whether he needs to kill her. Pass.

Nocturnal Animals: I have literally no idea what this is about.

Split: the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next movie is so stunningly offensive that I'm not linking to it or describing it.

Beauty and the Beast: why. Why does this exist.

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 04:42 am (UTC)
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Nocturnal Animals: I have literally no idea what this is about.

Reviews suggest revenge metafiction. I liked Ford's previous film, A Single Man (2009), so much that I have been considering Nocturnal Animals even though its subject matter does not look as intrinsically interesting to me.

Split: the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next movie is so stunningly offensive that I'm not linking to it or describing it.

Why do people keep giving him money for movies?

Beauty and the Beast: why. Why does this exist.

I don't know. I truly don't. It is even more of a mystery than M. Night Shyamalan.

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 05:09 am (UTC)
jhameia: ME! (Default)
From: [personal profile] jhameia
I got to attend a special preview screening of Arrival with a Q&A with Ted afterwards and we asked him about the de-aging of the daughter, and the apparent fact is that they did that so they wouldn't have to deal with the cosmetic challenge of aging up Amy Adams.

Had the opposite reaction to you re: the aliens... I thought they looked like Cthulhu, haha. But I really liked the way they did the language!

But I also watched the movie during a peak of depression, and found it really uplifting in that headspace. Gonna watch it again with some other friends on Tuesday so we'll see how I feel about it then!

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 06:08 am (UTC)
likeadeuce: (Default)
From: [personal profile] likeadeuce
oh my god that Split trailer. I can't believe MNS still makes any movies, much less one as godawful-on-every-level looking as that. Make better choices, James McAvoy.

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 07:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought the Chinese general subplot was to nail down and make double sure the audience understand that Louise is having memories of the future. It didn't work. I have read reviews that completely didn't get it.

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 09:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, those are much bigger changes than I realized, and much more conventionally sentimental.

Yeah, that is basically my reaction. It all stems from the film's inability (unwillingness?) to accept the story's conclusion, that knowing the future deprives Louise of free will. That's not something Hollywood can accept, so she has to have both traits. Hence the change in how the daughter died - in the story, she dies in an accident that Louise could easily prevent, but won't because the fact that she knows about it makes her incapable of acting on that knowledge. In the story, dying of a disease is something Louise can't prevent except by not having a child at all, so her choice to have Hannah becomes brave in the very sentimental way that you identify.

Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 12:18 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I read Story of Your Life so long ago, that apart from there being aliens and a child who died, I could not remember specifics. So it didn't get in the way, exactly, yet I did find myself going "huh" in the last quarter and trying to figure out how far off the story the film had gone.

That she wouldn't tell Ian (in the film) about Hannah's death until long after she was born seemed, well, not fair. Yet seems to paint her (in the film) as someone who embraces what life offers while he does not. I also didn't really get her being able to see the future just from learning their languageā€”is that what the film was saying?

I need to reread the story.

But I'm glad I saw the film. I think they didn't land the ending, but I did more or less enjoy it. A bit bored at the very beginning but then quite engaged. My son who never read the story liked it but thought they lost the plot when it came to the ending.

Date: Sunday, November 20th, 2016 09:50 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
I liked the film a lot, and I got the time travel bit (though as a linguist by training, the use of the Sapir-Whorf theory makes me mildly cranky). I haven't read the source text.

Date: Sunday, November 20th, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
We went, based on months of speculation on Language Log and their ultimate positive review. We liked it, didn't find anything really confusing, and agree about the consent problem of not giving Ian full information before making their daughter.
I was disappointed that we only got to see her office briefly, with no close-ups on the books or furnishings. We had read a blog entry about the fact that the office was copied almost item-by-item from a real linguist's office, down to the fact that she has a ruler on her desk.

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