38 thoughts on “Spoilers Ahead: Open Discussion of the Movie Arrival

  1. Yep, saw it a week ago.

    I really liked the cinematography, the luminous shots on face in the dark really sold me. The direction and depiction really worked well for the most part for me.

    Not so sure about how the meta-problem (one not in the story) gets resolved with just one quick phone call. That felt really like “We need to wrap up that problem and so it gets wrapped up”.

  2. I liked it a lot but not half as much as Ted Chiang’s story. I was relieved that the focus was kept on a woman scientist—including both her professional and personal (but not romantic) life. Her point of view wasn’t sidelined, at least not too much. There was the inexplicable decision to give Jeremy Renner the mid-movie voiceover that explains everything. The visuals were gorgeous.

    On the other hand, the film wasn’t able or didn’t choose to convey the real philosophical point of the story and skipped the physics altogether. Some of that may be because Chiang used story structure, tenses, and unnamed characters in a way that perhaps can’t be done on film. Flashbacks/flashforwards just aren’t the same. I also thought bringing in all the geopolitical stuff was unnecessary and brought in a different “moral” so to speak that confused the original one about choice, fate, and linear and nonlinear time.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t watch adaptations!

  3. I loved that long tracking shot with the helicopter, and the fog spilling down the mountain. Just gorgeous.

    I haven’t read the story, so I admit at first I didn’t realize she was having future flashbacks, not past flashbacks. To me, the most important question of the entire film was “If you knew what your life was going to be, would you choose to live it anyway.” (Although that got a little thorny to me–it seems to me if she knew when the daughter who dies would be conceived, she could keep using birth control and not conceive at that time, and have a different child later. But I guess that ties in with the question of free will, and whether or not, once she began to comprehend time as the aliens did, that meant that her future fate was sealed.)

    Anyway, damn straight. This is the best SF film I’ve seen in a long time.

  4. Agreeing with everybody about the gloriousness of the cinematography.

    I had not read the story before seeing the film (and when I did read it, shortly thereafter, was less than impressed by it) . I posted about it on my FB and I think in Dreamwidth, but do not think I posted here….but I may be spacing out (grading brain).

    @Bonnnie: But I guess that ties in with the question of free will, and whether or not, once she began to comprehend time as the aliens did, that meant that her future fate was sealed.)

    As far as I understand it, the story pretty explicitly lays out (that is, she explains!) that she could have chosen differently, but the more she came to understand the future the more she understood that those who do choose (freely) so as not to change it…I’m not sure I quite buy that explanation (and I probably need to read the story again).

    One major change in the film was the cause of her daughter’s death: in the film, it’s cancer (or some wasting disease, but I’m fairly sure it’s cancer). In the story, it’s a rock climbing accident. One friend of mine who loves the story so much (a number of my friends do) thought that was a bad change because it would be so easy to block a climbing trip and save the daughter as opposed to cancer. I’m not sure I agree, but I need to see the film again, and read the story again, and think more about it (it’s veering close to the sort of circular issues that make me usually dislike time travel stories–i.e. how concrete the timeline is, whether small changes can change the major historical events, etc.).

    I love the film, but don’t have any strong response to the story (seemed flat in terms of affect–possibly explained as a friend of mine argued by the narrator’s sense of loss). The story was weighted with detail (I liked all the linguistics stuff, but really lectures/datadumps can only be done so much in film, and I thought they made some fantastic choices for the film–I loved it when Louise started erasing his equations, and Ian said, not the top, and she wrote out the question (What is your purpose) that the military/political powers that be want answered, and explained that no, it wasn’t a simple suggestion. I am not a linguist, but I have a few courses in sociolinguistics and in stylistics and hang out with linguists in my department, so I was cheering madly at the foregrounding of the linguist (she even got the central BIG FIGURE placement over the ship, the physicist, and the military dude, GO HER!). I thought the acting was great (what can I say, I really like Renner!).

    I was taken in at the start which I think was intentional on the filmmaker’s part: I thought the story of her daughter’s life and death predated the alien arrival, though she did seem so young–I’m trying to remember now when it clicked, when I realized it wasn’t flashbacks but flashforwards–which “cut” between the present and the future tipped me off.

    I thought the portrayal of the aliens in the film was SOOOO much better than the description in the story (which, again, seemed flat and too low-key for OMG FIRST CONTACT ALIENS YAY)–and the way they filmed the written language was so beautiful.

    Some of my different response is because I am rarely that impressed with short stories — the only writer whose short stories routinely blow me away is Tiptree. And also, since I knew the big reveal going into the story, it lost that impact as well. But I also think it’s because I have been so fantastically impressed by N. K. Jemisin’s use of second person narration in her earlier work and especially in TFS that the use in the short story seemed a bit pedestrian.

    But I am so glad for a first contact film (and story) that focuses on the difficulties of communication which I think is something overlooked/bracketed aside/ignored in the vast majority of science fiction (the exceptions being Cheryh’s sf, Elgin’s NATIVE TONGUE–am not sure I can think of any others). (And damnit, ST:TNG, “Shaka when the Walls fell.” is a forcryingoutloud ALLUSION, not a metaphor–why, yes, I am still fuming about that, why do you ask).

  5. @Amina: There was the inexplicable decision to give Jeremy Renner the mid-movie voiceover that explains everything.

    I liked that bit because I read it as showing how interested in her he was while she was relatively uninterested in him, focusing so much more on the language and alien communication issues!

  6. @amina @robinareid And yet, the movie avoids the easy trap of putting him in the lead and making him the hero. He starts off “I am SCIENCE!” but quickly realizes she has the best strategy and moves to support her efforts afterwards.

    But even though I knew going on about the reveal, it was done so subtly, with the child making a clay model of a heptapod as the final piece of the puzzle, that I was glad it went with that light tough for the viewer rather than something more obvious.

  7. Also, the pacing of the flashforwards, and the cuts and cinematography, did a very good job of illustrating just how Louise’s brain was being rewired by the alien language. All kudos to the director for that–I’m sure many readers of the story would have considered that unfilmable.

    Yeah, I’ll have to buy the Blu-Ray for this one. It’s a keeper.

  8. @Paul: And yet, the movie avoids the easy trap of putting him in the lead and making him the hero Yep! And that was one of the best parts.

    Yes–seeing the clay model was a major moment for me too (I missed the significance of her drawing of “mommy and daddy talk to beasts”)

  9. @Amina: Perhaps I shouldn’t watch adaptations!

    It’s complicated! Some adaptations do aim for a faithful rendering of the source text (I’d say the first HARRY POTTER did that, and was a weaker film for it); others aim for the “spirit” (understanding that the shift to a visual instead of text media requires different narrative strategies). Still others don’t give a darn and just take off from the source to create their own meaning. Film studies talks about four different types of assumptions of what an adaptation should do. The assumptions are held both by filmmakers and by viewers and critics which explains in part why there can be such wildly different responses to a film. The four assumptions are: translation (assumes the novel is the primary text and the goal of a film is to be faithful to the source text); pluralist (also assumes novel is important but allows for the film to focus on creating the spirit/theme, not requiring complete faithfulness); transformation (assuming the film is the primary text with the novel or other source being only the inspiration) and materialist (assuming an equality of sorts, i.e. that both texts are products of their time/period and will thus be different, but not assuming one is superior/best).

    There are some things I won’t see adaptations of no matter what (though I loved some of the actors involved, I did not and will not see BELOVED because I so love the narrative voice in that novel, and don’t think a film can do anything but lose it). In other cases, despite the differences, I love both novel and film (LOTR for example–love ’em both , and can happily enjoy both sometimes in close conjunction without dissonance). And on occasion, shocking as it is for an English teacher to say, I love the film more (I actually love much of Jackson’s HOBBIT more than much of Tolkien’s book which I consider much weaker–heck, first novel!–than LOTR), and in the case of ARRIVAL, yep, loved the film,and rather underwhelmed by the story (which I read afterwards). So it all depends. But I agree that some stories are so important to a person that a film can never do justice to the source.

  10. Bonnie: Also, the pacing of the flashforwards, and the cuts and cinematography, did a very good job of illustrating just how Louise’s brain was being rewired by the alien language.

    Oooo, yes, excellent point!

    Must.see.again.

  11. Loved it.

    My two quibbles:

    1. They had full environmental suits for expeditions to the alien ship… with the bottoms of their trousers open?

    2. Was a bit too easy for me that the satellite phone was able to call any number worldwide. Given the high security in place, I would have expected that the phones could only call numbers from a small, approved list.

  12. Have seen the movie, have yet to read the story (but it’s on my wishlist), and after reading the discussion here I’m feeling a bit slow. I did catch on that some of what she was dreaming was future-sight, but I never did figure out that her daughter’s life and death were not in the past — I caught some hint of that at the very end, but it just confused me at the time.

    Donnell’s claim that science rather than language is the cornerstone of civilization is just flat-out wrong. The development of language and time-binding long predates the development of science; even a charitable interpretation (i.e. that he’s talking about the desire to understand the world as “science”) depends on having language available to pass along what you’ve learned! But I’m willing to write that off as story shorthand for dicksizing, and he figures out pretty fast who’s going to be the one to actually solve the problem.

    How many languages does Dr. Banks actually speak? Farsi, Sanskrit, and Mandarin are given as canonical; it’s probably safe to assume classical Greek and Latin as well. Is it common for professional linguists to be heavily polyglot? Or should we assume that Dr. Banks is an outlier even in the ranks of her profession — what the writer of these stories calls a “supernary”, someone whose natural abilities can, with training, come close to being the equivalent of a superpower?

    Did anybody else catch exactly what kind of disease the daughter has/will have? It went by very quickly in that one scene, and I didn’t get enough to be able to parse it out.

  13. @Lee

    I don’t think it was actually stated in the movie, but many of us are thinking it was cancer because of the daughter’s bald head in the death scene.

    Also, when Louise was having the “I know why my husband left me” flashforward, if I’m remembering correctly, I thought she mentioned something “genetic.”

  14. robinareid on November 25, 2016 at 7:49 pm said:
    Bonnie: Also, the pacing of the flashforwards, and the cuts and cinematography, did a very good job of illustrating just how Louise’s brain was being rewired by the alien language.

    Oooo, yes, excellent point!

    Must.see.again.

    Here is where the written version was vastly superior. Flashforwards occurring at different, increasingly frequent, moments during the period when she’s studying the alien language convey a much weaker and less consistent idea of time and causality than what Chiang manages by intercutting memories of past and future while keeping the position in time of the protagonist/narrator vague. The point, as I understood it, is that you can only see the future by stepping outside a linear causal perspective, which means it isn’t really the future and so you wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything to change it. However, I am grateful that Arrival didn’t do the barrage of images and events that seems to be the movie shorthand for seeing past and future at once.

    On adaptations: I suppose that appealing to fans of the original source must be a consideration of greater or lesser weight in different cases. Personally, I only bothered to see this because it was based on a story I loved. (Otherwise, Amy Adams’ and Jeremy Renner’s milquetoast blandness would have put me off.) I’m sure that’s true of only a miniscule portion of Arrival’s audience. But I remember watching the first Harry Potter film and seeing all the little children carrying their copies of the book, dressed up as characters, and oohing and calling out whenever their favorite book bit turned up on screen. I can see why fidelity was useful to the first HP film if it was to ride the enormous popularity of the books rather than alienating all those fans.

  15. What is the most accessible way to read Chiang’s story? Is it available as a standalone e-book?

    One of my Sprogs pointed out that the Heptapod script — especially in the wall-o-text — reminds them of Gallifreyan. Is that something in the story? Or is it new to the movie?

    I have to agree with the buzz I’ve seen from other Filers: this is an incredibly science fictional movie, because it’s about ideas more than spectacle. Especially, it has that moment of conceptual breakthrough, when your understanding of what’s going on suddenly *FLIPS* and you realize Louise isn’t having flash-BACKS about her daughter, but flash-FORWARDS.

    Sprog the Younger is a linguistics major, and was DEEPLY satisfied. We talked about how strong Sapir-Whorf has been almost completely rejected by linguists, but SF can’t let it go, it’s just too good a story.

    Was I the only one who caught an anti-abortion whiff from Louise’s decisions?

  16. We also all thought that for a movie about language and communication, it would have been nice if we could understand more of everyone’s lines, especially the Colonel’s.

  17. I made a point of not rereading Chiang’s story, most of the details of which I’d forgotten, before seeing the film, because a movie has to work on its own terms, and because I didn’t want to be mentally comparing the film to the short story while watching it. What works in written fiction may not work at all on the screen.**
    I don’t think the film offers any evidence that being able to experience time in nonlinear fashion allows you to change what’s going to happen. The heptapods come to Earth to help us because three thousand years from now they’re going to need our help. Abbot either dies or is dying because of its actions to save Banks and Donnelly from the bomb – an event the heptapods obviously knew was going to take place. Banks knows what to say to the Chinese premier because he repeats those words to her when they meet in person. When Louise tells Hannah that her father’s leaving was Louise’s fault, she refers to an “unstoppable” illness. I think that was a very deliberate word choice. So while in Chiang’s story the heptapods may be making a decision to not alter the course of events (I haven’t had the chance to reread it yet), I don’t think the film suggests any such thing is possible.

    @Doctor Science: for the above reasons, my answer is no. I think the question the film wants to answer in the end is not “Would you have a child knowing that she’s going to die?” but “Was Hannah’s life worth living?”, which is a very different question.

    **Personal calibration – best adaptations of a novel to film: a tie between Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring and Philip Noyce’s The Quiet American.

  18. @robinareid: “One major change in the film was the cause of her daughter’s death: in the film, it’s cancer (or some wasting disease, but I’m fairly sure it’s cancer). In the story, it’s a rock climbing accident. One friend of mine who loves the story so much (a number of my friends do) thought that was a bad change because it would be so easy to block a climbing trip and save the daughter as opposed to cancer. “

    In the film, the dialogue clarifies that it’s an incurable genetic disease. I think this is fairly significant in clarifying the stakes toward the end, because it means that having the daughter at all and seeing the daughter die are a package deal: if she exists, this will happen. (It’s also a practical screenwriting decision: the daughter couldn’t live into adulthood as she does in the story, because Amy Adams would have to have a noticeable age difference in the “flashbacks”; and if the daughter dies young in an accident, that reads as potentially being the parents’ fault—or at least being all about one single fatal moment when the parents were probably present—in a way that the climbing accident wouldn’t, which would be a much bigger change to the impact of the “flashbacks”.)

    I don’t really understand your friend’s reasoning, unless your friend thinks that the best thing about the story was that it raised questions about free will and whether or not the future can be changed. If so, I strongly disagree, because 1. virtually every time-travel-related story does that, and 2. it’s very hard for me to imagine a film (as opposed to a story that you can read at any pace) providing adequate space to explore those ideas while still maintaining the emotional impact of Chiang’s story.

    Ultimately I don’t think Chiang was really trying to explore those questions, either; he basically sidesteps them by proposing that the ability to perceive non-linear time automatically comes with a perfect equanimity that means the person will never be interested in changing any events. It’s pointless to debate whether that holds up logically, it’s just the way it is for the purpose of this story, because he wants us to imagine that point of view and what it might feel like. And his main tool in doing so isn’t actually the character’s explicit description of it at the end; it’s the way he’s constructed the experience of reading the whole story— because as soon as you’ve done so, if you enjoyed that experience, you now have the option of reading it again in a different context, or deciding not to do so because you don’t think it would hold up without the element of surprise. And I think the filmmakers understood that, and captured that effect well.

  19. @Doctor Science: “the Heptapod script — especially in the wall-o-text — reminds them of Gallifreyan. Is that something in the story?”

    Not sure which part you mean by “that”. It’s not described in great detail, but the important aspects of the script being 1. unrelated to the spoken language, 2. not really having a notion of word order, and 3. constructed by adding visual branches in such an elaborately composed way that you would have to know everything you were going to say before you started writing, are in the story. (The idea that they are making the marks by aiming clouds of squid ink that all coalesce at once is specific to the movie; I think that’s a pretty clever way to suggest #3 visually, sort of using the physical difficulty of doing anything so perfectly synchronized as a metaphor for the mental difficulty.)

    We talked about how strong Sapir-Whorf has been almost completely rejected by linguists

    I think that’s a total red herring, at least as far as this movie and story are concerned. Hypotheses about human languages can be tested by observation of actual human behavior, but that’s not really what this story is about at all— Louise is training her brain to do something no human has ever done, something that’s not really “language” in the sense that we understand it.

    In which case, why is there a mention of Sapir-Whorf at all? Because it’s a brief, easily understood way to introduce the general idea of alternate modes of thought. I’m fine with rhetorical shortcuts like that.

  20. @Doctor Science: not so much specifically circular— IIRC, the description in the story is kind of vague but describes a lot of spiraly branching structures— but it’s the same general idea about not having a linear ordering, and requiring what would seem like an impossible amount of pre-planning to balance all these elements visually in a limited amount of space.

  21. I was interested to see, in this David Bordwell essay analyzing the movie’s narrative structure, that Bordwell apparently read the story very differently than I did: he sees the occasional use of future tense within the “flashback” sections, very early in the story, as clear cues that Chiang meant for us to know about Louise’s future perception all along.

    I think that that’s a misreading—possibly one he made because he’d already seen the film and was looking for such cues—and that the intended effect for a fresh reader was simply that Louise is reminiscing about a number of different periods in her daughter’s life in a loose present-tense style, and sometimes uses the future tense just to indicate that she’s skipping further ahead in her recollections. That is, I think in prose fiction the present tense is inherently slippery, and readers are accustomed enough to seeing this kind of slippery grammar that “I remember … you’ll do such-and-such” does not really carry a strong connotation of time-travel shenanigans in a story that has not yet provided any other hints of those. I mean, even in ordinary conversation, if I’m telling someone the story of what happened to me last weekend and I choose to do it in present tense, I can easily end up saying things like “I set the cake down on the chair, where, as it happens, Mike is going to sit on it in a minute” and it doesn’t mean I was precognitive.

    But I’m curious as to whether anyone else had a similar impression on first reading. I see that @Bonnie above, on seeing the movie without the story, seems to have assumed that we were supposed to have understood about the flash-forwards early on, since she says “I admit at first I didn’t realize”… but to me, the effect of the story is exactly as she says: you really don’t have any reason to see them as anything other than flashbacks until pretty close to the end, because Ted Chiang is very sly.

  22. @Amina: Here is where the written version was vastly superior.

    *Shrugs* I plan to see the film again and read the story again, but I did not find the story at all superior to the film in any way–so my personal mileager varies quite a lot from yours.

    @Doctor Science: Sprog the Younger is a linguistics major, and was DEEPLY satisfied. We talked about how strong Sapir-Whorf has been almost completely rejected by linguists, but SF can’t let it go, it’s just too good a story.

    I know the strong Sapir-Whorf is not accepted by linguists, and I know why, but I am a huge fan of it as a metaphor for difficulties human beings have communicating. So I love it–and I love Elgin’s NT, and I love this film, for the elegant use of that metaphor.

    @Eli: In the film, the dialogue clarifies that it’s an incurable genetic disease. I missed that entirely. But then I notice a whole lot of film and tv shows these days (AGENTS OF SHIELD I am LOOKING at you) seem to have an imbalance of background music and the dialogue tracks so that I have trouble distinguishing dialogue more often than I’d like (it could also be my hearing, sigh, and I should probably look into getting tested).

  23. @robinreid

    Reduced ability to separate foreground sounds from background is quite common. Something my parents struggle with when watching TV.

    Saw Arrival this afternoon, really enjoyed it. Lovely cinematography, though frequent use of shallow depth of field had me fiddling with my contacts at times.

    Picked up on the possibility that non-linear time was in play before it was confirmed, not sure why exactly. I think it was the unseen science father that I correctly linked to Ian, that made me think of the DS9 Prophets and mutter “ah, she’s the emissary”

    Also couldn’t help but think of a Douglas Adams quote on seeing the Shells for the first time, as it “hung in the air the same way that bricks don’t”

  24. @IanP: Picked up on the possibility that non-linear time was in play before it was confirmed, not sure why exactly

    They definitely dropped a lot of hints in the movie, much earlier than in the story. If I remember right, the “your father’s a scientist” dialogue is actually pretty far along in the movie, but it’s followed almost immediately by a much bigger hint in the form of the “non-zero-sum game” phrase being apparently passed from the present to the “flashback”, and then pretty soon after that there’s the kid making drawings and sculptures of the alien contact scenes. But quite early on there’s some dialogue about how the visual structure of the writing might mean the aliens have a different perception of time.

    In the story, Louise only comes up with the insight about the writing near the end, at which point she Gets It all at once (the daughter scenes have already been occurring all the way through the story, but that reads more as a retrospective editing decision by the narrator— they don’t seem to intrude on her awareness until the end). It’s a much more abrupt twist there, whereas the movie spends some time getting us ready for it.

    But I think the filmmakers calculated correctly how much of that kind of stuff they could set up without completely tipping their hand too early, since literally everyone I know who’s seen the movie without reading the story first says that they had assumed the daughter scenes were flashbacks throughout at least the first two-thirds of the movie.

  25. I’ll be there stupid guy here and admit that I didn’t realize that the “flashbacks” were “flashforwards” until later. I honestly thought Adams and Renner were just pretending not to know each other in their opening scene. My son, watching the movie, was much smarter than me. But I still thought it was awesome. I’ll have to watch it again.

  26. From the comments of my friends elsewhere on this movie, the most common theme seems to be “I’m going to see this again now that I know what’s going on.” (Obviously, this is from people who hadn’t previously read the story.) I really like how the viewer is offered two separate experiences–something not typically available from more…well…linear stories, even ones with carefully-preserved spoilers. I don’t think viewers should feel bad about not catching up with the flash-forward thing immediately–I was still working out all the implications while walking out of the theater. I think it was designed that way, and I love that sort of “makes you work to understand” story.

    As a linguist, I felt that topic was handled quite well, given the logistical context. (I.e., vast compression of the process was necessary.) Without having read the original text version of the story, I’m delighted at how well the visual medium presented the alien written language.

    My only quibbles (as discussed in detail in my non-spoilery review) were around gender representation, both numerically and thematically. And the information people have provided here about the text version of the daughter’s death only strengthens my qualms. Having the daughter die as a child of a medical issue (and if some people’s impressions are correct, of a genetically-related one) in my mind makes that event far more of a “traditionally feminized tragedy” than having an adult child die in an accident. Although, as noted above, there may be age-related logistical reasons for the shift, it was still a deliberate creative change that–for me–nudged the story into more stereotypically gendered territory.

  27. So I enjoyed! But, I think mostly because I had my expectations dialed down really really low.

    Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” is an absolute masterpiece. It takes several fascinating threads – first contact, science and linguistics, the mundane triumphs and tragedies of family – and weaves them all together, making them mirror each other. And with THAT, he creates a new, unique experience.

    “Arrival”… does not do that. What it does do, is a good adaptation of *some* of those fascinating threads. Not all of them, and absolutely not the amazing things Chiang’s story constructs out of them.

    It also has a heck of a lot of plot holes, groaners, and schmaltz. Gripes ahoy:

    —-

    The most absurd thing was this: that the aliens’ “gift” is not only the ability to see the future, but to change the future. In ways that make no sense, and are portrayed in ways that make even LESS sense.

    In the original story, there was this marvelous ambiguity about everything – where the narrator’s actions seem *influenced* by what she knows of the future, by the way she sees the world, but they *also* work perfectly if everything were normal. Her anxiety about mountain-climbing, which fuels her daughter’s enthusiasm for it, is a natural and almost stereotypical dynamic — but takes on new meaning when you know SHE knows her daughter’s going to get killed mountain-climbing, so *of course* she’s anxious.

    “Arrival” does exactly the opposite. She gets to save the day because FUTURE FLASHBACK tells her exactly how to save the day. Knowing things she’d otherwise have no way of knowing.

    OK, fair enough. But the oh-so-convenient flashforward to Sheng telling her everything she needs to know is just dumb. If she’s going to flash forward to anything, how about flashing forward just *two minutes in time,* and seeing what number she dials and what she says? GAH.

    And if this *is* how “future flashbacks” are meant to work, then the entire first contact setup makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. We should have gotten no riot-inducing aliens, just a message sent to the personal cellphones of Earth’s greatest influencers, going:

    “Hi, our future selves have dictated to us how to produce the YouTube video you need, here’s a link to a 40-hour tutorial entitled ‘How To Speak Heptapod.’ PLEASE RT”

    This is *exactly* the kind of absurdity that Chiang managed to sidestep so elegantly – and even to making the act of sidestepping poignant and meaningful.

    More than anything else, for me, this film is a *great* reminder to go back and reread the story.

  28. @Standback: See my comment above – I don’t think the film offers any evidence that being able to experience time nonlinearly allows you to change the future, any more than it allows you to change the past.

  29. I agree that I don’t think the movie and the story fundamentally contradict each other. They changed the story to make it more cinematic, to raise the visual dramatic stakes, but IMO both the movie and the story can be read with the view that things happened that particular way because they were always going to happen that way, and what the alien language strips away is merely the illusion of free will in the matter of it happening.

  30. Finally saw the movie. I liked it, the cinematography, the way the flashbacks were handled and the potrayal of the political stuff. On the linguistic side, I think they should have spent more time going over the complexity of communication. Also, in the story she figures out what’s going on herself, I hated the movie scene where the alien tells her she can see the future- how does he even have a word for future if they don’t have a concept of linear time?

  31. Just saw it. I haven’t read the Ted Chiang story.
    I was very impressed – but I didn’t catch the exchange near the start about Sanskrit etc.

    The initial sequence featuring the daughter dying made a bit cynical about the film initially – seemed to close to a kind of fridging to give the main character depth. Very well played on reflection – not just subverting a movie trope but exploiting it to make us not notice the trick being played.

    The second brief disappointment was the anecdote about the meaning of ‘kangaroo’. Totally not true and very disappointed that ‘linguistic’ would think it was…and then she points out the story is complete baloney 🙂 I should have guessed then that the movie was not just smart but a several steps ahead of its audience.

    The daughter’s inevitable death: very Billy Pilgrim ‘so it goes’. By the time she chooses to set herself down the path that will lead to her daughter dying, she already knows and loves her daughter and knows the joy and pain she will experience.

  32. I do not think the original story involved Louise literally experiencing flash forwards. I read it as her grieving her lost daughter but taking comfort in the “rewiring” of her brain that allowed her to view time as non-linear. The movie, to me, dumbed that concept down and turned it into a Sci-Fi cliche. The aliens in the story just left after giving a “gift” of technology that was already nearly developed anyway.

    I was very impressed with the acting and the visuals, though.

    Chiang’s story is beautiful; the movie is good.

Comments are closed.