Received from a critic friend: “I saw Arrival (Paramount, 11.11) last night, and for the life of me I can’t understand why it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Well made, and the linguistics stuff is pretty interesting, but the plot is really confusing. There are holes you could drive a truck through. Like what happened to the two soldiers who put the bomb on the alien ship? There’s a shot of them pulling an arsenal of weaponry out of their truck, as if they’re about to have a major shootout with other members of the military, and then the whole thing is dropped. And the whole ‘military is ready to blast the aliens because they fear they might be hostile’ subplot is so cliche’d.
“What exactly was it that Amy Adams said to the Chinese leader — he says it was his wife’s final words — and why did that convince him to order his military to stand down? What was the gift the aliens gave humanity? The ability to see into the future? Or the past? Or both simultaneously? I honestly feel as if my head is about to explode. A real disappointment.”
Said this before: “Why would the super-intelligent, highly evolved Heptapods visit earth without a translation scheme or technology that would make their thoughts clearly understood to humans? Why even make the trip if the relationship between Heptapods and earthlings is going to stall immediately due to an utter inability of government and military leaders to discern what the Heptapods are up to? Think about it. It’s completely stupid, and yet this is the basic situation.”
Said this also: “Eric Heisserer‘s screenplay (based on Ted Chiang‘s short story titled ‘Story of Your Life’) is about Banks embracing the Heptapod’s non-linear attitudes about time, which means on some level that…I don’t know what the fuck it means. But it has something to do with Banks’ deceased daughter, whom he see in an endless stream of memory excerpts. And whether that tragedy of disease and early death resides in the past or future or whatever. It’s kind of like what the Trafalmadorians taught Billy Pilgrim about time in Slaughterhouse Five — that each and every incident has always existed, that there is no past or future, etc.”
That sounds trippy and cool, especially with Kurt Vonnegut having advanced this notion, this dream of eternal, non-sequential, overlapping time realms existing in seamless harmony between the past, the present and the future.
But when Sir Isaac Newton dropped the apple and watched it fall to the ground, there’s no way the apple ascended back into Newton’s grip a minute or an hour or a day later. That one drop was it — never repeated. If you were with me right now and I picked up a can of apple spice Febreze and threw it onto my couch, this event could never, ever be repeated either. I could throw it onto the couch 750 times and each time the event would be different. I could think back fondly some day to that time back in 2016 when I threw the can of Febreze, etc., but I couldn’t return to any one of those individual instances. The Febreze can-flinging is over and done with. Like everything else it happened as part of a random but perfect sequence of events, a sequence that will continue to happen like spark plugs flashing and snapping inside The Spirit of St. Louis as Charles Lindbergh makes his way across the Atlantic toward Paris. And if someone were to drop a small beaker of ice-nine into the Atlantic as Lindbergh is flying above, you can bet that would be a one-time occurence, and boy, would Lindbergh be upset when he lands at Le Bourget field on 5.21.27! Once, I mean. Just that one time.
All to say that Arrival and the Heptapods and Amy Adams‘ character are, no offense, gently full of shit about time.