I’ve just watched Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction film Arrival in a time warp. This is due to a variety of circumstances that seem to be astrologically aligned (perhaps because the moon is the closest to Earth since 1948). I will elaborate the three links below.
Link #1 — The first link in the time warp is included in the underlying science presented in Arrival. The movie involves a linguist recruited by the military to translate the incomprehensible sounds made by alien beings from outer space. She discovers that their language is so difficult partly because they have no comprehension of time. The audience is told the extraterrestrials can’t even imagine a series of events occurring in an immutable, linear fashion. Not only does this do away with all those pesky past, present and future tenses that make learning another language so difficult, but it impacts everything they do. Imagine if you could just travel from world to world without worrying about missing your connecting flight or bivouacking with your far flung relatives for a family reunion at a particular time and place.
Arrival’s movie makers build their story firmly on the building blocks laid down in classic science fiction over the last century. Ever since H.G. Welles wrote his War of the Worlds, we humans have been trained to believe that BEMs (bug-eyed-monsters) are coming to Earth to kill everyone or, in the classic B-movie mindset, enslave our beautiful women. (Notable exceptions include E. T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Taking their cues from what happened to Congress, the White House staff and the UN General Assembly who were vaporized by space-alien ray-guns in Mars Attacks, when the dozen alien craft appear in the skies above our home planet in Arrival, the U.S. military doesn’t immediately respond with guns and rockets, it wakes a female linguist (Amy Adams)  in the middle of the night, shoots her full of antibiotics, encapsulates her in a space suit and sends her to meet the aliens armed with only her wits, her intelligence, and a Magic Marker. At her side is an astrophysicist (Jeremy Renner) who serves as her gofer (and presumably could have explained the “no-time concept” for the audience, but doesn’t). Forrest Whitaker is cast as the no-nonsense military commander with his finger twitching over the retreat button. At the same time, other nations with one of the alien craft in their air space respond in ways that are historically consistent — especially the Defcon-3 military responses of China and Russia.
Link #2 — Another time/space continuum shake up is the fact that we have a brand new President-elect who will soon be living (at least part-time) in The White House. This is a man who boasts about how he doesn’t read things, doesn’t believe in science (and scientists) and brags about how he will confront our enemies and “bang the s**t out of ‘em.” The obvious time warp connection is to ask the troubling question: “What would President Trump do” if space aliens arrive on Earth? It is doubtful his response would be similar to that presented in Arrival.
Link #3 — The final part of this time warp is that my wife and I screened this film in an Orange County theater that has reserved seating and leather-covered recliners. When I pushed the button to activate the electric motor which runs the lay-flat function, I flashed back on the overstuffed recliner I had in the mid 80s which did the same thing. My one at home had an attached tray with a cut-out to hold your drink, and the ones in the theater do, too. I got rid of my old recliner because of the tendency for me to fall asleep during a film at home. This didn’t occur during Arrival (but might have with some of the slower-paced moves I have recently written about). My advice is that the attached trays are a good idea (especially in theaters serving food and wine and beer), but the reclining function is counterproductive to a great movie viewing experience.
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