Arrival is Denis Villeneuve next film after last year’s Sicario. Sicario was a good average movie; it was nicely shot and gave birth to a great character, but overall was pretty average. His next film after Arrival is Blade Runner 2049, which is a big movie that is highly anticipated. Needless to say, but important to highlight, Denis Villeneuve is an exciting director to watch out for. My review of Arrival might come as a surprise now because of how I painted the director.
Arrival is a movie that puts an emphasis on the use of motifs, subtle and throughout but not detectable to audiences not looking for them. It puts an emphasis on the layers hidden beneath the surface and the messages that lie within. It’s more in its own head and focuses on the subtlety that the movie has to offer. This style of filmmaking, the importance of the small details and the underlying tone, has been growing in prominence over time. Movies like this include Mad Max: Fury Road and even Zootopia to a degree. The key difference between the three movies is the fact that Mad Max and Zootopia are movies that have more to offer than the message beneath the surface, while Arrival banks the whole movie off of that one factor.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we lived in a world where movies were still king in the entertainment business. Television has been growing in quality and along with it, intense viewership. This has created a space for stories with longer running times to be told, which now rival movies for the video storytelling medium.
Why do I bring up television, because West World happened. I finished West World before I got a chance to see Arrival, and that made this movie average fare for me. The subject material for each product is completely different, but the same storytelling tool is used for both. This means that the big “twist” at the end of Arrival was not as impactful as it could have been, if I had not seen the same thing used in West World I would have had a better reaction. For West World’s final I was blown away by the subtle storytelling and the same kind of “twist” that blew my mind. But to try and pull that same “trick” again is an impossible task due to the fact it was still so fresh in my mind.
If you want to see Arrival and be amazed by it, do not watch West World. It might just be me, but trust me, there is only so many times you can be surprised by one thing. I guess if you want to save your reaction for West World and don’t mind Arrival not realising its full potential, that is fine too. I actually prefer West World because there was more to work with there, the longer running time really helped that series build itself, while Arrival is constrained to be a 2 hour movie.
Overall the movie was good, but it didn't blow me away like it did for everone else.