Arrival is a movie made for Interstellar’s (And The Martian’s) Critics

Posted: November 17, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
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I think the only thing everyone can agree upon in regards to Interstellar is that it is one of the most polarizing movies of recent years. Look no further than this blog. J.A. Prentice adores it, while my reaction was more “meh.” I wanted to like it because the movie was aiming to be one that married a hard sci-fi story with a heartbreaking human one. AKA my favorite kind of story. But for me, it just didn’t work. Too heavyhanded and cloying in the human drama, too exposition-y in the sci-fi, with a strange Matt Damon cameo that derailed the movie’s tone, pace, and story. But I damn loved the effort. A failure, maybe. But a noble one.

Then comes The Martian which, while I liked it a little more, was in a way just as disappointing to me. Both the film and the book feel like the story was written by an engineer (which it was.) For a movie set on Mars, there’s so little imagination or creativity. There’s a problem, Matt Damon fixes it. Second problem, Matt Damon fixes that. Third problem, Matt Damon fixes that. Next to no attention is put towards things like characterization, or thematic elements, or even drama. Yeah, yeah, Matt Damon’s trapped on Mars and we gotta get him home. But the way the events unfold present a strange world where everyone seems to work nicely with each other and express disagreements through snarky jokes or vague sighs. The (pardon the pun) gravity of the situation never comes across. Everything’s all hunky dory on earth and everyone’s so keen on working together it feels more like wishful thinking than anything. As if Andy Weir was tired of coworkers arguing with him over the best design for things and used The Martian as some form of escapism.

You’re a nice person Matt Damon, but I’m starting to see a trend here

So now comes Arrival, which doesn’t have Matt Damon or Jessica Chastain in it. Instead, Amy Adams takes Chastain’s place as the redhead and Jeremy Renner enters Damon’s nerdy joker spot.

Like InterstellarArrival is a slow burn. Like The Martian, the world has to come together to figure out the puzzle. Like Interstellar, it interweaves an emotional, human story in a time-hopping and challenging way. Like The Martian, most of the movie is us watching our main character crack puzzles. Like both movies, it is shot beautifully.

Unlike InterstellarArrival never gives in to bloated action sequences and its shots take their time rather than cut around frantically. Unlike The Martian, there’s conflict and disagreement among world leaders that isn’t easily solved. Unlike Interstellar, that human story and the themes it carries isn’t beat over your head in the form of nauseating monologues but rather is like a seed, implanted in your head early on and slowly grown until the film’s greatest revelation. Unlike The Martian, the puzzles are not the entire story, but the gateway into the larger picture and tough questions about who we are and what our sense of morality is.

Let’s be clear. Arrival is not a perfect movie. It, like 99.999999999% of all movies, is flawed. But where Arrival succeeds is where Interstellar and The Martian fail. It’s a movie for people like me, critical of both those Matt Damon vehicles, and it’s a movie fans of Interstellar and The Martian should love as well.

If Interstellar is a challenging watch, but not very rewarding, and The Martian is a rewarding watch, but not very challenging, then Arrival is one that challenges you and rewards you in the end.


  1. Arrival better than Interstellar? Lmao.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. interstellar as a movie is lot more complicated, and unlike Arrival, it actually deals with the concepts of time, space and science. Let me show this by example. In both movies, there is a person which influences to its own version in the past from the future. While in Interstellar, person does this by entering a black whole, which we cant use as a experimental model and we can only speculate about what happens beyond the horizon of events, in arrival a person does so by changing its brain, which we do use as a experimental model, we study it daily and we know such an event is impossible.

    And i don’t get what is so strange in Matt Damon’s cameo? He is antagonist to Cooper. cooper sacrifies himself in order to try and save humaniry, dr. mann choses the opposite. He decides that his own benefit is more important to him, than the benefit of humankind. that goes in perfectly with the tone of the film.


  3. Erwin says:

    I have to completely disagree. Arrival wasn’t one where the world came together to fix a problem. It’s a story where Amy Adams sits down and solves a problem all by herself. There was practically no help from anyone else the entire time. The entire world was so stupid, nobody even had the idea of bringing a whiteboard to write things for the aliens until she came along.

    The only outside help she got was from Renner’s character explaining the one of twelve parts near the end. And he didn’t even need to because Abbott spells it out for her anyway.

    “Unlike Interstellar, Arrival never gives in to bloated action sequences and its shots take their time rather than cut around frantically.”

    This is even more false. In Arrival shots cut around not just in the scene panning the camera, it even cuts over different times in seconds. Like the very last scene where Renner and Adams agree to have a child and have sex. The scenes cut from them to the present after they pull out from Montana, to in their bedroom, to the future with their child’s drawing on the wall, all in a matter of seconds. Take their time? Yeah right. Cut about frantically? Yeah. Even the opening sequence cuts from time to time, with birth of the child to death of the child in under a minute.

    Interstellar definitely took its time with its cuts, especially in the scenes that mattered. For instance, Interstellar may cut out useless things like Coop launching into space on the ranger, because that’s not important. But it shows us the entire tearful separation between Coop and Murph. It shows us their family life before it happened, and how they lived in this new Blighted Earth. Why? Because that matters. That’s emotion. That’s character development. That’s what makes us vested in these characters.

    The sloppy shots of a child dying dead in the first few minutes of Arrival? Now *that* is heavy-handed. Not to mention amateurish and really not working at getting me emotionally connected with this mother and child.

    Arrival was not a challenging watch either. It was very easy to understand. It also wasn’t rewarding; the plot twist wasn’t a big aha moment and didn’t really have much impact.


  4. Brad says:

    Bull shat! I can’t believe this movie is nominated for best picture. I watched it twice because I thought I missed something. It was not as compelling to know that her daughter dies in the future as compared to the dynamic between “Murph” and her father. Not to mention the scientific background that Interstellar encompasses. Not even close. P.S. The Martian isn’t meant to be thought provoking just simple popcorn. A great tasting popcorn I must say though. All being said, I prefer Interstellar of the three. Ex Machina is the best sci-fi movie since “2001”
    but no one knows what I’m talking about when I mention the film lol.


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