The reviews for this film have been phenomenal. Best film of the year! Magical! A masterpiece! Thought provoking? My reaction – WTF? Now I know this film is based on a book, and I have not read the book. I’m sure that the book explains things better than this film. But as a standalone film, this movie had many problems.
Since the premise of the film, I think, is that time may not always be linear, this review will not be linear. I’ll start with what I felt was a problem in logic. There is a scene late in the film where our hero, Dr. Louise Banks, talks to General Shang at a party. He speaks in perfect English. He whispers in her ear how something she had said to him about his wife made him change his mind on reunification. So why is it when later in the film, after she has a revelation, that she calls General Shang on his private number that she speaks to him in Chinese? And why is it that speaking on a satellite phone is suddenly treason and worthy of being shot over? It’s called contrived conflict.
Here are some other problems I had with the film in no particular order. The space ships must have took a special effects person all of about two minutes to develop. Maybe he was eating peanuts when the idea struck him. How about the inside of the space ship? This advanced species apparently thinks that a subway tunnel makes for an interesting entryway. How about the mysterious aliens? Here’s how that discussion must have went. Look, we don’t have a lot of money. Let’s make them look like a giant octopus. Don’t worry about detail. We’ll surround them with smoke. All you’ll see is their tentacles. And we’ll put them behind glass so we don’t have to worry about any advanced spaceship crap. How about the sets? Yeah, we don’t have money for that either. We’ll put them in some army tents. Can we afford that?
But what about the story? So we have twelve alien ships in twelve different locations. Not only is there no communication with the other countries about what they have discovered or suspect, but when there is a misunderstanding about their purpose, the planned action is to attack the ships. Even though there has been no provocation. Contrived conflict.
So what is the message of the film? That an alien being would go through all of this trouble to give one linguist the ability to see into the future? Is Ian the father of Louise’s daughter? Or is the baby at the end a different child? The child at the end has a disability, a brace on her leg, that the first child did not have.
So now I’m sitting there trying to figure out the plot, and the next thing I know the ships are gone and absolutely nothing of significance comes of this important first contact. Someone please educate me.