THE ARRIVAL - 1996
Live Entertainment, Orion Pictures, Artisan Entertainment
Rated: Australia: M / Portugal: M/12 / Spain: 7 / UK: 15 / USA: PG-13
THE ARRIVAL was written and directed by David Twohy (PITCH BLACK, IMPOSTOR, BELOW). It opens with environmental scientist Ilana Green (Lindsey Crouse: PROGENY, IMPOSTOR) examining a green field peppered
with flowers. She's wearing a parka but the area doesn't seem
especially cold. That, in fact, is what turns out to be so odd as the
view expands and we see this green field is in the Arctic. It shouldn't be there.
We cut to a radio telescope in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A. Zane Zaminski (Charlie
Sheen: RED DAWN, THE WRAITH, GRIZZLY II) and his assistant Calvin (Richard Schiff: SE7EN, JURASSIC
PARK II) are studying the radio output of a nearby star as
part of a search for alien intelligence. To their astonishment they suddenly
get a very strong signal but before they can get independent confirmation
the signal vanishes.
Zane's discovery isn't greeted (by his employers at NASA) with the enthusiasm one would expect. In fact Zane's
boss Phil Gordian (Ron Silver: THE ENTITY, TIMECOP) fires Zane for a
variety of minor offenses. Then their tapes are erased. Then these oddly
serious guys show up asking questions. If one were of a conspiratorial mindset
Which Zane is or we wouldn't have much of a movie. He gets a job as a satellite
dish TV installer but spends his spare time investigating the conspiracy
and ignoring his long-suffering girlfriend, Char (Teri Polo: VAN HELSING CHRONICLES [TV], TALES FROM THE CRYPT [TV]).
In what I must say is a pretty brilliant move, Zane networks a bunch of
suburban satellite dishes together to form a phased array. He uses it
late at night to look for the signal that started this whole mess. The
kind of satellite dishes people have in their backyards and on their roofs
aren't able to pick up the frequencies radio astronomers are usually
interested in but earlier in the film it was established that Zane's
research was unusual in that it was looking in the megahertz range which
is where satellite TV happens to be broadcast so all the bases are covered.
Gotta give credit where is due.
Where I take it away is the unfortunate character of Kiki (Tony
T. Johnson). Kiki is the jive-talkin' black kid who Zane not
only befriends but lets hang out in his unauthorized radio astronomy lab
in the middle of the night. Kiki is also a cartoonish example of what
a very, very white man might imagine a hip, street black adolescent sounds
like. It's truly painful to watch.
Other than that things move pretty fast. Zane is just the right mix of obsessive
personality and geek and the story gets really interesting when he and
Ilana finally meet and compare notes. What the hell is going on?
If you watch movies like this at all you know two things: First, there are aliens involved
somehow and second, this is either a government conspiracy to cover up
the aliens or its an alien conspiracy to take over the government
/ world/ etc. In an oblique attempt to give you a hint about that I offer a
I believe single-celled life is common and will be found through out the
galaxy. Multi-cellular life (plants / animals / us), on the other hand, requires a very narrow range of conditions
and is probably very rare (see Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee). Intelligent life is such an absolute fluke
(see almost anything by Stephen J. Gould) that it's orders of magnitude rarer still. What I'm getting
at is that I don't expect us to meet anybody once we invent warp
drive. I think we're alone.
That being said I must say that the aliens here are portrayed believably enough for me to
suspend my disbelief. Their motivations and actions are, shall we say,
within acceptable limits. That's high praise from me.
High praise is fine, you say, but how many shriek girls is it equal to? Normally it's
worth four but I simply must take one away for Kiki. THE ARRIVAL gets three shriek girls.
copyright 2004 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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