Arrival (no spoilers)

We saw Arrival this afternoon and quite enjoyed it. No spoilers in this post, though I can't make any promises about comments.

The movie is based on the short story "The Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. Even if I hadn't heard positive things about the movie, I might well have gone out of extreme curiosity about how they would translate the story to film. The short story is a thinky, introspective tale with a decent amount of linguistics as a core part of the story. Linguistics, unlike physical sciences, doesn't translate as easily to the screen (i.e. it doesn't explode). So the movie tells a slightly different story, with some different focuses, and that's ok. It's a good, solid movie that shows us truly alien aliens, all-too-human humans, and a linguist and a physicist who take center stage in a first-contact situation. The physicist is there to try to learn their science; the linguist is there to figure out how to communicate with them when there is no shared language upon which to build. (They could have afforded to spend a few minutes less on the visual effects to introduce the aliens.)

The alien language is very cool. And it reveals one of the things that makes them alien. Learning the language entails learning some of that alien-ness, too.

The linguist, Dr. Louise Banks, is the point-of-view character through whom we see everything else. It's nice to see linguistics get some love in popular fiction. (And I also learned a thing about the Sanskrit word for war.) I wish the character had come across as strong in the movie as she did in the book; it took a while for her to find her stride. The main story is interspersed with flashes into other times in her life, and that's all I'll say about that because I promised no spoilers.