Ok, so it has more to do with Slaughter House Five, or the Time Traveler’s Wife (don’t judge me, judge my exes) than it does Prometheus, but I just really hate that movie and wanted to give it further shit.
Things that can be said about Prometheus… the lore and premise are pretty great. It has quite possibly the single best and most engaging trailer for a terrible movie that I’ve ever seen. Everything else, is horrendous, especially the writing. God damn does Prometheus have terrible, atrocious, stupid, writing. “Ima pet the snek and call it a kitty” “now im an zombie”.
Those of you who know me, know that my most hated movie of all time
What you may not know however, is that in re-platinuming video games on mute, I watch things on my laptop. Sometimes, it’s catch-up on movies, and sometimes it’s the plethora of daily Youtube content.
A week prior to watching CinemaSins’ “Everything Wrong With Contact” (which should have merely had a period at the end of those words, as I agree) Jim replied to one of my posts saying “I really want you to write an article on why Contact is the worst movie of all time.”
It was around that time I realized that I didn't have a time machine per-say, I had a "Timelines and Tangents" section of the website
Ask and ye shall receive.
Member the time Jodie Foster was Winter Soldier? I member :(
Jodie Foster sets off a reaction in me, like a bull seeing red. In school, I learned this was called Plato’s Theory of Natural Depravity. I didn’t notice it in Taxi Driver, cause she was 12 and had three lines, but from Silence of the Lambs (where I prefer one of my all-time favs, Julianne Moore) to everything else…especially the Hotel Fucking New Hampshire, I don’t know if it’s her voice, her face, her acting or what, I just start seeing red, and nowhere more so than…Contact. The amount of Jodie Foster, and more importantly the amount of Jodie Foster bitching (see: character arc/screen-time) in Contact is like Tom Hanks in Cast Away (a movie, which of course I love) and a loose connection to the plot/detective angle of Frequency (which of course is one of my all-time favorites).
But, it’s not just Jodie Foster. See, there is only one person in that wretched movie I like,
(and no it’s NOT Bill fucking Clinton )
it’s Tom Skerrit. That’s right my friends… you might know that my most hated person on the planet is Jodie Foster, but a secret I’ve kept all these years is who my most hated actor is.
It’s pretty ironic, considering he shows up three or four times in this article, but with the exception of Rust Cohle, I have absolutely always hated Matthew McConaughey. I always thought of him as the original Owen Wilson. He has a stupid name I constantly have to look up how to spell, he plays the same fucking character all the time, I want to drag him out of the car in the Lincoln commercials and just beat him on the side of the closed-course highway, and he stole an Oscar from Leo, in Leo’s second best performance.
If you’ve been living under a rock, or aren’t 30-35, it would be entirely plausible that you never had to endure the misery that is Contact. Since the dawn of cinema, the unseen muses or more likely studio moles have gotten two writers started on almost the exact same movie at the same time, over and over again. Sometimes, it breaks out that one of these movies is phenomenal while the other is a dumpster fire piece of shit
other times, you get a genuine, sweet, heart-breaking, thought provoking character study… and an infinitely quotable and defensible Michael Bay movie that inspired decades still to come of Aerosmith karaoke and ridiculous plans for what will become the interstellar terra-forming boom of 2508 (that’s a Dead Space joke).
In 1997 we got the piece of shit named Contact, and the following year in 1998, we got the last movie brave enough to put Sharon Stone in a starring role, Sphere. Sphere is…it’s NOT good, but I could watch it 100x over before ever putting myself through Interstellar again, and surely before I’d attempt a full watch of Contact.
Contact, is the story of Jodie Foster repeatedly being told to get back in the kitchen as all the men in her life tell her there is no such thing as aliens, and then steal all her research and pull all her funding to prove that aliens do in fact exist. When the US gov’s attempt to do this is blown up, Japan reveals they had the exact same thing ready to go “cause plot” and they need Jodie Foster’s Ellie Arroway (yes that nonsutble character naming… fuck you Zemeckis)
because “glass ceiling/starring role”.
Whereas Sphere is a movie about…an underwater time machine that travels through a worm-hole, in a boring, uninspired romp that makes complete and total sense, Contact is a movie about Jodie Foster inexplicably being chosen to go on a manned space flight through an underwater time machine to the moon or something, and when she gets there, the alien looks like her dead father, because they “believe in her”… even though the rest of the world wont, until it’s pointed out months later at a senate hearing, that the video recorded static for 18 hours, 2 ½ hours after any of this shit should have been revealed, one hour and 45 mins after Tom Skerrit roundabout pulls her funding, fires her, and then steals her spot on the initial mission which is then sabotaged and blown up, The earth isn’t better or worse as a result, and the over abundance of Bill Clinton talking about the space program out of context was proven to be useless, as the film ends with no proof, no means of continued worm-hole travel and no research telling humanity how to actually put it into practice. Fuck that movie. Rosita in Goonies, finds the evidence 14 seconds after everyone tries saying ‘It was all a hoax!” and much like Goonies, the die was cast. The revelation of proof was too little too late, and would change absolutely nothing!
Now you might be thinking “You’re really jumping around pretty unfocused on this one, aren’t you?” and you’re right/there’s a reason for that. You might also be thinking “I thought you were gonna bash Interstellar?” and you would again be absolutely right.
Contact, is a force of nature. It had all the workings of being something great on paper. I saw it in theaters, voluntarily, after already developing my aversion to all things Jodie. I wouldn’t enjoy it even it had been made with Julianne Moore… it’s the worst movie of all time. Interstellar, never really had a chance. I don’t know if Nolan is as smart as he thinks he is, but half the fun is listening to him vomit expository bullshit through Michael Caine, hoping no one was paying attention
All you did was rip off Event Horizon, and then hope you had everyone bamboozled with visuals and terrible Anne Hathaway acting (member when she was a good actress? I member)
So, for the sake of the rest of this, we’ll be referring to Interstellar as a “What not to do” guide, because it’s an awful, terribly written piece of crap that everyone likes for some reason, and they really shouldn’t. You’re wowed by visuals and likely don’t understand the theoretical physics aspect of it. It’s not good, and you’re point and simple “wrong”.
Arrival begins (or I guess the better word would be “opens”) with a voice-over narration set during what appears to be a linear montage of Louise (Amy Adams)’s daughter Hannah growing up, falling ill with cancer or something, and sadly passing away, as Amy Adams gives us away the movie in the opening scene the same way Shaun of the Dead does
I would LOVE to claim I figured it out right there, but I didn’t. I’ll let you know the point where I “got” it. Unlike Nolan, who hits audiences over the head with how things work and making sure we understand his bullshit. Villenuve and in this case Eric Heisserer is like “Here’s the concept, get on board, or fuck you!”
The main reason I didn’t figure out who the proverbial “murderer was on the Orient Express”, at that point in time, is because it was set-up in such a way to make us think of one of the movies alluded to above, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and of course Goodfellas.
All of those movies, open with what is called an “in media res” narration framing, used heavily in the days of Homer and Shakespeare addressing the audience and establishing who the Players are, what point in the story we are at in the “present” and then usually taking us through a “rags to riches” passage of time flashback to catch us up. In Goodfellas, the “present” (at that point in the story) was actually the whacking of Billy Batts. In Spider-Man, it’s Peter’s internal reflection from the ending of the movie at Norman’s funeral. So naturally in Arrival, it’s Louise writing the foreword in her book 18 months from “now” to her unborn daughter who will die 14-18 sixteen years after that. Wait…what?
Hold onto yer butts, we’re gonna break all this down, and have it make sense.
The movie telegraphs the second of these, and really hammers home the reveal again very early on, in the first of two major call-backs to Villenuve’s only better flick, Enemy, where we see Louise (attempting to) teach a class and quickly gloss over the lesson plan. This was one of the ways we were able to figure out the eventual reveal in Enemy, though a true interpretation of what happened in that flick remains to be written in stone by Denis.
Louise continues attending her empty lecture hall, running the guise that she doesn’t give a flying fuck about the alien invaders, and seemingly wants to get her mind off of being home alone so soon after the passing of her daughter. The first time we can see the “truth” is when her mom calls to see “how she is holding up”, and Louise replies “I’m good”, as if soldiering on after the loss of her daughter trying to keep up a sense of normalcy.
Forrest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber appears in Louise’s office, impatiently requesting that she come with him. When it’s revealed that they will be going to the next in line linguist behind Louise, she implores him an off-the line blink and miss it request that is integral to the entire rest of movie. She implores him to ask the runner-up what the Sanskrit word for “war” is and to ask him how it is translated.
The Sanskrit word for “war” is written as “yudh”, and it literally translates to “a desire for more cows” (proving that not all wars were in fact fought for Helen, after all). Only a true “cunning linguist” would have caught that mistranslation.
And right around that reveal of a very simple ship, -seriously, it first looks like an egg, and we later learn it’s more like a contact lens (the reason being the ship is pretty much the same as their language)- I started to figure it out. Now we had NO way of knowing the element of the movie was about time-travel at this point, but the fact Louise was freaking out and having repeated visions of her daughter’s early life, was screaming “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!”
Once I saw the shadowed limbs appear in the hazy white screen, I immediately thought of the Four Giants from Majora’s Mask… which we should take a moment to talk about here.
In Majora’s, the premise is tweaked and the world may or may not be a dream/multiverse parallel earth, with a time dimension all its own.
A desperate fairy makes a plea about freeing the four “who are there” and then our hero is sent back in time three days to relive an endless loop affecting different events freeing the Giants who exist outside of time and can intervene at the end of the game to save the universe. You know… the EXACT plot of Arrival.
From the opening, Arrival sets up a story that was going down a very familiar landscape. I found myself fearful and disappointed when I realized it could be a well-shot remake to the 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still (aka the movie Ash got “klaatu verada necktie” from)
We move through what could have been a painfully slow repeated static shot of teaching the Hetapods how to talk. As they begin learning our language we begin to learn theirs. We’ve established Abbett and Costello as likely friendly, but are wondering why there are twelve our locations and of course what their purpose is.
Many people, even those who enjoyed the movie, seemed to have a problem with the fact that the stereotypical US military whacks Abbett our of fear, and the aliens don’t exactly retaliate. There’s a reason for this, and it makes sense, as it’s the weighted and painful realization that Louise will arrive at or has at another point in time, like Doctor Manhattan before her.
This is the true meaning behind the Hetapod’s cryptic message that Hetapods “give gift/tool/weapon”
the translation is that “Time is all of the above; a tool, a gift, and a weapon”
Can I forgive the General Shang scene that is more obvious and heavy handed than the one just like it in The Jacket, or when the Windmill Man teaches you the Song of Storms in Ocarina of Time?
“WHY ARE THEY HERE?”
Thankfully, at no point prior to seeing this movie did I watch a single trailer. I didn’t even know who was in it except for Amy Adams. The trailer of course gives everything away, but the marketing push, done for mainstream morons, is why we have our “ending reveal” three fucking times, and why we have the painful General Shang scene, though not as painful as this one:
I “got” it, in three different places; when we got the call-back to Enemy scene, when Louise explained that the language is like writing with both hands backforwards and forwards, and of course when she told Hannah that her father does the “science stuff”.
The rest of the theater went “ohhh” at the fill in the blank of “non-zero-sum game”, or the “I know why my husband left me” lines. The film still had to overly telegraph it and spell it out for the stragglers after that point almost up until the credits.
What a non-zero-sum-game is, is when the aggregate gains and losses of two interacting parties could be more than or less than zero, which further reinforced the idea of repetition.
Now we come to the big question (s), “What the fuck happened? When did it happen? Was the ending wrapped up too easily with no real consequence?”
unlike Insidious Chapter 2, or Interstellar, here is how to do “infinitesimal loop time-travel”
Yes, it’s essentially a time-loop, and no not in the sucky Blair Witch way:
In -let’s say four years from now, Dr. Louise Banks, a renowned linguistics professor with govt contracts, is hired to interview and communicate with the Hetapods who have landed on Earth.
18 months from that point, she will receive an honor for her best-selling book about understanding the Hetapod language, an event which united the world governments and put us on the fast-track to mastery over deep-space wormhole travel. Sure, many of the audience has been conditioned to expect some kind of firefight with China and its allies, or even a slow burn Thirteen Days, political entanglement about the Hetapod conflict, but seeing the future shows us not only what will happen in 18 months, but what has already happened. It’s like a non disappointing version of the entirety of How I Met Your Mother (which I actually have a fan-made alternate Ninth Season for, because I hated figuring that one out in Season Eight).
Knowing that she has the knowledge of the all-time, optimistic fans believe that she can use the knowledge of the future to change it, save her daughter, save her marriage, cheat to win the lottery, etc… except she can’t. This isn’t a time “travel” movie, it’s a “time is an infinite loop” movie
again, not this kind of loop!
With all the shit I’ve talked on him, the one role of McConaughey’s I loved said it best;
Ok, so it was actually Nietsche’s doctrine of Eternal Recurrence, and in this case he was absolutely right.
As someone who has always been fascinated by time, time travel, and the idea of possibly changing time, I’ve long been a subscriber to this idea. Here is where it gets heavy, Doc. If one doesn’t have a device to travel backwards and forwards through time, and can merely “blink” to different portions of life at random, like in Slaughterhouse Five, you cannot use knowledge of the future to change said future, because it has already happened.
The Hetapods, ARE time travelers, from 3,000 years in the future to be exact. Knowing everything that would happen, they come to Earth and even “sacrifice” Abbett. The reason Ian leaves Louise in the future, is not because she tells him about Hannah, it’s because she tells him they cant do anything to save Hannah. If Louise makes any moves to change a timeline that “begins” in the far distant future, it puts the Hetapod’s “history” at risk. If the Hetapods don’t exist/don’t come to Earth, she never gets the language/mastery of time in the first place. Neither side can budge at risking changing any of the events, in order for everything to go exactly the way it needs to.
Much like that chick on the last episode of Angel, Louise decides to embrace this, steer into the skid, and let life happen.
This shows us that from the earliest instance of her having visions or what I’ll call “time-slipping”, she has committed to the bit and decided to let things play out Cassandra style until her dying days for the good of humanity/the Hetapods.
Still optimistic fans have pointed out that the opening narration linked with the closing narration “I thought your story began on the day they arrived, now I realize your story begins on the day they departed” and the use of “Hannah” as a palindrome, coupled with the knowledge “they write a sentence backwards and forwards with both hands” would lead to some kind of Looper happy ending where a Louise B has an entirely different life than Louise A did. It can’t happen, see above/that’s not how a palindrome works.
Being as I can “Study” Latin, but unless I devote myself to studying it extensively, I don’t become conversationally fluent, it’s a safe bet that Louise is the sole guardian of the Hetapod language as a whole, unless and until she has to name a successor. By the 3,000 year future where the then present-day Hetapods need our help, it’s implied we have evolved as a race, able to process time in the way the Hetapods do. Louise’s book doesn’t affect everyone in our future-present day 18 months later humanity, as evidenced by General Shang saying “I don’t understand how YOUR mind works.”
but still, not as painful as this shit:
I absolutely loved Arrival. It's his second best right behind Enemy, and will surely be praised, revisited, and discussed by movie fans for years to come. Giving it a score, it's an A+ or a 9.9/10
That’s how you do it... and at no point do you include anything about a bookcase.