Trailer Review

Arrival (2016) trailer

The title says it all: Arrival (2016) lands in UK cinemas in November, bringing a slightly ironic twist to the up-and-coming seasonal festivities when we celebrate another stellar entity hovering in our skies…

On first viewing, the trailer promises all of the tried and tested tropes, plot-twists and character types that conventionally form the Aliens Have Landed narratives: a genteel intellectual teams up with military intelligence and tactics groups and, with assorted other brainy types, attempts to make contact with one of twelve alien vessels that are hovering over various locations around the world. To make matters harder for the team, there is no common ground for communication: two species with two vastly different languages must therefore attempt to find a means of conversing from scratch. This will involve patience and, crucially, understanding– but can this be achieved when both parties are on steep learning curves, and what will humanity learn about itself in the process?

The tag-line asks “Why are they here?”. This question continues into the trailer itself, focussing on the multifaceted nature of language: it twists, turns and can hold many different meanings and cultural understandings. Predictably, “Why are they here?” becomes “What do they want?”.  These questions, and many other existential quandaries, will undoubtedly form the basis of the plot. Where two cultures collide, it’s only a matter of time before misunderstanding, ignorance and fear transforms patience and anticipation into precipitate and catastrophic violence.

The photography in this trailer is beautiful: the intimate framing of a hug is juxtaposed against the sweeping, wide angle long shots of open spaces and the monolithic craft dominating the landscape. Home is contrasted with the unknown, the familiar with the literally alien. Colours distinguish emotional, familial and compassionate scenes with warm hues of reds, yellows and creams, whilst the harsher white, blacks and greys situate the unwelcoming environments of military tactical tents and the stark landscape of the alien ship. Warm versus cold, familiar versus unknown: the visual language of this trailer lays before the viewer everything we need to feel about this narrative through its cinematography.

Starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as the central female and male leads, there is already a theme of science-fiction/fantasy element with the casting: both leads have starred in films where the arrival of intergalactic beings have caused socio-cultural division, and it’s been up to the greater parts of humanity to find the peaceable way of making the best of a tricky situation. With Adams cast as Lois Lane in the DC Superman installations, and Renner known for his role as Hawkeye from Marvel’s Avengers series, this pairing even crosses the fandom boundaries! Could this be the beginning of a Marvel/DC fandom war? We’ll find out soon enough…

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