Science-fiction is a genre that’s easy to get wrong. Ex Machina and Tommorrowland, two original sci-fi films not based on existing franchises that were released last year, provide a good example of each end of the spectrum. The former is really good, while the latter is really bad. This is because when playing with a genre that requires big, complex ideas and big, complex special effects, bad sci-fi films can be among the worst.
That’s why its always exciting and a little nerve wracking when a high concept, arthouse sci-fi movie is announced. That’s how I feel about Arrival, which shared its first teaser today. It’s directed by Denis Villeneuve—who directed some award-winning foreign language films, plus Prisoners and Sicario—and based on the Nebula Award-winning novella Story of Your Life. In it, Amy Adams plays a language expert who, along with mathematician Jeremy Renner, must investigate mysterious spacecrafts that have landed around earth. At least based on this trailer, Arrival doesn’t have the look of a big dumb, action-packed sci-fi. Rather, this seems to be a movie more about grace and tension-building.
But it’s hard to say. The actual plot—from what we know right now—doesn’t sound too much different from the first 45 minutes of Independence Day. And Renner as a mathematician? Come on!
Anyway, I want this to be good, because Villeneuve is also the one charged with directing the sequel to one of the single greatest sci-fi films of all time, Blade Runner.