The Arrival

Everyone remembers those 1950’s sci-fi paranoia films: Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, It Conquered the World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc. Many of these films set up and followed a now classic genre: the Doomsday scenario. One man discovers (usually by accident) that some great evil (a giant alien zucchini, pod people from space - you know, a nasty) is going to bring on the bells of Judgment day a little early for humanity. Problem is, no one believes him except for his trusty sidekick / girlfriend / wife / dog, so he’s on his own to save the day.

The plot is usually wrapped around some sort of message (nuclear power is bad, we’re destroying our planet, be nice to one another), and in the end humankind prevails, a lesson is learned, and our hero gets the respect / girl / love he deserves.

Writer / director David Twohy (writer of Waterworld, Alien 3 and The Fugitive) has probably seen a lot of these movies. The Arrival, a present-day version of these great old sci-fi films, echoes the quiet reverberations of the paranoia people felt back in the cold war days. Unfortunately, the doomsday scenario has been jazzed up with some of those annoying computer generated effects, burdened with incredibly wooden acting, and lethally laced with the poison of cinema: boredom.

Charlie Sheen tows this clunker into dry dock with his portrayal of Zane Zaminski, radio astronomer and all-around geek. His lifelong ambition is to prove that extra-terrestrial intelligence really exists, which he does by scanning the heavens for signals from space. He succeeds, to his girlfriend Char’s Char-grin (Teri Polo) after yet another girlfriend-ignoring late night at the observatory. As soon as he passes his discovery along to his superior (Ron Silver as “Gordian” - how suspicious is that?), Zane is laid off from his job, pushed around by his girlfriend, and pooped on by life.

Parallels to Sheen’s life aside, the movie then launches into a full-out assault on global warming, conspiracy plots, and the ever present death count. You see, Zane’s friends start to drop like Mr. Sheen’s pants, and all because they (his friends, and not Mr. Sheen’s pants) know too much. Along the way to uncovering the cover up, Zane meets up with a global-warming researcher, played by Lindsay Crouse. She is possibly the best human element here, but unfortunately drops out early on, leaving Zane to discover the big secret all by his lonesome. Oh my, aliens live among us already, and they’re slowly “terraforming” our planet into theirs by promoting global warming and melting the ice caps. After all, they’re just “going to finish the work humanity started.”

Sheen doesn’t save the day in The Arrival. What he does do is walk around with a weird look on his face, and yell a lot. We do get to see him as if he were a Mexican (in a transformation sequence right out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis), but it isn’t enough. He’s so wooden in this we keep waiting to see the puppet strings holding him up. It’s a shame, because the main idea of the movie is rather intriguing (if derivative of the TV series V).

With a better writer, a stronger director and proper casting, The Arrival could have been an interesting film. With the cast and director it has, it s a loosely directed piece of Hollywood tripe, with a lead actor that looks lost and a supporting cast that generally goes through the motions. Besides a few good special effects (such as the terraforming machine) and a few neat looking aliens, The Arrival will probably leave as soon as it walks in the door.

ISSN 1499-7894
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