Dr Banks seems relatively unmoved though and happy to watch from a distance until Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) shows up at her door looking to recruit her as a translator for the incomprehensible communications the military have managed to establish with the mysterious visitors. She pairs up with Ian (Jeremy Renner), a mathematician, and the two of them set out to decipher the alien language and ﬁgure out just what these travellers want whilst the rest of the world squabbles on the brink of war over what to do about them.
This ﬁlm is very much my kind of science ﬁction. I love big sprawling sci-ﬁ as much as the next nerd but this kind of small scale soft sci-ﬁ is deﬁnitely something I can’t help but enjoy, and in fact this movie hits very closely to another fandom of mine, H.P. Lovecraft. Yes I’d say this is the closest we’ve ever seen to a modern day Lovecraft adaptation, and that includes any movie that’s actually directly based on his works.
If I’ve lost you, H.P. Lovecraft is the creator of the Cthulhu mythos and wrote a wide range of stories that are technically fantasy horror but more often than not read like surrealist science ﬁction, treating magic and the unknown like sciences we don’t understand yet, but not in a lazy Marvel way, more in a highly thought out complex way. He allowed his works to exist in the public domain, taking no copyright, because he wanted people to use his ideas and basically anything in this genre is probably inﬂuenced by him in some way.
So the movie pads it’s run time with Dr Banks taking a bit too long too process everything, but it’s still really interesting and she isn’t being slow on the uptake so much as she’s in absolute shock and awe. Buried in that a subplot about some of the soldiers supervising them freaking out and deciding that maybe the aliens need a dose of violence to show them whose boss disappointingly hits it’s climax and then just sort of goes away, and maybe a little of the Dr Banks show could have been sacriﬁced to ﬂesh out these elements.
Having said that this is deﬁnitely Dr Banks story, for more reasons than I can reveal here, and without giving too much away it all pays off in the end. I’d love to discuss this further but it would take far too long and spoil the entire premise of the movie. If you can’t tell this movie was a pretty easy sell to me, it hits several of my pre-existing fandoms, but still trust me that if you like high concept sci-ﬁ you’ll get that a good dose of tension and intrigue as well, though you may wish the movie was a half hour shorter.
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