Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Arrival (1996)

A film that I had seen bits and pieces of the second half on Cinemax for a lot of my childhood, I had never sat down to watch all of David Twohy's The Arrival (and I've always avoided the infamous sequel, The Second Arrival). It felt right to start off my science fiction weekend with something that wasn't intensely cerebral but still interesting. Add to that a mid-90's Charlie Sheen (when I still had fun with his pre-Two and a Half Men antics) and a comfortable slow burning plot and you have a recipe for a fun hour and half plus.

The film starts off in a poppy field not too far from the North Pole, defying all logic. Climatologist Illana Green (Lindsay Crouse, a nice far cry from her turn as Maggie in Season Four of Buffy) is investigating, spewing technical terms about the enivronment and CO2 and it all sounds very nice and lets us know the film is at least going to try to ground itself somewhat. Elsewhere in the world, Zane Zaminski (Sheen, playing warm, yet paranoid and full of crazy eyes), a radio astronomer for SETI and his co-worker Calvin (a criminally underused Richard Schiff) discover a unique signal of extraterrestrial origin. As each scientist takes their finds to their superiors, they are repeatedly and ignored and called out, until Illana and Zane (in their own ways) decide to do it homegrown. Relying on their skills, they discover clues leading them to Mexico, where the movie throws bathtubs and scorpions at them and begins to get a little serious, while Zane gets crazier and crazier.
Like most of Twohy's later films (Pitch Black, Below), The Arrival thinks it's smarter than it actually is, but it's so much damn fun, I'll forgive him for it. He has some fun camera techniques and is willing to let his actors breathe (especially Sheen, who is alternate parts tense and unintentionally hilarious) which gets some good results. His films (sans the atrocious looking A Perfect Getaway which I still have not watched) are always great B movie guilty pleasures and this one is no exception. The effects are pretty decent for the time and the score is appropriately ham-fisted and blaring. And you gotta love assassins who use bathtubs and scorpions to kill people.

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