For the record, I absolutely adored Arrival (2016). I found it to be rich in substance as well as concept, all of which only bolstered by fine visuals and fine acting. It was a brilliant piece of filmmaking, as the story slowly burned to its conclusion, throwing out bigger and bigger ideas and concepts, making it a very, very imaginatively rewarding, intellectually stimulating story.
Also, I find that 99.9% of the questions and points raised are addressed in return, making for each concept to be complete and come (excuse me) full circle.
One thing that stood out to me as potentially problematic or at least slightly convenient as far as bridging the gap between the mystery of the aliens’ desires, to finding their desire to communicate, was the revelation of written communication.
I concede that there were alternative methods experimented with- the film remarks that the visitors potentially communicate via sound, and it seems apparent that they do as recordings from within the lens shaped craft offer interesting-sounding assumedly-communicative sounds, however to discern patterns and inflections from what they obtained would be a fruitless exercise. The scientists even pointed out that they tried playing aloud recordings of what they assumed would result in an attempt at communication, but the aliens chose to play recordings of the humans back, in an attempt to mimic their attempts of communication. This in itself proves that the visitors had an interest in bridging the language barrier and were attempting similar ideas, or at least were attempting ideas that they knew humans were familiar with, as we had tried the same. As well, they were visibly patient and had their intent been anything other than communication, I believe they would have already executed their plans for domination, trade, etc, on their own terms. The aliens in this film seemed to in fact allow themselves to be a blank canvas for the humans to hypothesise over, lowering their expectations of humanity to zero, allowing humans to work at their own pace. Unfortunately, the film proves that ‘our own pace’ is actually a fractured pace as we compete within our own species to solve the puzzle.
Alas, I may have digressed, but my question is- why, when the visitors can view our world and that symbolic, written language is widely used and understood, would they not attempt an exchange of written language from the beginning? As well, if they know future events, why not create a reference point, or a Rosetta Stone type portion of language for humans to use to decipher their questions/intent? I realise there was a sort-of test at play, but the humans were on the brink of an attack, so why not prevent this and allow us to continue amicably?
Also, I’m aware this is a fiction and the story is built to create tension and suspense, but the rest of the film really works- this is the only small snag which I can find with the plot, though it ruins nothing.