Arrival 2016 Film Reflection Essay

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Joseph Campbell’s conceptualization of the hero’s journey encapsulates many of the world’s great stories, legends, and myths. The hero’s journey begins with the choice of whether to pursue an adventure or undertake a challenge, and proceeds through various successive stages during which key allies or helpers aid the protagonist along the way. Ultimately, the hero experiences what can be considered a death and rebirth, and is transformed by the journey.

In the 2016 film Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, the protagonist Louise Banks follows the classic hero’s journey. Her call to adventure comes in the form of addressing an alien life form using none of the familiar tools of language and communication. She is up against tremendous odds, as the leaders of several different nations disagree with her positive assessment of the aliens’ intent. As with all hero journeys, Louise is personally transformed by the experience, imparting important spiritual lessons for the audience.

The hero’s journey is an existential one, cutting to the core of what it means to be human. As with other films in the science fiction genre, Arrival does address poignant existential issues. The alien life form presents the chance for humanity to work together and transcend differences, rather than reverting to war. Yet centuries of human experience have generated a tremendous amount of mistrust among people, so that any alien life form is automatically perceived of as a potential threat.
Due to years of colonization and imperialism, it is understandable why many nations would be wary of the aliens. Louise’s challenge is therefore not just to communicate with the aliens, but with her fellow human beings. The central point of misunderstanding is over how the aliens convey their message about offering the “weapon,” which they mean their language’s potential to transform human consciousness. In some ways, Arrival also shows how the aliens go through their own heroic journey in transcending space and time to work with people on earth.

Typically the hero has to go through the journey alone, albeit with the help of key mentors or allies. Louise in Arrival has the support of Ian throughout the story. Together, Louise and Ian confront the primary challenges of resolving the conflict and learning from the aliens before the bellicose governments they work for sabotage the mission and the opportunities it presents. As with all heroes, Louise also….....

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Works Cited

Villeneuve, Denis (Director). Arrival. 2016 Feature Film.

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