It was a coincidence that I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind just a few days before I saw Arrival, the latest Hollywood science fiction movie that is making waves around the world these days. When I watched Close Encounters way back in time, I wasn't able to appreciate it for all its marvel. After watching Spielberg spectacles like Jaws and Jurassic Park, it was dampening to see a very sober movie about alien contact that's basically devoid of any violent confrontation. It felt then that the sole purpose of their visit was to conduct an orchestra with humans.
But the next time after years, after attaining a bit more maturity and understanding, I was able finally to get the movie, especially the climax that totally flew over me the first time I watched it. Another science fiction film that portrays mankind's encounter with a higher civilisation is Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddesey. It had more philosophical undertones than any other sci-fi movies that I watched. Arrival for me is more of a cross between these two giants.
Arrival manages to convey the wonder and anxiety felt by alien contact and communicating with them like Close Encounters. At the same time, it makes philosophical statements concerning the linearity of time like 2001. Arrival was a very effective movie experience for me till it reached its climax, during which some of its effects kind of worn off due to the abrupt way in which the business was wrapped up and the lack of any tangible payoff.
The issue with Arrival was that it was not focused on a singular aspect of its plot. In every 20 minutes or so, the movie chucks off most of its build up and its philosophy till then and move on to something different. This is not a bad thing normally. Even 2001 had a similar approach. But after all that breach of viewer's patience, 2001 comes up with some visuals and a philosophical stand that is much grander than what it showed till then- the star child. That makes the investment of viewer's time and intellect worthwhile. Arrival on the other hand doesn't offer anything such and settles for an ordinary, convenient ending that may have looked good on an ordinary science fiction movie.
Even that is fine when we consider what happened in Signs, a movie with a similar concept where build up was too good but the ending was one baffling WTF moment. (Signs makes us feel it's a movie about alien invasion while in-fact it's actually about how the invasion resolves the personal issues of its lead). Interstellar is another example, but it got away by Nolan's persuading skills that made me feel that the climax made a very important point, which wasn't the case as I found out when I watched it the second time.