close menu
Nerdist Special Reports

ARRIVAL Director Denis Villeneuve on the Timeliness of the Movie’s Message

For a gripping movie that revolves around an armada of alien ships arriving on Earth, the real tension in Arrival is derived from whether or not humans will overcome their fears and talk to each other to solve their greatest problems. The potential for our complete annihilation isn’t posed by unknown visitors from a foreign place, but by us ourselves, and our inclination to build walls between one another rather than come together as one people.

It’s not hard to recognize just how timely the movie and its message are to the world right now, and the film’s Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve sat down to talk to us about how communication and empathy are the tools we can use overcome our destructive fears of others.

“We are afraid by the unknown,” Villeneuve said. “It’s not a bad thing to be afraid. It’s how you deal with fear. Do you have the courage to go beyond and try to build contact and understand the other point of view?”


While Arrival‘s plot deals with humanity’s attempts to communicate with their alien visitors, the conflict comes when nations from around the globe begin shutting each other out. They cut off all diplomatic efforts and begin acting in their own interests, to the ultimate detriment to all. It’s one of the biggest problems the world faces, fighting against our instinct to retreat when we are afraid and unsure. It’s the kind of issue that science fiction is so adept at shining a light on, which is why Villeneuve was drawn to this big screen adaptation of Ted Chiang’s short story, “The Story of Your Life,” as his first entry in the genre.

“When you make a movie, you want to create something that you hope has not been seen before,” Villeneuve said. “That’s why it took me awhile to do a sci-fi movie, because I was waiting for the right story.” (Of course, it won’t be his last, as he has since directed Blade Runner 2049, and he might helm the next adaptation of Dune.)

Villeneuve thinks that although “there’s a disintegration of values right now that is pretty scary,” he’s hopeful we will “figure out a way to solve all those problems.” It will come down down to not letting ourselves “be driven by fear,” and instead finding the “courage to be in a relationship with others.”


And if he’s right about our chances of meeting extraterrestrials, we better figure out how to find that courage on our own, because while Villeneuve hopes and wishes we will make first contact some day, and that it would be “good for our ego and narcissism” to meet a superior species, he thinks that the “insane” distance of the universe will keep that from happening.

Fortunately we have his movie to remind us of where our salvation will be found. It won’t be from insulating ourselves within our own borders, or by shutting others out with a wall; it will come from understanding that we are all in this together.

And if we do that, as Villeneuve said, “Hopefully the world will be better once we will be through that dark passage.”

What did you think of Arrival‘s message about communication and understanding? How do you think it applies to the world today? Travel down into our comments below and communicate with us.

Images: Paramount Pictures

Arrival is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The Science of

The Science of "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board"

Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND is the Weirdest Movie Ever

Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND is the Weirdest Movie Ever

Every DOCTOR WHO Series 8 Episode, Ranked

Every DOCTOR WHO Series 8 Episode, Ranked