The F*ckin Black Sheep: The Arrival (1996)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

The Arrival (1996)
Directed by David Twohy

“Somehow the science fiction elements combined with the Sheen factor all this makes THE ARRIVAL a worthwhile.”

Ah, 1996. Only three years removed from JURASSIC PARK changing the CGI game, filmmakers were finally able to tell any story they wanted by truly utilizing special effects. Of course, that didn’t mean that every movie could or should have actually taken advantage of the technology. Most should have avoided it all together.

Case in point: 1996’s THE ARRIVAL, which has nothing to do with 2016’s ARRIVAL. Well, except the release dates both had six in there.

In case you missed this one, it revolves around one of the worst character names ever: Zane Zaminsky (Charlie Sheen just before he became a parody of himself and took things to an insane level). Zane is an astronomer who suddenly discovers intelligent alien life only to have no one believe him. In order to uncover the truth, he loses his woman and his gig that leads him to Mexico and a whole lot of problems including a conspiracy much bigger than he could have imagined.

Watching Sheen in a sci-fi thriller isn’t an easy task. After all that Tiger Blood, TWO AND A HALF MEN, HOT SHOTS, and garbage in-between, it’s easy to forget that he was a hell of an actor in projects like WALL STREET or PLATOON. But like so many, he crossed that line into parody and never found the road back. So how does that effect his role in THE ARRIVAL?

Well, every time we’re shown a reaction shot of surprise or anger or frustration, my brain immediately jumps to one of those awful SCARY MOVIE sequels. That’s not fair to THE ARRIVAL, but it’s the law of diminishing returns. Especially when “Zane” has to deliver lines like “I look like a can of smashed assholes.” Or, “Here's a tip: If you ever get the chance to travel with a Mexican rodeo... pass.” 

Regardless, none of this ruins writer/director David Twohy’s movie before he created the PITCH BLACK franchise. He effectively blends paranoia and science fiction, borrowing heavily from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS to good effect. For a two-hour film, Twohy thankfully keeps the pace moving, never allowing things to get boring as Zane constantly fights off danger in the form of multiple hitmen, falling bathtubs, and police setups. And even though the film’s message ends up a bit “on the nose” (that we aren’t taking care of our planet so aliens might as well take over), it still plays without a complete eye roll.

While I criticized Sheen before, that’s not to say I didn’t dig his performance. He’s likeable. He’s entertaining. I can’t say the same of the CGI (and for the lackluster green screen). Granted, it is 1996 on a $25 million budget, but it looks terrible most of the time, though I have to admit I like the style of the aliens. Their underwhelming digital rendering makes them look interesting and unique even though they’re far from perfect. (Side note: I do really love when Sheen goes MISSION IMPOSSIBLE with the latex alien mask. It’s just great.)

Regardless, somehow the science fiction elements combined with the Sheen factor all this makes THE ARRIVAL a worthwhile.





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