Neil deGrasse Tyson Tried to Call Out an Error in Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Arrival’ and Failed

Villeneuve and his team went to painstaking lengths to ensure "Arrival" made as much scientific and logical sense as possible.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has become well known on social media for pointing out accuracies and inaccuracies in major Hollywood science-fiction movies, from Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” (quite accurate it turns out) to Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” (quite far-fetched when it comes to science). Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” opened over four years ago, but Tyson finally got around to nit-picking one detail of the science-fiction drama this week (via ScreenRant). “Arrival” stars Amy Adams as a linguist who is hired to help decipher an alien language in the midst of an invasion. So much of the plot hinges on the aliens writing symbols and Adams’ character deciphering the meaning, but it’s here where Tyson found an error.

“In the film ‘Arrival’ (2016) nobody wondered whether the circular patterns drawn by the creature were backwards,” Tyson observed on Twitter. “The septopoid Alien drew them from the other side of a transparent glass wall.”

Tyson makes an interesting observation, only he fails to recognize the movie and Eric Heisserer’s screenplay protects themselves from such criticism. Jeremy Renner’s character, Ian Donnelly, is heard in voiceover at one point in the film crediting humanity’s understanding of the aliens’ speaking patterns to scientists in Pakistan. Donnelly says the alien language is “free of time” and therefore has “no forward or backward direction.” The big twist of “Arrival” hinges on this understanding of the alien language, as the more Adams’ character studies it the more she herself becomes free of time and starts experiencing her life in nonlinear fashion.

“Arrival” is widely considered one of the best science-fiction films of the last decade. The Paramount release earned over $200 million worldwide and picked up eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. “Arrival” won the Oscar for Best Sound Editing. The film is available to rent on Amazon.

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