The 50th anniversary of Star Trek this week really put in perspective just how long we’ve been living with the concept of extraterrestrial. In 2016, there’s something downright familiar about aliens, maybe because in most situations our conception of them remains rooted in our conception of ourselves: They look like us with pointy ears or a ribbed nose, or they don’t look like us, but they behave like us, with motivations and actions that are easily recognizable and understandable. One of Arrival’s greatest achievements is the way it makes alien seem alien again: Strange and inhuman and beyond the limits of our comprehension. It readjusts our thinking about what life on other worlds might be like. And in doing so, it also readjusts our thinking about what life on our world can be like.
The new Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation trailer doesn’t offer up anything drastically different from the usual Mission: Impossible movie — Tom Cruise, shadowy government agents, an elegantly dressed woman kicking ass, insane stunts, an improbable task — but it does all those things (and does them all so well), it’s hard to not get excited for the upcoming fifth installment.
There’s a lot to like about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but the coolest thing about it is the way it reclaims the comic book part of the phrase “comic-book movie.” Rather than using these characters to do something “edgy” or “adult” or “important,” or sanding down their quirkier edges to appeal to as broad and mainstream an audience as possible, Age of Ultron doubles down on its source material’s geeky origins.