'The Message': Could This Sci-Fi Film Be The Next 'Arrival'?

In 2016, Denis Villeneuve’s emotional science fiction drama Arrival topped /Film’s collective list of the best films of the year. So you’ll have to forgive us if we seem uncommonly excited about the idea of Arrival producer Shawn Levy and his 21 Laps production company reuniting with FilmNation Entertainment for a new sci-fi movie called The Message, which, like Arrival, is an adaptation of an acclaimed short story. Could this mark the first moment of awareness of /Film’s future favorite movie of 2020 or 2021?

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that after the Oscar-nominated success of Arrival, 21 Laps and FilmNation are teaming up once again for The Message, which is based on author Ken Liu‘s short story.

The story centers on an archeologist whose job is to investigate and preserve the legacy of extinct civilizations on distant planets and who is reunited with the teenage daughter he never knew he had. As they explore a mysterious ruin with a cryptic message written on it, they discover their own relationship as well as a secret that will forever change their lives.

I haven’t read Liu’s original source material, but this sounds like it has the potential to be emotionally devastating in a way similar to Arrival – although, interestingly, one key aspect of the plot sounds like it could almost be Arrival‘s inverse. Spoilers for Arrival: that film was about Amy Adams’ scientist character who, despite being able to see into the future and learning that her yet-to-be-born daughter is going to die when the girl is still young, goes forward with her decision to marry her husband and have the child anyway. From this description of The Message, it sounds like this archeologist finds a family member instead of losing one, all amid some sci-fi flourishes.

Embarrassingly, I’ve never heard of The Message author Ken Liu before right now, but THR calls him “one of the most prominent sci-fi and fantasy authors of his generation,” and says that he’s won Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy awards for his writing. Definitely adding him to my reading list.

A screenwriter and director are currently being sought for this movie, and Levy and his producing partner Dan Levine released a statement promising “another grounded, provocative and emotionally resonant piece of science fiction.” Bring it on.

(Liu’s header photo by Lisa Tang Liu; Magazine cover is Interzone Magazine, in which The Message first appeared.)

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