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Arrival (2016) Poster

(II) (2016)

Trivia

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Director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer created a fully functioning, visual, alien language. Heisserer, Villeneuve and their teams managed to create a "logogram bible," which included over a hundred different completely operative logo-grams, seventy-one of which are actually featured in the movie.
The inky circular alien language was created by Montreal artist Martine Bertrand. It is also the artist's son who created Hannah's drawings.
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While the shape of the ship was decided early on, Denis Villeneuve had great difficulty imagining an interior that would allow humans to easily navigate through such a steep and vertical design. The later decision to turn gravity sideways offered an obvious and convenient solution.
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The Hungarian word to which Halpern refers is "szalámitaktika." (In English, this translates to "salami tactics.") The word means to divide the opposition, in order to only have to face smaller, weaker enemies.
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"Dirty Sci-fi" is what director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Bradford Young called the look they created together for Arrival. Villeneuve wanted it to feel like "This was happening on a bad Tuesday morning, like when you were a kid on the school bus on a rainy day and you'd dream while looking out the window at the clouds."
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Ted Chiang, who wrote the story the film is based upon, approved the film, saying, "I think it's that rarest of the rare in that it's both a good movie and a good adaptation... And when you consider the track record of adaptations of written science fiction, that's almost literally a miracle."
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Director Denis Villeneuve and the writing team took extensive efforts to ensure the movie's scientific ideology was accurate. Renowned scientist and tech innovator Stephen Wolfram and his son Christopher Wolfram were consulted to ensure all terminology, graphics and depictions were sound.
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The original name for the film was "Story of Your Life," the same as the source novella. Test audiences did not like that title, so it was changed to "Arrival."
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Louise tells Colonel Weber that the word 'kangaroo' comes from an historical misunderstanding, and actually means "I don't know", only to tell Ian that the story is untrue but illustrates her point. This is an actual myth, not just a made up story. It involves Lieutenant James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks who arrived in Australia in the 18th century, where they made contact with the Guugo Yimithirr, a coastal Aboriginal tribe. They were puzzled by the sight of a kangaroo, and asked a tribesman what it was. According to the myth, the tribesman responded with the word "gangurru", meaning "I don't understand" in his language. Banks mistook it for the local term for the animal, spelling it as "kanguru" in his diary. The myth was debunked in the 1970s by linguist John B. Haviland. In reality, the word gangurru specifically refers to the grey kangaroo in the Guugo Yimithirr language. When Cook and Banks traveled 1,400 miles inland, they encountered the Baagandji tribe, who were unfamiliar with the other tribe and the word gangurru, and thought it meant "unknown animal". The Baagandji then started to use the word to describe Cook's and Banks' horses.
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The heptapod's craft owes its design to an asteroid called 15 Eunomia. During research, director Denis Villeneuve became attracted to Eunomia's "insane shape like a strange egg" and thought that kind of pebble or oval shape would bring a perfect sense of menace and mystery to the spacecraft.
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In the whiteboard shot where Louise writes the big question, immediately above the question is the standard formula for entropy - the arrow of time.
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In writing the story, Ted Chiang had in mind the following quote of the great physicist Albert Einstein: "The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
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The film's composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, stated he started recording the score before the movie had even started filming, and he and the director like to work on the music as the director's films are being made.
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The classical music piece that bookends the film is "On the Nature of Daylight" by Max Richter. Its prominence during the film and the fact that it was a pre-existing track meant that Jóhann Jóhannsson's score was deemed ineligible for an Academy Award despite being highly acclaimed.
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This movie is based upon the short story "Story of Your Life", written by Ted Chiang in 1998.
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In the novella, "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, nine "looking glasses" arrive in America, a total of 112 worldwide. The film reduces that number and alters the dimensions to more profound effect.
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Amy Adams was Denis Villeneuve's first choice for Louise. She agreed to the role within 24 hours of receiving the script.
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Scandinavian photographer Martina Hoogland Ivanow was a major influence on cinematographer Bradford Young's look of this film, especially with her exhibition and book "Speedway."
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When Ian suggests the names for the heptapods, he is referencing Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's comedy routine "Who's on first". As the bit starts, Abbott states "Who's on first, What's on second, and I don't know is on third." several times. Costello doesn't understand and his questions of which player is on which base are taken as true or false statements needing affirmation or correction. For example "Who's on second base?" - "No, Who's on first." - "I'm not asking what's the guy on first." - "What's on second." - "I don't know the guy's name on second." - "No, he's on third base." - "Who's on third?" - "No, Who's on first." - "Who's on first?" - "Yes" and so forth. Both Abbott and Costello's bit and Arrival show the ease of misunderstanding while communicating.
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Jóhann Jóhannsson also composed the scores for director Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), and was attached to Blade Runner 2049 (2017) before being replaced due to creative differences.
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In the Italian edition of the movie, Abbott and Costello are called Tom and Jerry and the band who had a success in the Eighties in each of the ships' landing sites is Pink Floyd instead of Sheena Easton: these changes were made because both Abbott and Costello and Sheena Easton are not well-known icons in Italian culture.
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When the colonel sneaks up on Louise, an inconspicuous picture of renowned linguist Noam Chomsky can be seen on a shelf right above her laptop.
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The shots inside the university (in class and when she walks through a cafeteria) were filmed at HEC Montréal University, at the Decelles building.
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A homage to Contact (1997) is paid by using Hokkaido as a site, where the secret second vessel was built in Contact.
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As soon as director Denis Villeneuve finished this film, he began work on Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
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On the TV news the 12 landings include one in the Indian Ocean, two in North America, and one in Europe. However, the communications tent has an array of 12 large screens which include one from Australia (who'd be coordinating the ships off their west coast); but only one screen for the USA, and yet two from Europe. This is because one landing happened in Greenland, which politically remains part of Denmark.
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Montana is also the site of first contact between humans and aliens in Star Trek lore, as first revealed in Star Trek: First Contact (1996).
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When Denis Villeneuve finally agreed to direct the movie he said to the film's screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, "Alright Eric, now we are married".
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The score music "On The Nature Of Daylight" by Max Richter is also used in the movies Stranger Than Fiction (2006), Shutter Island (2010) and Disconnect (2012).
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The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year not to be nominated in any of the acting categories.
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Ted Chiang, the writer of the story Arrival movie is based on called "The Story Of Your Life", was inspired to write the themes of the plot by physics and more specifically Fermat's Principle Of Least Time and Variational Principles Of Physics.
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Filming began in mid-June 2015, right after Jeremy Renner completed the shooting of Captain America: Civil War (2016).
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Amy Adams revealed in an interview with The New York Times that she did not know Mandarin prior to filming the movie.
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The helmets worn are modified respiratory protection units manufactured by Sundstrom, which are widely used in all industries.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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This is director Denis Villeneuve's first PG-13 feature film.
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Principal photography on the film began on 7 June 2015 in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
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During the sequence showing satellite views of the Shell landing spots it is shown that the UK site is above the village of Kingswear in South Devon. The image used is from Google Maps with the Shell added over the hill to the southeast of the village. However, the poster advertising the movie shows a reversed image of Mortehoe and Woolacombe beach, in North Devon for the locations of the UK Shell.
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Three of the locations that the alien spaceships land on Earth include the U.S. state of Montana, the United Kingdom, and Russia. These are some of the locations that the alien Tripods landed in John Christopher's 1988 novel "When the Tripods Came," which is the prequel to his "Tripods" novel trilogy.
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The siren emitted throughout the movie signaling the scientists' preparation to approach the ship is identical to the siren used in The Purge (2013) and its sequels.
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In Arrival (2016) Forest Whitaker plays a military officer who recruits civilian experts with special skills to assist with the first contact of an alien species. In Species (1995) he was a civilian expert with a special skill who was recruited to assist with the first contact of an alien species.
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Like Hannah, actor Jeremy Renner's last name is a palindrome.
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This movie reunites American Hustle (2013) co-stars Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams.
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Actor Forest Whitaker's Army officer character wears a combat patch for the 101st Airborne Division on the right shoulder of his uniform. In the 1993 film Body Snatchers, Forest Whitaker's also played an Army officer who wore a combat patch for the 101st Airborne Division on the right shoulder of his uniform.
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Nic Mathieu was previously attached to direct.
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Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner have both appeared in comic book films dealing with alien invasions. Adams starred in DC's Man of Steel (2013); Renner starred in Marvel's The Avengers (2012).
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The first of two sci-fi films Forest Whitaker appeared in during 2016. The second was Rogue One (2016).
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Despite being deemed ineligible for Academy Award consideration, Jóhann Jóhannsson's score was still nominated at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics Choice awards, Grammys, ASCAP Awards, Gold Derby Awards, International Film Music Critics Awards and the World Soundtrack Awards.
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Bradford Young became the first, and as of 2018 the only, African American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
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The first film that Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner starred in together since A Little Trip to Heaven (2005).
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Despite receiving nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild awards, Critics Choice awards and even the Saturn Awards, Amy Adams failed to receive an Academy Award nomination. Critics, audiences, major film groups and publications considered this a major snub at the time.
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Despite the special effects being recognized at the BAFTAs, Critics Choice awards, Gold Derby Awards, Saturn Awards, and more than a dozen critics circles, the film failed to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Arrival builds to a set piece where Banks/Adams must prevent General Chang/Tzi Ma from sparking a war by launching an attack on the spaceships. With space and time at her disposal, the protagonist drifts to the future where she meets Chang at a party where he thanks her for preventing the attack explaining how she did so: Banks echoed his wife's dying words. Arriving back in the present, Adams' character calls the General and repeats the words leading him to withdraw his forces. While director Denis Villeneuve opted to shroud the line in secrecy, screenwriter Eric Heisserer was more than happy to reveal it at the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest: it translates as "In war there are no winners, only widows." Heisserer previously explained on Reddit: "I worked so hard on the dialogue in Mandarin for Denis. Spent weeks crafting the lines that he finally approved! And then that scoundrel goes and doesn't use subtitles in that scene. I guess there's something to be said there about the nature of language. And I love Denis. But he's also a mischievous fox."
The reason the ships never touch land is explained by production designer Patrice Vermette, stating, "The twelve identical ships would travel across the universe and end the journey by hovering twenty-eight feet above the ground in delicate equilibrium, leaving it to Earth's people to make the final outreach to contact them.
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In the source novella, Hannah dies at 25, in an accident while climbing a mountain. That means that Louise knows well in advance of her death from something seemingly avoidable, but has come to accept its inevitability, which lends a far darker tone to the story.
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The original drafts of the script did not have anything specifically written for the final part of exchange between General Shang and Louise. Before filming, director Denis Villeneuve asked Eric Heisserer to write "a line that would save the world" for the final part of the exchange, spoken in Mandarin. Heisserer said he spent weeks perfecting the final line between Louise and General Shang only to find that Villeneuve removed the subtitles for the scene in the final cut.
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The violin melody in the last sequence is palindromic.
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Near the end of the film, Ian calls Hannah "Starstuff," a reference to Carl Sagan's Cosmos (1980), in which Sagan states, "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff." Sagan also wrote Contact (1997), which was also a story of extraterrestrial communication.
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Octopuses, whales, elephants, and spiders were all sources of inspiration when it came to creating the aliens, Abbott and Costello. Director Denis Villeneuve wanted their design to evoke a very strong presence, an air of intelligence, and the feeling of being close to a "huge beast underwater." He also wanted the aliens to feel like something you might imagine in a surreal dream or nightmare and, in the later stages of the film, he wanted them to be suggestive of the Grim Reaper.
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In a shot of the alien language being transformed, lines of programming language code are shown with the animation. Stephen Wolfram states in his blog that this code is written in Wolfram Language, and that it actually does perform the transformation depicted.
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When Louise's daughter questions the reason for her name, "Hannah," Louise explains that her name is a palindrome, that is, it is spelled the same backwards as it is forward. This reflects the theme of the film in that the story starts as it finishes, due to the story's events existing in a non-linear timeline. The opening few scenes of the film are simultaneously the beginning and the end, as is the case with the order of letters that make up Hannah's name.
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Thinking about the possibilities to build a story about a character that knows what is going to happen in the future and how this character gains this knowledge, Ted Chiang, the writer of the story, initially thought to create a character who takes some drug or a character engaged in some form of meditation. However, neither of those choices seemed to him particularly interesting. And then he thought to involve language and so he made the character a linguist.
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Also contains a mild spoiler for Interstellar (2014): According to writer Eric Heisserer the original ending had the heptapods leaving blueprints to a spaceship, an ark of sorts, but due to Interstellar having a similar final Earth solution, the final gift became their language and a non linear view of time.
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The crucial turning point of the movie occurs when it's revealed that the world-wide feared Heptapod "weapon" which opens time and that Louise now possesses is in fact their language. However, this is foreshadowed near the movie's start as Ian and Louise are being flown to the landing site, and he recites the preface to her first book on linguistics: "Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict."
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The bird in the cage is used to test if the alien's atmosphere is safe. Miners have done this for centuries, which is where the phrase "canary in a cage" (also rendered as "canary in a coal mine" or "miner's canary") comes from.
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Louise Banks becomes "unstuck" in time as a result of learning the aliens language. A concept also introduced in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s 1969 novel; Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. With the Tralfamadorians seeing in four dimensions, spontaneously observing all points in the space-time continuum.
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There are some notable differences between the film and the story upon which it was based. Examples include:
  • Ian is called Gary. Unlike in the film, he plays a major role in unraveling the mystery.
  • Louise nicknames the heptapods Flapper and Raspberry as opposed to Ian naming them Abbott and Costello in the film.
  • Louise and Gary's daughter is never named.
  • Colonel Weber does not feature anywhere near as much in the story as he does in the film. He only makes a few brief appearances at the beginning and the end of the story.
  • Gary accompanies Colonel Weber when he plays Louise the heptapod recording in her office.
  • When Louise suggests to Weber that she meet the heptapods in order to have a better chance of understanding their language, he doesn't then go to seek the help of another linguist as he does in the film. He's reluctant at first but eventually tells Louise that he'll see what he can do.
  • The heptapod's written language is referred to as 'Heptapod B' while their spoken language is referred to as 'Heptapod A'. As opposed to the film where their written language is simply referred to as 'Heptapod' while their spoken language is not named.
  • The heptapods view time as a whole and are unable to grasp the concepts of "cause" or "purpose". In the film, they view time spherically, have a clear cause (they will need help in the future) and a purpose (they want to give humans their language, time perception and ultimately, bootstrap our technological level so we can help them in the future, completing the circle).
  • The heptapods display their 'words' on their own "screens" which are mounted on small pedestals as opposed to being able to make them appear in mid-air in the film.
  • Gary is never actually confirmed as being the father of Louise's daughter but it is very heavily implied that he is.
  • Louise speaks of how she got into a relationship with another man named Nelson after she and Gary split up and he also started a new relationship though his partner is never named and is referred to as 'whats-her-name' by Louise.
  • The spaceships remain in the Earth's orbit and instead the humans have contact with the heptapods through the use of "looking glasses" which were presumably sent down by the heptapods.
  • There are 112 looking glasses worldwide (9 of them in the United States) compared to just 12 spaceships in the film.
  • The memories come to Louise all at once and she cannot change anything with respect to them. In the movie, they come in a series of plot-convenient visions and she's able to react accordingly.
  • Louise and Gary's daughter does not die due to an illness. It is implied she died in a rock climbing accident. Louise remarks at one point how she received a phone call from Mountain Rescue and how she and Gary had to identify their daughter's body in the morgue.
  • General Zhang does not feature in the story. Neither does the business of China (or any other country) threatening to declare war on the heptapods.
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The earring worn by Louise with her gown is very similar to a nautilus shell. It's an ancient living fossil with tentacles that is often associated with the golden ratio, the Fibonacci sequence mentioned in the film, and pi, a mathematical wonder as its an endless number. They're considered keys for understanding the universe.
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In the novella, Louise's narration reveals that she tells the kangaroo story to her college classes, then acknowledges that it's only an urban legend but she uses it to make a point. In the movie, she tells the story to Colonel Weber, then she tells Ian that it's only a myth.
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In the novella, the scientists name the aliens Flapper and Raspberry. In the movie, they name them Abbott and Costello.
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The vision of a Heptapod in Louise's bad dream is the same as later on when she approaches Costello, while floating on the alien side of the barrier.
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In linear time, the film's final scene is Louise departing from the hospital room where Hannah died; which is immediately followed by its first scene, Louise's arrival at the university to find only a few students in her lecture room.
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Hannah is revealed to be the daughter and only child to Louise and Ian. In real life, both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner each currently have one daughter as their only child.
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Hannah's drawing of Mommy and Daddy includes a canary in a cage.
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Alien ship appears on full vertical in order to take humans inside it to communicate with them. It's a nod for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), where the space alien probe put itself on full vertical to communicate with a whales.
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The alien ships are in fact flying saucers, but this is kept hidden until the climax by showing them at an angle and tipped on edge to appear egg-like.
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