“Bird Box” (Netflix) is the latest in the trend of apocalyptic thrillers where the end times arrive in a bizarre and sketchily explained fashion, following “It Comes at Night,” “A Quiet Place” and the “Cloverfield” trilogy. It’s easy to call this the visual answer to the audio-based “A Quiet Place.” There, creatures hunt by their sense of hearing; here, the malevolent force invades people’s brains through their visual cortex. It’s the childlike notion of hiding under the covers made into a motion picture: If you can’t see the monster, you’re fine.
Like many alien visitation films before it, “Arrival” asks “What is their purpose on Earth?” After the requisite opening where the world tenses up as 12 giant egg-shaped spaceships take up stations around the globe, “Arrival” zeroes in on that core question, boiling away all the “Independence Day”-style destruction and embracing its status as a think piece. It doubles as a character piece for Amy Adams’ linguist Louise, and while there are certainly worse actresses to spend a couple hours with, “Arrival” didn’t have enough of an emotional payoff for me to place it alongside “2001” or “Contact” or even “Interstellar.”