If It Is Just Us, Seems Like an Awful Waste of Space.
When I was looking through my DVD collection to pick out my favorite science fiction movie, I found it fairly difficult. I had already done a lot of the bigger and more popular movies in the science fiction genre, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Back to the Future. But then I saw this movie and decided, “Okay, so people are probably going to piss all over this being my favorite science fiction movie, but I’m gonna do it anyway.” But look here, people. This movie has space travel and aliens in it. That definitely makes it a science fiction movie. And it’s based on a book written by Carl Sagan. So fuck your faces. This movie is Contact, based on a novel by Carl Sagan, written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, William Fichtner, David Morse, Jena Malone, Angela Bassett, Jake Busey, and Rob Lowe.
Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway (Jodie Foster as older Ellie, Jena Malone as younger Ellie) is a promising scientist that spends all of her time working on the SETI project (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence); having been inspired to do so by her late father (David Morse). She works for a while at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico until Government scientist David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt) pulls the funding because he believes she’s wasting her talents. Ellie is undeterred and takes her team, including her blind friend Kent Clark (William Fichtner), to find other funding, leaving behind the guy she met that she was getting too involved with, Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey). After months of searching, she finally finds funding in the eccentric billionaire S. R. Hadden (John Hurt), giving her the ability to use the Very Large Array in Socorro County, New Mexico. Years later, Drumlin pokes his head in again to screw things up for her. On their last day with the array, Ellie finds a signal coming from the star Vega of repeating prime numbers. The government gets involved, bringing Drumlin and National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) into the picture. On further analysis, they find that there are plans in the signal to build a transport device, but who will be the one to go?
I really like this movie. Yes, it’s arguably not the most sci-fi movie ever, but it still definitely counts in my opinion. It’s got a whole bunch of science in the movie, and it never happened so it’s also fiction. Add in the travel through space and time and a brief appearance by aliens and I say it totally counts. Deep down, I feel that I like this movie so much because of its religious undertones. Or overtones, in some parts. Personally, I believe in God, but I’m also big into science. I’d equate myself with the Palmer Joss character. I have my religious beliefs, but I don’t usually argue with people about theirs and I consider myself more fond of the search for truth. This movie doesn’t take a strong stance in either the direction of belief or science, it more takes a stance that the over the top crazies in both directions are the jerk faces. Jake Busey’s character, for instance, is a big jerkface. But, on the other side, Ellie could kind of be a jerkface as well. It’s a fairly accurate characterization from many atheists I’ve met that they seem to think they’re so superior to those stupid people that believe in a big man in the sky. When Ellie and Palmer were in bed talking about it and she started saying things like, “Did you ever think that might not have been God,” he tolerated it. I would’ve said, “Look, I didn’t criticize you for all your ‘I love stars and little green men’ bullshit!” I liked it when later in the movie she says that she’d need proof to believe in God and he comes back with, “Did you love your father? Prove it.” Booyah, bitch! I did feel bad for Ellie when she didn’t get taken on the transport at first because she doesn’t believe in God, but it also made sense. If they’re supposed to be sending someone to represent Earth and 95% of Earth believes in a god of some sort, then they probably shouldn’t send someone that thinks the other 95% is stupid. At the end of the movie, it all gets thrown back in her face in a really cool way, when no one believes what she’s saying about the transport because she has no proof and all her Occam’s Razor stuff is thrown back in her face, it’s very satisfying. And just as satisfying that all the people who don’t believe her are basically criticizing something she believes, even though that’s what got her kept off the transport in the first place. They don’t point it out, but the audience is well aware of what’s going on. The movie doesn’t answer any questions when it comes to religion, but it doesn’t really try to. It just poses a lot of questions that I found really thought-provoking and made me appreciate the movie. The rest of the story was also very good to me. I liked the science in the movie and it all seemed very sound as far as I could tell. The drama aspects of the movie also succeeded with me. The part of young Ellie calling into the Ham radio to try to talk to her recently deceased father broke my heart. And you feel pretty shitty for Ellie in the other parts of the movie, especially when Drumlin keeps getting control and credit for her historic find.
The look of the movie holds up pretty damned well. It’s not that old of a movie, but the graphics are mostly sound in the movie. The opening of the movie was both a cool idea and a really good look. They started out looking at Earth, listening to radio transmissions. Then they backed up through the galaxy, playing older and older transmissions until silence. They also put Bill Clinton into a bunch of scenes. Adding his face to the scenes was convincing, but it obviously dates the movie a little bit. The older and older this movie gets, the more likely it will be that people wouldn’t know who that was supposed to be. Also, the graphics of travelling through the wormhole were really cool looking.
I really liked all of the performances in this movie. For the most part, they stuck to some really good actors, so it wasn’t really a shock. I think the world knows that Jodie Foster is a good actress, or at least was twice when she got her two Academy Awards. But she was very good in this movie as well. Foster is really believable and cute in her role, being able to convey her character’s excitement when she talks about the stars and the planets, and it’s very endearing. This movie is probably the only occasion that I can think of that I was not annoyed by Matthew McConaughey. His character in this movie was the one I identified with the most, and he did a good job doing the acting that was required. The best example for me was the part where he had to ask the question that he knew would get Ellie disqualified. The conflict is very evident on his face. John Hurt was another character I liked. He was definitely eccentric, and I liked the fact that he always seemed to know more than he was letting on. Tom Skerritt was a very unlikeable character throughout the movie, but he did a good job at it. He was always trying to steal Ellie’s thunder, but he did get me to start warming up to him near the end, which made what happen slightly after more effective.
All things being equal, the simplest answer is that this movie is really good. The slightly more complicated answer is that I really liked the story, the look, and the bulk of the performances in the movie and it made for an interesting and thought-provoking movie. I really recommend the movie, even though the inevitable outcome is the bulk of you saying that I can’t consider it a science fiction movie, let alone my favorite one. Well to hell with you too. Contact gets “I think it’s worth a human life” out of “You could call me a man of the cloth, without the cloth.”
Congratulations goes to Loni, who won the long battle to try and figure out this controversial choice for my favorite non-reviewed science fiction movie. And more congratulations goes to her for being wise enough to say it was a good movie. To hell with the rest of you!
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