Greatness | Criticism | 2001 | God | Special Edition

Why is Contact such a GREAT movie?

This movie deals with universal issues from a very personal perspective. Contact is not afraid of asking big questions without patronizing or underestimating its audience. There is no final "truth" in Contact. The audience is given profound issues to consider and the opportunity to discuss them and come up with their own conclusions. Not bad for a Hollywood movie that has to reclaim a big budget and make a profit.

The main character is a woman scientist who doesn't need a man to validate her. She is not a cardboard or cliché character, but rather an exceptional person with real-life problems and shortcomings. Ellie is a realistic role model.

Last but not least, Contact is an exceptional movie from a technical point of view. The movie respects the book from which it is adapted, and it is as scientifically accurate as we can realistically expect. So, real SETI astronomers don't use headphones. Big deal. It's made very clear in the movie that there's plenty of other hardware involved. The cast is perfect, and the pace is right on target. There's 0% fat in this movie. The special effects are superb, and they don't interfere with the story. The special effects (many of them very subtle and invisible to the "naked eye") are there to support the story, and not the other way around.

What about the criticism?

The vast majority of movie critics--and audience--loved this movie. Some didn't. Why? One of the reasons is they expect to see bug-eyed monsters and ray guns when it comes to a movie about aliens. This ain't Independence Day. Much of the criticism is completely irrelevant and unfounded. For example, some people found the movie too long, but they are unable to identify exactly what could be cut from it without hurting the story. Everything is there for a reason. This movie can only be boring if you are unable to hold your attention on something for more than a fraction of a second. For the rest of us, this movie is intellectually and emotionally engaging from beginning to end.

Some of the criticism is personal and irrational (a dislike for Jodie Foster or Bob Zemeckis in general, for example). Is this a perfect movie? Of course not. Is this the best movie ever made? Of course not. But those are the wrong questions.

Similarities to 2001: A Space Odyssey

Both are intelligent movies conceived by scientists and realized by very capable people. Both movies deal with our growth as a species, and contact with a superior alien intelligence in particular. In both movies, the main character experiences this growth first-hand. Beyond those general similarities, these are very different movies that can stand perfectly well on their own.


Contact, like science itself, doesn't set itself to prove or disprove the existence of God.

The "problem" here is that some people have an extremely immature notion of what God is, could be, or should be. From the time when human beings lived in caves, we explained the natural phenomena we didn't understand as the doings of some supernatural force, which also comforted us in knowing "we are not alone."

We've learned about thunder and floods, and now we know better. However, this is not "proof" that God doesn't exist. This simply means there's no God where people assumed.

I'm an open-minded skeptic. Like Ellie, I don't believe we have evidence either way, and I'm not closing my mind to any possibilities. I do, however, actively reject many terrestrial interpretations of God. Just like I know rain is not caused by some supernatural being, I know who does not speak for any God (TV evangelists, for example. Their only God is greed). To quote Carl: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (referring to extraterrestrial intelligence).

If anything, Contact says the world is big enough for believers and non-believers. Science and religion are confronted intelligently. The believer is not a fanatic nut, but rather "a reasonably smart guy," and neither Palmer or Ellie have to reject their own beliefs when everything is said and done.

--August 1997

It's been a few years now. This movie will always remain the same, but we keep changing, so what we see in the movie also changes.

The question of God goes far beyond the need to understand our environment, of course. There is the matter of being alone. Where do we come from? Why are we here? What is right and what is wrong?

Humans need this higher being like a child needs a parent. We do not need religion, and we do not have to believe in the same God or the same rituals, but we do need to look for our own answers to those big questions.

To some people, this higher being is an "invisible guy in the sky," as George Carlin puts it. Others believe aliens are our cosmic "parents." For Spinoza, God and nature are the same thing. Some people believe their God is the only God, and they will use this as an excuse to commit all kinds of inhuman crimes--these kinds of weak-minded religious beliefs have done more to undermine religion than anything else.

What about atheists or agnostics? Well, what do those terms mean? Atheists believe God does not exist...but which God are they talking about? Agnostics believe there is no evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God. Again, which God are they talking about? If they are talking about the "invisible guy in the sky," then I would consider myself an agnostic or atheist, but if we are talking about nature, no once can deny its existence.

Modern humanists believe we do not need a cosmic "parent" to know what is right and what is wrong. We can find those answers within ourselves. "No deity will save us; we must save ourselves" (Humanist Manifesto II). This implies a profound personal responsibility, which most people do not seem to be able or willing to handle.

Personally, I cannot witness the crimes against humanity we all see everyday and dismiss them because we cannot know the mind of God. This is an extremely cowardly excuse. I believe, instead, that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." --Edmund Burke.

--April 2000

The Special Edition

+ Widescreen version
+ Jump to any scene (from an index of 42 scenes)
+ Special features
+-- Cast & Crew
    +-- Jodie Foster
    +-- Matthew McConaughey
    +-- James Woods
    +-- John Hurt
    +-- Tom Skerritt
    +-- Angela Bassett
    +-- Music by Alan Silvestri
    +-- Based on the Novel by Carl Sagan
    +-- Screenplay by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg
    +-- Directed by Robert Zemeckis
+-- From Novel to Screen
+-- Creating a Fantastic Event
+-- The Message
+-- Constructing the Pod
+-- Alien Encounters
    +-- Audio Commentaries
        +-- Jodie Foster
        +-- Robert Zemeckis and Steve Starkey
        +-- Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum
    +-- The Special Effects
        +-- The Making of the Opening Shot
        +-- The Making of the NASA Machine Destruction
        +-- The Making of the Harrier Landing
        +-- High Speed Compositing Reel
    +-- Computer Animated Concepts
    +-- Theatrical Trailers
    +-- Special Edition Credits
+ Languages
  +-- Soundtracks
      +-- English
      +-- French
      +-- Audio Commentaries
          +-- Jodie Foster
          +-- Robert Zemeckis and Steve Starkey
          +-- Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum
  +-- Subtitles
      +-- English
      +-- French
      +-- Spanish
+ Reel Recommendations

Ellie | The Signal | The Message | The Machine | The Journey | The Truth
Credits and Links | Comments | FX | Discussion

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