I've seen Contact 3 times in a theater and twice on video. At this point, I'd consider it one of my favorite movies of all time. I can think of only one thing I didn't like: the transport machine. It was too big and clunky and mechanical for something desgned by such a presumedly advanced civiiization. The core pod was OK, but all those spinning rings were too corny, and what was the point of those stupid rockets firing shortly before the pod dropped through the rings?
If I were designing a convincing looking hyperdimensional transport machine for
the movie, I'd surround the core pod with massive STATIONARY structures that
might represent toroidal (donut shaped) magnets. There would be steaming cryogenic
effects to cool the machine to superconductive temperatures. The entire site would
be "immersed" in a pervasive and deep, powerful electrical hum that intensifies
and increases in pitch during the countdown to transport initiation. I would keep
the dazzling light and tidl effects just prior to and during actual transport
initiation. I would add to that a brief shot of Hadden observing the view from
Mir, showing the dazzling light reflecting off of an interesting widespread ocean
wave pattern eminating from the transport ite, as well as the dimming of all the
city lights in Japan. Just prior to "initiation" the outside of the pod would
glow and vibrate and look a little fuzzy, then the light would get so bright
(for about a second) that you couldn't see the pod (insert th above mentioned
view from Mir at this point). That would be the time in question -- the time
which, for Ellie, was approximately 18 hours.
In the sky above the "Pensicola" beach scene, where Ellie communicates with the alien by talking to the "downloaded image" of her father, there is a constellation of maybe 5 or 7 stars arranged in a kind of a curve. When the image of her father picks up sme sand and pours it out of his hand, the remaining grains of sand sparkle in a pattern that matches that constellation. Near the end of the movie, when Ellie is sitting alone by a canyon, presumedly in New Mexico, she picks up some sand and pours it from her hand, and it, too, sparkles in the same pattern as that constellation.
Does anybody out there know what constellation that is supposed to be? What is
its significance? I thought it looked like Leo, but what would that have to do
with the rest of the story? Vega is in the constellation Lyrae as viewed from
Earth, but if you wre on a planet orbiting Vega, you wouldn't see the same
constellations you see from Earth -- in fact, you'd be "in" the constellation
Lyrae. Then, I thought maybe the writers used some software to determine how
our Sun would be positioned among the stars hen looking back from a planet
orbiting Vega.... But, that's just a wild guess. Does anybody know?
Stephen, I'm glad you caught the movie on video, but I'm also sad you missed it on the big screen. The opening scene, in particular, *must* be experienced on a big screen. Not only because of the "wow" element, but because it's a great introduction to the rest of the movie. I'm afraid the effect is almost completely lost on the small screen.
Johnathan, you don't have to apologize for criticizing the movie. On the contrary, that's how valuable discussions can get started.
You say: "Only scientists can understand implications of extraterrestrial contact." I'd rather look at it as "Scientists are better equipped to understand the implications of extraterrestrial contact." This is obviously true, specially in a country where knowledge of BASIC science is catastrophically anemic. We don't know how other countries' reaction is.
You say: "Politicians will subvert and twist the truth." Well, of course. Isn't that how it works in real life?
You say: "The religious community will become hysterical and think we are talking to God." Well, "religious community" is too broad. We see the reaction of a heavily politicized conservative group (the Conservative Coalition), the reaction of fanatics (the guy who blows up the first machine), and the reaction of truly religious people (Palmer). Are those group not present in the real world? No, not all religions are represented, but the movie is only 150 minutes long. There's only so much you can do, and I think they did great with what they had.
As for choosing the "unstable" Ellie for the second machine, maybe that wouldn't be the first choice if you made the decision clinically, but that's not how it works in the real world, either. Consider the first flights into space. The obvious choice for first astronauts was test pilots, but they were too independent and not easy to control. There's a lot of politics involved in decisions like that. Besides, Ellie did a lot more than just listen to a signal. Her team discovered the message in that signal and decoded that message.
Is mathematics a universal language? Yes, it's true that our concept of "zero" is relatively new, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there for us to discover it. I mean, our knowledge of atomic structure, for example, keeps refining itself. There was a time when we didn't know about protons, and there was a time when we didn't know about quarks. But we didn't just invent these particles. They are as real as they can be. Our models of reality certainly change over time, but there's a common reality behind them. The planets didn't suddenly begin to revolve around the Sun when we did away with the geocentric view of the universe. They had been doing so for billions of years. So, I'd say 2+2=4 in any language.
Are integers universal? The laws of nature seem to work everywhere we can perceive, from the smallest particles to the farthest quasar. The map is not the territory, and our maps change. But the territory doesn't. Thus, I think it's quite possible for aliens to come up with integers. We're all dealing with the same reality; we have have different maps of it.
Now, how many commercial movies can encourage a discussion like this one? :-)
I just saw the movie on video. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can only attest to it by saying that it moved me enough to investigate more of Sagans' works. It was refreshing to see other life forms portrayed in such a positive manner as opposed to the ones that have been rammed down our throats the last little while. The most relevant part of the film IMHO above all the special effects and the political mumbo-jumbo was that the story showed us an alternative life form that, in addition to teaching us, also attempted to "nurcher" our evolution. In a year of ID4, the X-Files, and Alien3, I think this movie can, and should restore our faith in POSITIVE extra-terrestrial life forms out there.
I am a scientist who DISLIKES Contact. I hate to add this to your web page, considering this web page writer's opinion on character of those holding dissenting opinions (I, by the way, hate MTV).
I disliked contact for several reasons. The characters were unbelievable because they are based on false assumptions (described below). Being both religious and a scientist, I found that this movie underestimates people and presents a black and white but no grey view of society (I have the same misgivings about movies such as Higher Learning). Being unable to believe that the motives and actions of the characters would ever likely happen, the movie could not create any thought or insight into human psyche as it did for some people.
Some of the points I found unrealistic are:
Only scientists can understand implications of extraterrestial contact. Politicians will subvert and twist the truth. The religious community will become hysterical and think we are talking to God. (actually, i am starting to believe that some of the people I work with couldn't change a light bulb if their lives depended on it- as scientists, we are no smarter than the average Joe, we have just become specialized, the same way an auto-mechanic specializes).
An emotionally unstable scientist who has had a noticeable lack of social skills (even fellow workers had made comments) would be considered to represent the human race because she was listening to headphones at the time of contact. Especially considering the fact that the astronaut would likely face considerable physical and emotional strain during the mission. Realistically, a candidate would probably be chosen from NASA's astonaut pool, who are trained to deal with stresses and the likes of which would be encountered.
Scientists are driven by science. Religious people are driven by religion. Politicians are driven by politics. No side has any understanding for the other. This is a topic which is a recurrent mistake/oversimplification/overdistinction in many books I read about science and society, most recently, Thomas Khun's 'Structure of Scientific Revolution' (a good book for those who are interested, but there is no such thing as an insulated scientist. Scientists are in no way immune to social influences. Don't believe me? Just consider the apalling research that was a product of Nazi Germany).
Mathematics is the only universal language -or- Mathematics is universal. This is also a mistaken notion. Mathematics is a tool we use to describe the universe we live in, but is NEVER correct at doing so (actually, we make the universe fit mathematics-mathematics is just an approximation... and not really a very good one, but the best one we've come up with). Its hard to believe that every other species will arrive at the same approximations we do. Calculus and algebra are inherently flawed since they fail to describe real world phenonema. Integer arithmetic does not desribe any real world phenonema either. There are people who believe that integers are so basic that they are universal, but they are only basic to our understanding of and view of the world. Consider that we would have no concept of "zero" were it not given to us by the Arabs. (There is no roman numberal for zero.) We are so engrained with the idea of integers that we feel they are universal (in my opinion, of course. There are many who disagree and debate with me often).
It would be ironic to find that emotions are the only universal language (so maybe we should have sent a mime into space!). Ironic also for in this movie, their goals were to send a scientist into space, but they ended up sending an very emotional individual, who finds that her emotions are the best way she can communicate! Come to think of it, that is kind of what happens. The alien race seemed to have a good understanding of emotions. That's an interesting thought. They might have found an air-headed scientist pretensious, considering they're technical superiority, but they obviously had a firm understanding of emotional considerations of such a journey and could relate to her emotional state.
Maybe this movie is kind of interesting after all. As for the human aspect of
it, though, this movie places too great an emphasis on "class" and oversimplifies
the dimensionality of the characters.
Al - 11/27/97 01:35:53
As for the technology... Clarke said "any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic." We're talking about aliens hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years more advanced. A human being a few thousand years ago could not ev n comprehend things in our everyday life that we take for granted.
c) yep, any realistic alien HAS to be different than anything we might have imagined.
Something in quick:
a) Yeah, I guess we don't see the planet after all... I guess all that nice beach with the sand and all the stars and galaxies that are viewable are just images downloaded from Ellie's memories as well...?
b) We don't see what they look like, but we "see" they exist... Well, I guess it's somewhat better as a scenario than some ID4s, but still... It doesn't have all that 100% of reality in it... What do they look like after all? I mean, did they have all tha time to reach to such a level of existing that they can take any form they want (something like the aliens in the Dig)? So advanced as to download THOUGHTS and MEMORIES? It's kinda difficult for the human brain to conceive that idea... Ok, in ID4, they h ve this kind of technology we know we can reach after some time... But the Contact technology, seems to be no technology at all actually... Well, maybe they, as different life forms, have evoluted in such a different way that we can't comprehend... After ll, all that we know is human-based... What do WE know of what alien LIFE FORMS will look like... We just think they'll be consisted of cells, and tissues and so on... the truth is, WE DON'T HAVE A CLUE! :)
c) It doesn't answer all our questions, since, ok, he says it himself, one step at a time... But it answers the basic question... They DO exist and are totally different than anything we have imagined of so far...!
Well, we didn't really see the alien planet. We barely saw some lights from orbit. I'm quite glad the aliens were not rubber-suit actors. As in 2001, their non-corporeal presence adds credibility to the story. The point of the story is not what they look ike, but that they exist. I think one of the great characteristics of the movie is that it's open-ended. It doesn't answer all the questions. (And that's just fine, I DON'T want to see a sequel.) btw, it's coming out on video on December 16.
Hi again... Time to start saying what I think about the movie... Well, let's get right to the point... As far as I know and as far as I've seen, this film is the first one to present such a beautiful and optimistic aspect of view of what an alien planet w uld be like, or of how some aliens we could come in contact with would treat us... They just listened, just like we do (with the radiotelescopes and all), and they received this TV broadcast, which for them, wasn't but a solitary signal from another world .. They couldn't know what it showed or said, they just sent it back where it came from to declare "Hey, we listened you!"... Nice guys, kind, peaceful and friendly, so much, that they also send us plans of how to construct this kind of machine to go visi them! Of course, the presentation of the human suspiciousness, where while Ellie thinks it's some sort of transport machine for us to go there, everybody else thinks it may even be a Trojan Horse that will bring the aliens there to destroy them all! How oolishness and reticence can go opposite to progress...! What if Ellie wasn't there at all? The machine would have never been built, and the Contact wouldn't have been achieved, at least not the way it is achieved in the whole film... The film also shows ow the "alien" civilisations can be more than one (actually, I'm of the strong believers, and not in blind of course, that there are many millions of intelligent civils out there, but we say here "more than one" cause people are used to search for "anothe world" of aliens, not thinking how many of them there could be (are) oute there... :)), since nobody knows who originally invented the transport machine... Finally (for now), we see something we don;t really see often in such films, if it's not the first time we ever see it... The whole story seems to end where the film ends, cause nobody has believed Ellie, apart from the "superior" guys, who know that she did make the journey, since the camera recorded 18 hours of parasites, and not several seconds as i should have... But it doesn't really end there... The alien (who's real self we never see, just him having taken the form of Ellie's father...) ensures her that this "meeting", this Contact, is just the very first step... Small moves, one at a time, not ll at once... So, many other people will go to that world, and "meet" the "aliens", but only in time... And that's one of the greater characteristics of the film... I don't know exactly why :), but it is...!
Now, I'm not sure about all of these stuff I mentioned, some may be correct, some may not... It's been more than two weeks since I last saw the film (only once...), and I have to watch a film at least 3 times to come up with a full report about it...! :) s soon as I get it on video tape, I'll be able to tell more... For the time, we can discuss these minor things...
Lauren, I appreciate your comments. The MTV generation thing is a cliche, a generalization. I'm not knocking it in particular, but rather the short attention span often attributed to it. No generalization is true for everyone. I'm glad you have intelligen peers :-)
I am using your wonderful review for a paper I am doing in English class here at WSU. Your opinions mostly match mine except one. In your criticism section you knock the MTV generation. Most of the populace that went to see the movie was from that gene ation. Contact had a very broad audience age. I am from that generation you were talking about and I feel you might be underestimating your future rulers. I have heard nothing but incredibly positive things about this movie from my peers, except maybe couple no green alien fools. These people that are missing the typical and the gore are so far all men, young and old.
I'm very happy to see that the forum I suggested :) is already up and running! As long as we all act maturely, we can write some pretty cool stuff about the Contact here... It occurs to me that this film above all others of its kind has a great philosophi al background and development... As soon as I find some time to spare, I'll be back here expressing my opinion about it... :) And don't forget: If there are no other intelligent civilizations out there, if we're indeed alone, then... there's a damn lot of space wasted (my version)! :)
This is an experimental forum for discussing the movie Contact. If it serves its purpose well, I'll keep it. If it gets abused by jerks or becomes a pain to maintain, I'll drop it.
Let's have some meaningful discussions here. Thanks.