20 years ago, I watched Contact in the theater with my family. Tonight, I watched it again, with S.
To me, it held up well as a movie. All the characters were believable, and the science and the effects were well within the normal parameters of suspension of disbelief.
What struck me was how hopeful a movie it was, that our better natures would win out, that our endless curiosity would take us places we’ve never imagined.
[Note that spoilers follow]
It’s always interesting the things you remember 20 years later. “Why not make two, at twice the price?” The destruction scene. The prime numbers sounding so ominously alien from the aether. The speaking through her father. The 18 hours of static.
Interestingly, I had remembered that 18 hours of static as being the vindication at the end of the movie, that she was not crazy, that something had indeed happened, but I had forgotten how much it was covered up.
The one (gaping) plot hole I had missed the first time around was the absence of study and testing before a human was sent through the machine. If you look at the history of the Apollo program, you see that it was preceded by Mercury and Gemini, with dozens of sequential missions, each testing new parts, to make sure that each part of the system and plan were well-enough understood to ensure successful missions. The idea that they would build a half-trillion-dollar system in Contact and not fully study it (especially if it’s generating strange EM radiation) before sending a human through it ‘strains credulity’. Even the EM it’s radiating would be a fantastic discovery for humans.
But I can understand how they would cut out things to make a move that was watchable, and which was able to spend its time focusing on the humans in the story.
The alternative view of events that the NSA directory was trying to convince people of at the end of the movie was reminiscent (for me) of the big con at the end of ‘Watchmen’, albeit at the opposite end of the hope-fear axis.
Apparently, like Bladerunner, the ending was supposed to keep your doubt alive as to whether the events she experienced had actually happened. To me, it didn’t, as 18 hours of static (and whatever metallurgical data they could get from the sphere) would be enough to prove the story.
I laughed, I cried, I am full of hope. A new year dawns. Time to use that hope to build something meaningful, starting with some words.
We immediately followed it with Men In Black. I’ll leave it to you to enjoy this juxtaposition.
If you’d read or watched any Carl Sagan, this would probably not be surprising. “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.”
I had remembered it as 18 minutes.
In ‘Contact’, it was posited that a billionaire had faked first contact to inspire humans to push themselves outwards. In ‘Watchmen’ (the graphic novel), Adrian Veidt fakes an alien invasion to scare humans into working together against a common foe.
’Watchmen’ the movie simplified the plot to have Doctor Manhattan be the scapegoat. this lead to a much tighter movie, but slightly less appropriate for my analogy, however much he played with space and time.