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Overall Rating
3.12

Awesome: 22.67%
Worth A Look27.33%
Average: 14%
Pretty Bad: 11.33%
Total Crap: 24.67%

8 reviews, 102 user ratings


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Contact
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by EricDSnider

"Mocks religion for two hours, then does an about-face. Not cool."
3 stars

[NOTE: This isn't a "review" so much as a commentary on the film "Contact." I wrote it in the fall of 1997, after the film had played. It is included here for historical value. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.]

It is unusual for a summer blockbuster to inspire much actual debate. Oh sure, you'll have people comparing the latest sequels to their predecessors, and you'll have psychologists saying that letting your kids see a dozen people getting eaten by dinosaurs can be disturbing to them -- but that's about as far as it goes. Summer movies are usually "popcorn" movies, designed to be watched, enjoyed and soon forgotten.

This year's "Contact" was a rare exception.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on a book by noted astronomer Carl Sagan, "Contact" deals with issues like the balance between science and religion, life after death, and extra-terrestrial beings. It's science-fiction oriented and spacey like a summer film, but high-minded and intelligent like a fall film.

And yet, the film has some serious problems, even beside its emotionally manipulative film-making techniques. (Didja like the slow-motion at the beginning where the little girl was running to save her dying dad? How about the maudlin scene where she tries to contact her dead father on the radio?)

No, the main problem with "Contact" is its overall message -- or, more precisely, the way that message is presented.

The theme of the movie is that it takes no more faith to believe in science than it does to believe in religion. In the end Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is left with very little hard evidence to prove she met with aliens. All she knows is that SHE knows it happened, and she cannot deny it. For anyone to believe her, they simply have to have faith in her story. It's an ironic and interesting statement, and one that seems, on its face, remarkably pro-religion (or at least not anti-religion).

One problem, though. For 120 minutes before this, the movie relentlessly criticizes religion. Every religious character is shown to be either old-fashioned and naive (the guy who says, "We don't even know if these aliens are moral" is clearly not well-respected by the movie's other characters), or out-and-out insane (the religious zealot who blows stuff up, who of course is from Utah, stereotypical home of religious nuts).

The only religious character portrayed as being a normal, non-crazy person, is Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) -- and he sleeps with Arroway on their first date! I'd rather be one of the "zealots" they make fun of than an immoral pseudo-spiritual backslider like Joss.

Furthermore, Arroway, while speaking to Joss, gives two possibilities: Either God exists and refuses to make his presence known, or -- clearly the more "reasonable" possibility -- there is no God, and science is the answer to life's questions. A third scenario, the one that happens to be true, is not even mentioned as being possible: That God exists and gives abundant evidence of that fact to those who are willing to see it.

When people raise concerns about sending an atheist like Arroway as a representative of Earth, when an overwhelming majority of Earthlings believe in God, we are supposed to be on Arroway's side. But I agreed with everyone else! Arroway shouldn't have been sent! But that's not how the movie wants us to feel. We're supposed to roll our eyes at how silly it is that the issue of belief in God should even be brought up in a situation that clearly has nothing to do with it. "Look at how obsessive these religious people are!" is what the movie is saying, and we're supposed to agree with it.

So the movie goes along in this vein for two hours -- belittling religion, showing religious people to be pitiable, misguided souls -- and then suddenly changes. In the final ten minutes, we get this twist: That believing in science requires the same sort of blind faith that has been mocked by everyone for 120 minutes! Ho-ho, imagine the wackiness!

If it had been better executed, this would have been a marvelous ending, giving scientific credence, or at least respectability, to belief in God. As it is, though, it is too little too late. It's hard to accept that the ideas presented so vividly and one-sidedly for two hours weren't what the filmmakers were really intending to say -- that it was merely a set-up for a grand, ironic finale. Again, the idea of it is great. But Zemeckis' technique winds up celebrating the anti-religious sentiment, rather than making a skeptical audience reconsider it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=375&reviewer=247
originally posted: 09/04/05 17:48:20
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User Comments

11/07/14 josh messier Best film I have ever seen period! 5 stars
7/17/12 Phil K a very interesting,thought provoking film... 4 stars
1/17/11 Man out 6 Bucks Failed to send catholic Hitler and christopathic crusading terrorists down a black hole. 3 stars
11/20/09 JsmmyE Hi! tSlEshY 1 stars
9/24/09 JR Great review, Rob. One of the top 20 films of all time. Fantastic.. 5 stars
9/05/09 rob enjoyable watch, but just too silly in places, they could have made the script sharper 4 stars
3/08/09 SandySue I liked it - Jodie Foster and Matthew pick good ones 4 stars
10/14/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
3/02/08 bronson Mejia intelligent 4 stars
7/27/07 R.W. Welch Murky sci-fi with romance angle that doesn't click. 3 stars
6/10/07 mb Very Interesting Story ... purely demonical New Age, however 4 stars
4/06/07 fools♫gold Intheend youchoosewhatyouwish2believe, andit'smuchbttrthn anythingEternalSunshine has2offer 5 stars
1/10/07 Booksworm "clark" is clearly an idiot.Excellent movie.FUCK anybody who doesn't like it. 5 stars
11/16/06 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 4 stars
8/26/06 brett An Awesome Beautifull sci-fi. 5 stars
4/30/06 R H Horton It sucks 1 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Only movie I ever walked out on... not even "Batman and Robin". 1 stars
9/27/05 Carolyn Rathburn Good film, makes you wonder about life, out there 4 stars
9/21/05 Eric Fortune It was pretty good. The ending wasn't all it could be. 4 stars
9/04/05 Ritchie Kelly The movie is about Ellie's loneliness. She's at the loneliest age, in her 20s. She has no 5 stars
6/27/05 tony Very slow. slow everything. thank god my ass was itchy during this movie! 1 stars
6/20/05 Adam If you have insomnia rent this overated flick....ZZZzzzz 2 stars
5/22/05 Cham I watched the whole movie to find out that her father is an alien?!?!?!?! 1 stars
5/06/05 Mind Junkie It coulda been better 4 stars
4/24/05 Charlene Javier Call me stupid but it was boring! 2 stars
4/23/05 Kim I found it watchable. 3 stars
4/22/05 Roy Smith Worth a Look - if you love cliche's. It's actually boring! 2 stars
4/21/05 Carolyn Rathburn I enjoyed this film, it certainly makes you wonder what might be out there 4 stars
4/20/05 Krisan I liked it, i thought it had wonderful visuals 4 stars
4/20/05 Dan Good and intelligent sci-fi, but read the book first. 4 stars
4/17/05 Junior LaROche Loved it! Book was better, but Carl Sagan rocks! You have to like it for the story. 4 stars
4/16/05 Linda Denisen Thought it was worth watching and imaginative. 3 stars
4/16/05 Gail Crawford great sci-fi movie 4 stars
4/14/05 I-K No wonder they waited until Carl Sagan died to make it. 1 stars
4/14/05 Roy Smith Vince needs a brain implant. Proteus is far, far too kind. 2 stars
8/01/04 Vince Proteus should be executed. This is a great Sci Fi movie 5 stars
5/20/04 Proteus Excrement. Bumbling, preachy, and pretentious. tries for 2001, looks like Pigs in Space. 1 stars
4/13/04 John Humanity portayed at it's finest-- and worst 5 stars
4/08/04 Jon This film coulda used some trimming lengthwise; in any case, I liked it. 4 stars
2/18/04 Chicken731 Obviously if you think this movie sucks, you did not understand the ending. Read the book! 5 stars
2/13/04 Des This is an amazing film, it makes the audience think - why are all the ratings 5 or 1? 5 stars
12/26/03 Mason This movie is not for people with small brains. 5 stars
10/12/03 JimmyC Horrible 1 stars
9/29/03 Michael What's wrong with all the critics here - this is one of the finest movies ever made 5 stars
8/09/03 Nicole Very good, but the ending was kind of crappy 4 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald bold enough to expect the audience to think and accept the unknown 5 stars
6/18/03 Angolmois Manipulative schmaltz which manages to insult both emotions and intellect. 1 stars
4/04/03 Jack Bourbon At least Jodie Foster didn't get naked in this one. 3 stars
3/27/03 Ionicera good film, banal ending 3 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Heavy-handed nonsense. 1 stars
2/26/03 Francy Intelligent plot, great Jodie, serene and solemn music. 5 stars
11/19/02 Nevz Watch it up to the last 5 minutes. 5 stars
10/22/02 Charles Tatum B grade sci-fi with huge budget 4 stars
8/19/02 Nevz I loved this film, what an excellent story. 5 stars
8/05/02 KMG I COULD'VE DONE WITHOUT THE MORAL MESSAGE 4 stars
4/08/02 Film Guy One of the best films ever made 5 stars
3/29/02 George Good movie. Too bad OZ didn't get half of it. 4 stars
3/01/02 Andrew Carden Boring Sci-Fi Flick. Way Too Long, Although Woods Did An OK Job In His Meaningless Role. 2 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Such a slow film...I lost interest. 2 stars
12/26/01 doug Very good film!...until the end which totally screws it. Very stupid ending. 3 stars
10/26/01 Da Oompa This movie had SO much potential. I hate Skerritt almost as much as Alan Thicke. 3 stars
10/18/01 ron20003 Screw the movie - Read the Book 1 stars
10/15/01 Bod Goy Enough stones? I think it's possible for people to genuinely love this movie. Which I do 5 stars
8/29/01 Gary I hate this so much. This film annoyed me so much I almost ate my own fist. 1 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Jodie Foster's a rug-munching has-been. Fuck her and fuck this movie. 1 stars
7/06/01 Rich Cirivilleri poetry. Graceful, thoughtful, lyrical. Foster deserved the oscar. fuck the academy! 5 stars
5/28/01 cinkcool Good until the ending. Very anticlimatic. Ruins the movie. 1 stars
5/04/01 The Jedi Droid hated it 1 stars
4/24/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) I agree 150% with {{OZ}}'s review. Too bad he's the only one with enough stones to say it. 2 stars
3/27/01 Jesse L Do NOT see this movie if you are sober... 1 stars
3/17/01 S A It's a great film 5 stars
3/15/01 URA1999 This is the greatest film I've ever seen 5 stars
3/12/01 Jon Cotleur Let me get this straight: First Contact gets 'Awesome', Contact only gets 'Worth a look'? 5 stars
2/16/01 Jake This was actually quite comical so I gave it **. 2 stars
2/15/01 viking You're a complete twerp, Naushad !!! This is REAL sci-fi. 5 stars
12/02/00 Naushad Phoney SF.Story lacks pace and energy.Wooden performances.Utterly boring. 1 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin a fine experience 3 stars
10/13/00 Ant Jodie Foster, like she has done before, takes this film beyond the ordinary 4 stars
5/02/00 Overflow Bitch I loved it !! Well done. Foster great as usual, great story. 4 stars
4/12/00 TJ St John Intelligent science fiction!!!! 5 stars
3/04/00 yankee this asks great questions, what if...needs to be explored more, but then we might get crap 4 stars
12/28/99 gepetto one of the best movies to come out of the 90's 5 stars
10/17/99 Shelagh A special film. Wasn't Jodie Foster really good ? 5 stars
8/20/99 Japtalian I respect intelligent sci-fi and this was that. 4 stars
6/13/99 Vick Di Brecci Larry King and Bernard Shaw are whores and Clinton should have sued. 4 stars
5/10/99 Beachlovr9 Excellent 5 stars
5/03/99 HI! It ROCKED godammit! 5 stars
3/17/99 Ah Dooey Extraordinary sci-fi movie, definitely incredible than Species and its sequel. 4 stars
3/05/99 Eric Walker It moved me. Wasn't meant to answer questions...but to ask them. 5 stars
2/03/99 James E. Laczkowski This is one of the most extraordinary films of the decade! Jodie Foster is incredible 5 stars
1/15/99 Dasha I loved this movie, and Jodie was great as always 5 stars
1/09/99 Thorn Silvertree The first 180 seconds alone are worth the price of the film. 5 stars
12/10/98 Freyja Smart movie. Unfortunately, stupid audience. Go watch the Waterboy. 5 stars
11/25/98 Fred This wins the MTT award: for Most Tolerable Techies. Only good sci-fi movie of the 90's 4 stars
11/13/98 Jules Very close to the book. Boring and preachy. +Enough fucking worm tunnel sequences already! 2 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob IF you enjoyed the Sagan book, this movie does deliver some of the goods. 4 stars
10/25/98 Lord Of The Dunce URGH! I HATED this movie. Zero chemistry between the leads and HUUUUGE plotholes. Ugh. Ban. 1 stars
9/17/98 Miss LILI The most FUCKIN BORINGEST movie ever !!!! 1 stars
9/17/98 Ben Affleck Not bad at all.. Smoothe sailing movie, with some really cool scenes. 4 stars
8/23/98 Mister Whoopee Nothing of merit except the cool steadicam shot. Otherwise, crap. 2 stars
8/17/98 {{{OZ}}} Total crap. Fooling morons into thinking they're seeing a good film by making it long 2 stars
8/17/98 J-Guy (The MFC) pretty good. the end was a let down. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Jul-1997 (PG)

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