The real genius of this movie is lost on many people.
Especially those complaining about what a bad science fiction movie it is. At one time, I was one of those people. In actual fact, this is not a sci fi movie at all……..it’s a philosophical drama. Your first clue should have been that this was directed by Robert Zemeckis.
This movie is about the value of our humanity. That coming to terms with our consciousness and humanity is the most valuable and important discovery that we can make, and what makes us (and possibly like-minded beings elsewhere) the greatest phenomenon of all in the universe. The religious nut that blows up the first machine is the opposite side of the coin from Elly and her fanatical belief in “the language of science”. Both are lost souls searching for the wrong things…..answers to questions that will be answered for us all in time. The supposedly disappointing ending is actually part of its brilliance because the audience is like Elly, they’ve been trolled the entire movie expecting to see some amazing, highly advanced civilization, and at the end she winds up sitting out by the canyon contemplating the meaning of her existence. Throughout the movie, Reverend Joss is the only one in the movie who is on the path, yet is patient enough to wait for the answers he seeks.
Does it ever occur to anyone else that the “ET” that Elly meets in that pseudo Garden Of Eden is, in fact, her father, who has joined a higher plane of existence in the universe? Perhaps in sense, heaven is a concept that can be explained both by scientific reality and faith in God. Einstein himself said that humanity would never be capable of understanding more than about 10% of the way the universe works.
You don’t have to be deeply religious or have a PhD in Astrophysics to realize we are more than just a collection of highly ordered carbon atoms and water molecules. That’s the real brilliance of this film. You can make of it whatever you want, but it will force you to ask questions and reflect on your own life (a Zemeckis specialty in most of his films)