MovieChat Forums > Contact (1997) Discussion > The first 70% of the movie is 10/10

The first 70% of the movie is 10/10


I remember watching this for the first time and thinking about half way through that this is one of the best movies i've ever seen. The build up and sense of intrigue is through the roof. There's a real sense of wonderment leading up to the construction of the alien technology and where it will take them.

But then the 3rd act goes full blown philosophical/religious on us. This should have been a straight up sci-fi movie without all those philosophical implications. And yes, I know the movie is just following the lead of the book...I wish it didn't. It feels like a cop out ending to avoid the effort of actually depicting a highly advanced alien civilization.

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No ending would be satisfying for this type of movie.

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True, but anything would've been better than that cop out ending. All of that effort and the aliens shared nothing substantial.

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They shared the knowledge that humanity is not alone in the Universe, which seems pretty substantial to me. The philosophical underpinnings of this film are what make it work so well.

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They shared the knowledge that humanity is not alone in the Universe, which seems pretty substantial to me.


They know that already by receiving the communication in the first place. And they gave her zero evidence so that knowledge literally only benefited her and no one else. It doesn't matter how you spin it, it was a stupid cop-out ending.

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Different takes on it, I guess. One key phrase in the film is "small steps" -- plenty of people believed her, and humanity must come to grips with the knowledge of other races across the Universe. That doesn't happen overnight. Humanity must change & grow to be ready to join the community of those other races in peace. "Small steps."

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Yes. I'd forgotten the "small steps" quote but I think you're correct - that summed up the approach required and had apparently worked many time before.

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what was great about the book was that S.R. Hadden didn't have cancer and he did something at the very end of the book that really made it a great ending. Too bad they didn't do this in the movie, it would have been so much better.

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What did he do? You can spoil it for me, i'm not going to read the book.

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Ok, it's hard to remember everything but Hadden understood his mortality, he someone lived in space, it might have been his own space station..in other words similar to the movie but something other than Mir. He also had a small one man spaceship named "Gilgamesh". He launched it towards Jupiter and Saturn so he would get a great view before leaving the solar system. He would did but his ship would get nearly as cold as absolute zero, maybe billions of years in the future some intelligent life would discover his spaceship and bring him back to life.

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Maybe give it another watch in 10 years, when you've some more miles on you. The ending will become a lot more logical than you think now.

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Your answer is just as much of a cop-out as the ending to the movie. A vague and vacuous remark because you're unable to articulate yourself in a meaningful way.

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SOUTH PARK DID A NICE EPISODE ABOUT PRETTY MUCH WHAT YOU JUST SAID...

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OH DID THEY FGT

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NO THEY DIDNT FORGET...IT WAS COMPLETED...I SAW IT..🙂

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I thought of it as a softly softly approach. Here we are - get used to the idea - eventually when we all get to know each other you guys won't get obliterated by our more advanced galactic culture.
Perhaps also we'd gradually find uses for all that technology used to build the device - we are after all fairly clever monkeys - and that too would help prepare us for the next step.

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Here we are - get used to the idea - eventually when we all get to know each other you guys won't get obliterated by our more advanced galactic culture.


But that still doesn't make sense since only Eleanor was privy to the experience. The rest of humanity are oblivious to what happened so they have nothing to get used to. They also gave her zero evidence ruining her reputation.

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I don't think it ruined her reputation because so many believed her. Even the politicians who seemed to be hiding the length of the recording - admittedly only static - thought something had happened.
It became a question of faith if you believed her or not - which is a curious approach - matching one faith against another, or at least that's the way some would have seen it.

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The point still stands, only Eleanor was privy to the experience. The rest of humanity are completely oblivious.

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Perhaps you're being a little too literal here? One of the themes of the film is faith: what one believes in & why. Clearly a great many people believe Ellie, as shown at the end of the film. And how many things do we believe & accept about the world without ever having personally seen or experienced them ourselves?

How many scientists believe that there's other life in the Universe, without one scintilla of actual evidence?

Ellie is believed by many because of the obvious emotional impact of her experience, her utter sincerity in attempting to describe it. They may not have shared her experience, but they can see for themselves that she did have a powerful, life-changing experience. That alone is enough to open their minds to the possibility of its truth. She isn't demanding that others believe, she's simply saying, "This is what I experienced." Acceptance or rejection is then up to each individual. And a great number of people accept. Just as some don't, because they need the irrefutable evidence in their hands first. Both are valid responses.

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Perhaps you're being a little too literal here? One of the themes of the film is faith: what one believes in & why.


I understand that, that's why I mentioned in my OP that the third act goes full blown philosophical/religious on us. I'm saying it was the wrong decision and it is the reason why many find the ending both unsatisfactory and unconvincing.

The theme of faith was very apparent in the rest of the movie, they unfortunately took it one step too far by shoehorning it into the ending.

Ellie is believed by many because of the obvious emotional impact of her experience, her utter sincerity in attempting to describe it. They may not have shared her experience, but they can see for themselves that she did have a powerful, life-changing experience. That alone is enough to open their minds to the possibility of its truth. She isn't demanding that others believe, she's simply saying, "This is what I experienced." Acceptance or rejection is then up to each individual. And a great number of people accept. Just as some don't, because they need the irrefutable evidence in their hands first. Both are valid responses.


And this makes absolutely no sense in the context of the movie. Why would they curate this experience for one individual? Humanity as a whole has learnt nothing, whether a few individuals believe her story is inconsequential to humanity as a whole. There are plenty of people out there with stories of alien encounters which people have to take on faith.

It would've made more sense if Ellie's camera actually recorded the footage so humanity could experience what she did on some level. Anything at all that would benefit humanity as a whole and not just one person. But like you said, the movie was more interested in ramming the theme of 'faith' into the audiences throat. Wrong decision in my opinion. It would've played better as a straight sci-fi movie with logical scenarios and the theme of faith in the background.

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Well, that's a fair response. Let's agree to disagree, according to our own experience of the film.

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"How many scientists believe that there's other life in the Universe, without one scintilla of actual evidence?"

Probably none because there is evidence. Look up "The Disclosure Project". Mountains of hard evidence related to UAVs/UFOs.

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What were you expecting, something out of Star Trek? It takes time to acclimatise a civilisation to the idea of intelligent species on other worlds, it doesn't happen overnight. Some might think it's a cop-out because there was no visual indication that the pod in the Machine travelled anywhere, but the politicians at the end of the movie confirmed that much time had passed in that split-second, with the video unit static.

I like the movie, not just for the final destination, but the journey there, and the philosphical debates that it brings up.

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The philosophical debates are a large part of my liking for this film. :)

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What were you expecting, something out of Star Trek? It takes time to acclimatise a civilisation to the idea of intelligent species on other worlds, it doesn't happen overnight.


That's the problem, they haven't attempted to acclimatize our civilization as a whole, they have literally just curated an experience for one individual i.e. Ellie. And what if an asshole like Drumlin ended up going? Then the journey would've been even more pointless to humanity as a whole.

No matter which angle you look at it from, the ending is unsatisfactory and unconvincing. It should have been tweaked and rethought.

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Get out of my face with that so-called criticism, the movie was GREAT.

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Stfu halfwit, you can't even refute my points.

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OK, I see the people in the movie as behaving as real people would behave. The mistake, I suppose, was to broadcast the Vega message to all and sundry, resulting in the "carnival" atmosphere they had both at the VLA and at Cape Canaveral (?) for the test run of the Machine. The resulting tragedy of the crazed fundamentalist bomber blowing up the first Machine was the result, so they had to change tack and massively improve security.

And if the plans for an alien machine were suddenly presented to us, they wouldn't waste time in using it. What I said about acclimatisation was what Star Trek does, not what this movie would do. HOWEVER, aliens themselves landed on Earth, in front of dozens of witnesses, so the aliens forced the issue and left us no time to acclimatise ourselves. True, humans flew a unique FTL spacecraft that got their attention, but the humans did quite well to get used to the alien visitors, considering they had some warning by future humans.

What I'm saying is, in both cases, we let aliens know of our existence (Contact's Hitler broadcast, Star Trek's Phoenix) and they replied. We've been waiting for aliens for decades, and I think we have some idea what to expect.

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None of that has anything to do with the ending of Contact, and the decision of the aliens to curate an experience for one human being and share no knowledge at all with the rest of humanity. I see you're more interested in the philosophical aspects of the movie, but it has to work on a literal level first.

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Well, there is the whole Haddon angle, and how many saw him as a hoaxer, with the power he had to even make the whole "message from space" possible for the one woman who approached him with a grant for radio telescope research (maybe he had a crush on Ellie?)

The movie seems to be about faith, primarily. Many believe Ellie is lying, some believe she has been deceived by Haddon, and still others believe her, namely Palmer Joss. The movie throws us a bone with the whole "18 hours of static" discussion between the politicians, and that pleased me, as it implied SOMETHING happened.

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It also strikes me that restricting the experience to Ellie & then waiting to see how the rest of humanity reacts to it & presumably grows because of it might well be the next of those many "small steps" in joining the larger galactic community.

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At the end of the book she basically discovered evidence of intelligent design in the universe. It was pretty clever. They never put that in the film though.

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I didn't know that. How did they do that? I liked the movie, even though I was disappointed not to see real aliens. It was a good sensory experience. My favorite parts are the visual of the field of satellite dishes, especially when they all turn, and the sounds when they first hear the alien message. And the scene when Ellie is on the ship traveling to the second device. And the visual of the way the device works.

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I would give the first 3/4 of the film about 7/10. Foster's breathy way of acting here becomes annoying. The last part of the film is ridiculous. I guess it's meant to be awe-inspiring in some way but I found it all silly. It really brings it down. Before that, at least it was a solid attempt at a hard SF film.

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For many, including me, the last part of the film is where it takes the glorious leap into poetry & metaphor, which only adds to its power & emotional impact.

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Not for me. It ruined the film. I wonder if Sagan's novel is written that way or if they changed it for the film.

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