Contact

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Factual error: When Mr. Hadden reviews Ellie's life history on his airplane, he says she graduated from MIT 'magna cum laude'. This is impossible, as MIT does not award academic honors to graduates.

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Palmer Joss: What are you studying up there?
Ellie Arroway: Oh, the usual. Nebulae, quasars, pulsars, stuff like that. What are you writing?
Palmer Joss: The usual. Nouns, adverbs, adjective here and there.

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Trivia: The film's opening shot, zooming out from the Earth to outside the galaxy, held the record for the longest completely computer-generated shot for seven years until The Day After Tomorrow in 2004.

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Question: If you read the book version of Contact you know that the stuff about transcendental numbers and the Artist's Signature was left out of the movie. This makes no sense to me, since it's not only the real ending, it's the whole POINT of the story. Without this information, the story's fundamental question (does God exist?) is not answered in the movie. Does anyone know why this was left out?

Answer: The film chooses to focus on Ellie's personal journey and how she deals with and comes to terms with what happens - it doesn't really involve God at all, other than the inclusion of Palmer Joss as a religious advocate, choosing to restrict itself to the much less theologically controversial theme of a straight first contact scenario, without the religious overtones. Given the depth of feeling on religious matters in the US, it's hardly surprising that the filmmakers preferred to leave this particular hot topic out. While Carl Sagan died during production of the film, he both co-produced and was involved in the story process, so he was clearly not concerned about this change.

Tailkinker Premium member

Answer: If anything, I think the film's producers deliberately left godly topics unaddressed (and questions dangling, unanswered) because they didn't want to alienate any particular audience. However, we know the producers of "Contact" certainly did vilify religion through the sinister scenes with Joseph, the evangelical extremist. At the same time, the film created empathy for the president's glib theological adviser, Palmer Joss. So, I don't think the film was shying away from religious topics, and I think it was pretty fair to the religious viewpoint, for the most part. But this movie wasn't about religion; it was about a primitive, materialistic, self-centered and aggressive species (humanity) reluctantly acknowledging the existence of vastly more intelligent and even godlike entities throughout the cosmos. Even the first-contact entities, advanced as they are, acknowledge other entities much more ancient and much more advanced (the virtual architects of the space/time conduit). The implication was that we live in a universe that may be populated with many intelligent entities that answer every human criteria of godhood. Ellie's narrow-minded atheism was surely shaken to its foundation by her experience; and, while she didn't "convert" to archaic earthly religions, she was spiritually a different person upon her return. The film, however, is open-ended and fence-straddling and doesn't presume to definitively answer the question of the existence of god, leaving it up to the audience to decide.

Charles Austin Miller
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