Autor: student77 06 December 2008
Words: 816 | Pages: 4
The Warner Bros. movie Contact, based on the novel by famous Astronomer Carl Sagan, is a fascinating journey through the human mind and attempts to answer the question that humans have been asking since the dawn of time "Are we alone in the Universe?" The movie describes with amazing accuracy the lives of astronomers and researchers who work for the SETI program and other similar projects that explore the possibilities of receiving extra terrestrial radio signals. Ellie Arroway (portrayed by Jodie Foster), the main character of the movie refers to the historic event upon which the movie is based, contact with an alien civilization as one of the most significant events in human history and says "This time is unique in our history, in any civilization's history: the moment of the acquisition of technology. The moment when contact becomes possible." The movie explores many aspects of making "contact" with aliens. It explores the religious implications of such an event as well as the faith that one has to have afterwards. It is ironic that Arroway falls back on faith to believe her journey took place upon her return after having shunned faith that others had in God before. The movie did not deal with the Cold War politics that Sagan's book dealt with mainly because of the release date of this movie. The movie was made well after the end of the Cold War and the efforts to build a space pod for space travel is depicted as being an international effort.
The feasibility of the events in Contact is not too far from reality. The movie makes the assumption that the alien civilization that contacted us is far more advanced than humans. If contact was made today it could only be achieved with the assistance of a civilization far more advanced than our human race. Radio and television signals have been travelling in space for over 60 years and an alien civilization that is 100 light years away would first have to be able to recognize the waves and be able to interpret them as being signals from another civilization and respond to them accordingly. Everything before the construction of an alien vessel to transport a human through space seems very possible. The alien vessel however is rather wishful thinking upon our part. If an alien civilization were to detect our presence, it is more likely that they would want to satisfy their curiosity as much as we would and would not be so eager to transport one of our own species to their planet.
Descriptions of research facilities in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and New Mexico were very realistic and impressive. The fact that a few of the characters were based on actual scientists made the movie even more interesting. That and the inclusion of subtle scientific tidbits really helped carry the movie for the avid amateur astronomer. The attention to detail can be witnessed in the details regarding the distance of the star regarding the transmission and reception of the radio signal. The star "Vega" is said to be 26 light years away from earth which makes probability of receiving a signal from there after the first television transmission from Germany in 1936 very likely within the parameters of the movie. This attention to detail is undoubtedly due to the contribution of Ann Druyan who worked on the series "Cosmos" with Carl Sagan. Another scene that is pure fun for the SETI aficionado is the scene where Jodie Foster's character is explaining to Mathew McConaughey's character about the Drake Equation without mentioning it in so many words and plugs in her own numbers, revealing the possibility for millions of civilizations in the Universe that are advanced like us. Uniquely interesting tid-bits also made this movie an enjoyable experience for people who have followed the exploits of SETI and Frank Drake. One of the scenes that struck me in particular was the scene of the Woodstock-like gathering outside the New Mexico facility after the announcement of the signal's discovery had been made. The spectacle was very amusing with Elvis impersonators holding up signs that said "Viva Las VEGA" and Neo-Nazis chanting "Hitler LIVES on Vega!" But what was interesting was an areal shot of the scene where one can see a huge hot air balloon with the word "Oz" written on it. This was an obvious reference to Drake's Project Ozma, named after the Princess of Oz in Frank Baum's popular Oz series, was the first attempt by humans to listen for messages using a radio telescope at Green Bank, W. Virginia.
The first half of Contact is very realistic and very thought provoking and the latter half is just wishful thinking based on a series of "what ifs" which pervade the movie. The one thing that Contact achieves is the clarification of the question of man's possible contact with alien civilizations from an IF to a WHEN.