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sycasey 2.0



4 members have voted

  1. 1. Does Contact go in the space capsule?

    • ✅ Okay to go!
    • ❌ Should've sent a poet.

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Paul & Amy reach out to 1997’s Robert Zemeckis extraterrestrial encounter film Contact! They learn about the long journey Carl Sagan’s story took to the screen, ask whether Matthew McConaughey’s character is too daffy, and debate the existence of God and aliens. Plus: How did they get Bill Clinton to cameo?

Next week Unspooled’s space series continues with Alien! You can join the conversation for this series on the Unspooled Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/unspooledpodcast, and on Paul’s Discord at https://discord.gg/ZwtygZGTa6. Learn more about the show at unspooledpod.com, follow us on Twitter @unspooled and Instagram @unspooledpod, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify. You can also listen to our Stitcher Premium game show Screen Test right now at https://www.stitcher.com/show/unspooled-screen-test, and apply to be a contestant at unspooledpod@gmail.com! Photo credit: Kim Troxall

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This movie was pretty good, but not nearly good enough to go to space. Not only is it not as good as 2001 (or Zemeckis' best movies), I might even put Interstellar above it. It is a somewhat atypical and arguably more realistic space movie because it actually does involve a government bureaucracy screwing over the protagonist, but that's not enough to make it a good movie. I think Amy is right that the walk-back at the end doesn't make sense given her experience, and I think it can only be understood as Sagan speaking instead of her.

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I'm pretty surprised by the positive reactions to this film on the podcast. It's by no means a bad film: I thought it was totally fine, but felt it had nothing interesting to say and the Zemeckis saccharin really holds this film back from being great.

You can tell that this is adapted from a dense book as there are so many ideas here but none of them are explored in a meaningful way, just rushed through. The faith-in-science vs. faith-in-religion conversations never go anywhere, and boy are there are lot of these surface-level debates. Maybe these conversations would land better if the film was about Ellie coming to grips with what she believes after her space journey, but what we get are a bunch of characters who don't struggle with their beliefs at all. They are firm in their positions but can't make a compelling argument for why.

I actually think the bureaucracy angle actively makes this film worse. It's totally believable, but again, the film never does anything with it. Ellie gets screwed over by a bunch of men who outrank her and......she acts completely professionally about it and goes about doing her job. A totally respectable and realistic reaction, but not compelling in the slightest. Her story would end there if not for a few deus ex machina-men, one who conveniently kills the man who screwed her over, and another who has a vasts wealth of money and an infatuation with Ellie that is never explained. I think it would've been interesting to explore how she has almost no agency and that a bunch of men dictate her fate directly and indirectly, but I'm not sure the film even realizes that's going on.

There's plenty more to nitpick but, I swear, I did actually think this movie was entertaining. I guess I was just expecting it to be a lot more profound considering the prestige it has. I would say the more recent Annihilation is a much better example of this genre of "realistic" sci-fi mixed with a gut-punch of an emotional story.

So does Contact get a spot on the spaceship with infinite storage? Sure, why not.


Just wanted to add a couple of positives: The opening scene in space pulling further and further out was awe-inspiring and eerie, and I also loved the shot with young Ellie chasing the camera through the house and up the stairs as it eventually pulls out of a bathroom mirror. I had to watch that latter shot a couple of times to wrap my head around it.

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I like this film, but no, it's not good enough to be considered an all-time classic. Everything with the discovery of the alien signal, building the space capsule, the politics, etc., is great. The McConaughey subplot is muddled and he has zero romantic chemistry with Jodie Foster. Just removing any hint of a romantic entanglement would be a big improvement to the film IMO.

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