Friday, August 24, 2007

Contact Movie Review: Ten Years...


It has been ten years now since Carl Sagan’s death and the release of the movie Contact, and I remain unhappy about both.

It's some kind of Greek tragedy that Sagan died right before his message was about to reach the largest possible audience. But worse is that the message itself was distorted, diluted and made minor.

I first became aware of Dr. Sagan on public television, Channel 39 in Fort Wayne, Indiana; that weird science/puppet show channel from beyond the moon. I loved the way his multi layered teaching style put physical science into historical and social context. Before Sagan, at least on television,
the stars were separate from the earth; removed from everyday life. But after Sagan everything got connected and became interrelated in the most intimate way. In the very first episode of Cosmos, in contrast to our usual earth-centric way of thinking, he starts his cosmic journey not down here, but out there, at the edge of the universe. He better showed us our place in the scheme of things by putting us between immensity and eternity, and then showed exactly what those limits ought to mean to us.

Sagan opened my eyes to a much larger world, and changed me for the better. We need people like him to appear among us poor dumb apes more often. And as an atheist I will say this much 'for Carl'… In Cosmos, Carl Sagan elevated my soul.

That said… There is something seriously wrong with this movie.

I watched a few episodes of Cosmos again the other day and was amazed how relevant it remains, nearly thirty years after it’s initial release. But I am sorry to say that Contact has not improved with age. In fact it is now painfully dated.

The most glaring absence for me is of course the wonderful book ending where Ellie finds
, hiding in the infinite permutations of pi, scientific proof that there is an intelligence which predates the universe. This proof is represented as a simple, elegant signature, a circle of ones written out on a field of zeros. It is an unambiguous sign that on some higher level our universe is somebody else's construct.

The key to this fine film that never was lay in the last chapter of the novel.

For this reason I have entitled my blog... The Artist’s Signature

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