"Contact": a Critical Review of Bias

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In 1997, Carl Sagan’s science fiction novel Contact was finally adapted to film by director Robert Zemeckis. Although originally written as a film in 1980 by Sagan and his wife Ann Druyen, production proved to be troublesome leading Sagan to publish Contact as a novel in 1985. The film portrays humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrials, but unlike most alien encounter stories that concentrate on the direct conflict of humans meeting aliens, Contact focuses on humanity’s cultural struggles when it encounters uncertain extraterrestrial events. Sagan tries to depict these struggles as realistically as he can by incorporating characters that support a variety of differing viewpoints towards faith and the supernatural. Despite his attempt to portray all of these perspectives without bias, Sagan has an inclination in support of maintaining uncertainty towards supernatural events without substantial proof for or against. Contact’s protagonist Ellie (portrayed by Jodie Foster) is a scientist for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, struggling to survive in a male-dominated profession while working on a project that has high operating costs without any promise of success. Her sole ambition is to discover extraterrestrial life, but after iterative attempts to revive her fruitless project she is once again facing the imminent termination of all of her funding. In the project’s final days, Ellie discovers an extraterrestrial signal originating near the star Vega that repetitiously pulses a sequence of prime numbers. Further analysis of the signal yields a structured layer containing a video of Adolf Hitler’s opening speech at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics; Ellie hypothesizes that the speech was the first str... ... middle of paper ... ...llent job of representing most sides of the debate over the supernatural: the government, the science community, the public, the media, and moderate religion. I think that somebody needs to have a certain special interest in watching Contact before they choose to do so. It’s just not that great of a movie: the plot is dry, the love story is weak and it is really long. However, if you have an interest in SETI, the existence of extraterrestrials, the conflict between religion and science, or skepticism then it is possible that you will enjoy the movie due to the familiar content like I did. Like most movie and novel comparisons, I have heard that the novel is far superior. Carl Sagan’s bias is definitely present both in how the characters act and how the events are explained, but I enjoy considering his viewpoints and do not find that his bias detracts from the movie.
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