Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” – The Legacy of Data

Star Trek: Picard': S01.E10. “Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 2”

     “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” gives us satisfying end to the first season of “Picard.” This is an episode that is long and has to accomplish a lot, which it manages to do. We get the resolution to multiple plot lines and have some good use of fanservice near the end. This is an episode that sets up the future of the show and captures the inherit optimism about the future that is so intrinsic to “Star Trek.” Without getting into spoilers, it was great and flawed and a satisfying ending for the season.

The episode was directed by Akiva Goldsman with teleplay by Michael Chabon who co-wrote the story with Akiva Goldsman.

Part 2 picks up where we left off, with Picard trapped by the Soong Synthetics, Raffi and Rios repairing the ship and Seven and Elnor taking care of the Ex-Borg. The Romulan fleet is on the way as Sutra and Soji build the tower to summon in the ancient and powerful synthetics for protection.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Narek Teams Up with the Crew – After Sutra freed him last episode we see him team up with Rios, Elnor and Raffi giving us one of the best lines in the episode, “I choose to live.” It great and shows that even though he is an enemy he thinks the grew is the best bet from stopping the arrival of the powerful synths and stopping Sutra and Soji. The dynamic is wonderful and we see him recount the legend of the last time the Synths came and wiped out everything. It sets the stakes and you get why he chose to ally.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine is taking care of the xBs for most of the episode until “Narissa” arrives leading to them fighting and Seven getting the chance to avenge Hugh for his death. She has a great dynamic with Elnor where he mentions he would miss her if she died and how she is a mother figure to him. By the end of the episode she is part of the main crew and might have a romantic relationship with Raffi. During the time where Picard might be gone for good she mentions how Picard pulled her back into the past she thought she’d left behind and Rios says Picard caused that same change in him. It looks like she is main crew by the end of the episode and I hope we get more of her Season 2.

Captain Riker and Starfleet – Captain Riker arrives with a Starfleet armada to protect Picard’s first contact with the Synth civilization. It is an awesome moment as he calls out Commodore Oh for her betrayal and says he wants her to fight. Given his inspiration in Kirk, it was a very Kirk like taunt and I loved their face down. I was expecting one of Picard’s allies to arrive and it made sense that it was Riker given he was still a Reserve Captain in Starfleet.

Picard and Soji – What saves the day in the end is Picard’s relationship with Soji and a Picard speech. It is here that he stalls the Romulans until the fleet arrives and uses the last of his strength to stand up for Soji and her people. It is very well done as we see courage win out over fear and as Picard dies he knows he saved Soji and her people.

Peaceful Resolution – We have a standoff between the Romulan and Federation fleet and I was worried that we’d get a big battle “Discovery” Season 2 style…thankfully we didn’t. Diplomacy is what defined “The Next Generation” and the final episode captured this beautifully. This also leads things open as Oh was in charge of Starfleet Intelligence so she knows all their secrets and may have future plans because of it. This resolution leaves things open in all the best ways as this new society can now develop further under Federation protection.

Data’s Legacy – One of the last scenes is when Picard’s consciousness is downloaded into a realm where Data’s also is. They talk and Data asks Picard to die as he knows mortality is a huge part of what defines humanity. It is a powerful scene and I loved their last interactions together as Picard finally gets to say good-bye to his friend and to honor his final wish. In this Synth civilization we see Data’s legacy live on and with the choices made by one of his children, Soji…they have a future.

Tying Things Back to Episode 1 – The show began with Picard and Data playing cards as “Blue Skies” played and ended with them having the conversation and closure Picard always wanted as Data finally got to die as his life ends to Isa Briones, his daughter singing “Blue Skies.” It was poetic and one thing I liked as the theme of mortality was one of the consistent themes for Picard through the series.

The Cons:

What Happened to Narek? – Narek is captured by Synths and we have to learn in interviews that Starfleet pics him up as prisoner. It would have been good to see that given Picard was around to make first contact with this Synth Civilization.

Copy and Paste Starfleet Armada – The new ships from Starfleet look really cool…they also were clearly all copy pasted. This was a shame as a diverse fleet could have gave us a good idea of the Federation military in this era. Instead we got the lazy copy and paste of the new flagship a hundred times. Come on CBS, you have money and can do better than this.

The Synth Threat – The Synth threat is still out there. Soji may have destroyed the tower but any member of her species could rebuild it. We also know that the powerful synths know about the cry for help and could take the long way around or build something like the beacon potentially on their end. If we had a fight this episode I was hoping it would be with the new threat and with it us hopefully learning more about them…instead they are in the wings as a potential threat for later.

I thought this was a great final that really made up for how weak “Part 1” was. We finally see a noble Federation ready to defend new life and new civilizations. We have a problem that is solved by diplomacy rather than violence and we get some wonderful character moments and fanservice to end the season. Overall, I would recommend “Picard” to any fan of “Star Trek.” It is clearly it’s own thing and I appreciate what it has added to the lore. I look forward to any future seasons.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Final Score for “Part 1 and 2” together: 8.3 / 10

Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996) – Of Facing Trauma and the Quest for Betterment

Image result for star trek first contact poster

“Star Trek: First Contact” is the best of “The Next Generation” films. For me this isn’t initially doesn’t sound like much as I don’t think the others are good. They range from okay to awful for me where this was legitimately a great film. It isn’t perfect by any means, the ending kind of falls apart for one but this feels like an ensemble show. All the crew of Enterprise has a moment and many of them get the chance to grow and change over the course of the film. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review. As a kid this film freaked me out as this film presented how truly terrifying it would be to be assimilated by the Borg, and why they are one of the greatest threats in “Star Trek.”

The film was written by Brannon Bragga and Ronald D. Moore and directed by Jonathan Frakes.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise-E when the Borg attack Earth. In order stop the Borg from winning they must go back in time to stop them and make sure that “First Contact” between the Vulcans and Humans still happens at the right time.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Enterprise-E – The Enterprise-E is a beautiful ship. It has the torpedo look of Voyager while still having the curving appearance that most models of the Enterprise have. It is a powerful ship and you can see why it is the flagship as it barely takes any damage from the Borg Cube and does enough damage to the Cube that the Sphere has to be shot out and a time travel plan initiated. The bridge is much more military, reflecting a Dominion era ship, and the different rooms feel more mechanical and less like a lounge like on the Enterprise-D. Suffice to say, this is one of my favorite ships to come out of Trek.

Guest Appearances – Robert Picardo, the Doctor on “Voyager” appears as the Enterprise-E to stall the Borg and Ethan Phillips who plays Neelix on “Voyager” appears as a hologram who greets Lily and Picard. It was pretty neat seeing them. Picardo’s Doctor is one of the best parts of Voyager and Ethan Phillips is a good actor.

Lily and Cochrane – Lily and Cochrane are the two people from the past who know about those who visited from the future and for both it is a different experience. Lily passes out after trying to kill Data and finds herself on the Enterprise-E, eventually meeting up with Picard and helping him find a way past his obsession to destroy the Borg for how they hurt him…and Cochrane is running from his destiny and being a major part of the future as Troi, Riker and Geordi eventually help him come to terms with the man he will become. Both offer a different view of time travel that I appreciated. I do wish we could have got more of Cochrane’s motivation beyond selfishness though. The Zefram Cochrane of this series is acted amazingly by James Cromwell, but he is a scummy dude who is only out for himself. This is a man who doesn’t see the big picture until first contact with the Vulcans. Lily, is someone who does get it and Alfre Woodard does a great job.

The Crew – The crew are given a lot of exploration in this film. The only one who really doesn’t have as many scenes is Dr. Crusher, but she is still active and protecting people when the Borg begin taking over the ship. She is also the only who saves Lily who ends up being the person who helps Picard come back to himself again. So I’m mentioning what she did here before I go into detail on the events surrounding the rest of the crew.

Troi – Troi is the one who first finds Zefram Cochrane. She ends up getting drunk with him before he finally admits who he is and has to sadly keep him away. Zefram is a scummy guy in this whose arc is really about becoming a better person. Troi is the one interacting among the people and who can see how much fear there is (this is Post World War 3). I wish we got to see more scenes like this as she is the one outside of Dr. Crusher who really sees the human element best.

Worf – Worf is fantastic in this film. We get to see him fight with The Defiant against the Borg and later face them on the Enterprise-E. It is the fact that the numbers of Borg seem to be endless that leads to Worf realizing they need to blow up the ship as the Borg are adapting more quickly than they can destroy them. Picard calls him a coward at this point before apologizing. I love that Worf isn’t played a joke as he is in the later films. He’s a Starfleet officer and one of their best.

Geordi – Geordi is the first to tell Zefram about the future and is in charge of repairing the Phoenix. It is Geordi’s admiration and descriptions of the future that end up freaking Cochrane out the most as he doesn’t see himself as a genius. In the end he comes through and Geordi and Riker get to make warp speed on the day it is supposed to happen in the timeline.

Riker – Riker is the one who hold Zefram accountable and makes it so he can’t run away from the future. He ends up stunning him, which finally helps him get his act together so they can get the Phoenix ready and first contact with the Vulcans be made. He’s in charge of the team on Earth and you once again see why he’s the First Officer as he pulls everything together and in the end, Zefram and Lily are the only ones who ever knew there were time travelers present.

Data – This film is really Data and Picard’s story and continues the theme of the show with Data’s quest for humanity. In this we have moments where his androidness comes in handy as when they he feels fear, he can just shut it off by turning off his emotion chip. In this the Borg, specifically the Queen offer Data a choice once he is captured. If he joins them he can have the organic and feel physical sensation as humans do. He goes along with it and ends up tricking the Queen and destroying their base. He does mention to Picard that for a near second he was tempted, which is long for an android. The Picard, Data dynamic is wonderful and you can see a friendship has grown between them over the years on the show and the loss of the Enterprise-D.

Picard – This film involves Picard facing what was done to him by the Borg when they made him Locutus. We see this at first when Starfleet doesn’t want him to face them because they don’t trust his judgement and later when after helping easily defeat the Borg we find they are around, and in his ship. This is powerful as Picard is trying to hold onto himself and his ego and in the process doesn’t notice when he loses people or how his obsession is consuming him. It isn’t until Data is captured and Lily calls him out that he calls for a retreat and realizes that losing another Enterprise is the only way to win. After this he goes to the Borg to save Data and comes open and ready to face himself and the memories of his trauma.

Ship Under Siege – What make the narrative work is that when the Borg beam onto the Enterprise it is a slow takeover, but by the time they’re discovered they are permanently entrenched. Our heroes are fighting to hold ground and to prevent more Borg being called so the stakes are high the entire time. This claustrophobia lends itself to the narrative and constant push of the Borg push into Picard’s obsession to destroy them and fight back.

The Trauma of the Borg – When Borg assimilate someone they are made part of the Collective. Their body is mutilated and machine is installed within them. This is what was done to Picard in “Best of Both Worlds” Part 1 and 2. Certain episodes explore how that hurt him, from killing Federation officers in the Battle of Wolf 359, to his loss of self and identity and being a part of the machine. This film explores this beautifully as it begins with Picard having a nightmare about his assimilation and his scene facing the Queen involves him facing that nightmare. It is a good narrative book-end.

The Quest for Betterment – Another major theme of the film is the quest for betterment. Whether it is how the Borg seek perfection through assimilation, Cochrane’s first contact and how it lead to humanity rising up to the Stars and the formation of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets and Data’s quest to become human and more than his programming. All these elements run as the narrative through line and make the film great.

The Cons:

The Borg Queen and Ego in the Collective – The Borg are a Collective and to me that is what makes them the most terrifying. When the Queen is introduced she uses “I” and also is seeking a mate. My guess is they wanted to go for a bee hive for the Borg when they are much scarier as a one mind lovecraftian horror. The Queen’s ego, which a collective doesn’t have, is what leads to her losing as after Data sleeps with her, she fully trusts him and he betrays her and saves first contact and the Enterprise-E goes to waste. If she hadn’t had Data do be the one to fire the shot (which was just to rub in Picard’s face) she would have won. This issue of ego becomes an even bigger problem when she is back again in “Voyager.” The actress does a good job with what she’s given but the moment the Queen showed up, the threat of the Borg no longer felt as great, and the final act simply cemented that.

Picard Wasn’t Needed in the Final Act – Narratively I get Picard going to save Data, as Data saved him in “Best of Both Worlds.” The thing is, how the script was written the Queen would have lost whether he was there or not. She believed she had Data and Data knew what to destroy to stop her. He also isn’t killed or mortally injured after he does this. Picard showing up is just for the sake of narrative and to complete his emotional journey. I wish they’d re-written this whole act so that Data did need rescuing and wouldn’t have been able to stop the Queen on his own. Instead, Data stops the Queen, stops the Borg and makes first contact possible. If Picard wasn’t in the scene it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If you are a fan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” than you will probably like “First Contact.” It isn’t as strong as some of “The Original Series” films but it is greater than most “Star Trek” films that are out there. Overall it works and even though the ending didn’t need Picard and the Queen, kind of ruins the threat of the Borg for me, it is still a very well told story. This was a film tacking big ideas and major themes and I think Bragga and Moore accomplished that. The Borg are Picard’s Khan and this is one of the best explorations of that trauma that currently exists in the stories of “The Next Generation.”

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This is a wonderfully great and flawed film.

 

“The Orville” Season 1 – A Show That Draws Inspiration From the Best Aspects of “Star Trek”

    “The Orville” is a show that only exists because of how much of a fan Seth MacFarlane is of “Star Trek” and Fox knowing just how great the cultural impact of “Star Trek” has been that a show that pulls full inspiration from it (while having it’s own tone and lore) and not get sued. What do I think of the show? I think the humor doesn’t always work but I love the drama and the characters. Seth MacFarlane put a lot of love into this show and it was perfectly cast in regards to the characters and their roles…and I can’t wait to see where the show is taken next.

The story involves Ed Mercer being given the chance to Captain the Planetary Union ship known as the U.S.S. Orville. He soon learns his ex-wife Commander Kelly Grayson will be his First Officer as they must sort out their issues as the new crew faces the drama of one another and the wider Universe the Planetary Union inhabits in the 25th Century. 

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – The Universe is a lot like “Star Trek” but a bit similar to our reality in that rather than the vague spirituality of Trek, everyone in the future is an atheist if they are part of the Planetary Union or any future person. There are countless aliens, most are humanoid (like “Star Trek”) but the Union is strong but not the strongest. The highly religious and zealotesque Krill are and they are a fantastic enemy in the episodes they come up in. Most of the episodes are solving dilemmas though, whether it is finding ancient ships and a civ. on board, interacting with a bronze age people that advances rapidly, or passing into 2D space. Like “Star Trek” this is a universe rich with possibilities.

The Crew of “The Orville” – The crew is overall amazing. I’m giving certain characters special treatment though, because they stood out to me and will mention some other notable things in this summary. The characters are complicated, you have Doctor Claire Finn who is woman who chose single motherhood because she wanted to be a mom and could have kids without needs a spouse or partner, you have Lt. Commander LaMarr who hid his intelligence because in the colony he came from it was looked down upon, but in turn becomes the Chief Engineer on the ship, you have Bortus who fights for the right of his child to choose his own gender in a species that has only males and a few others who I will go into deeper into the review of the show. The least notable is Lt. Gordon Malloy who is comedic and good at being a pilot and that is the extent. He isn’t complicated.

Alara – Alara is one of my favorite characters. She is the security officer on the ship and comes from a planet where her gravity is heavier so her species is stronger than most. We learn they also as a culture look down on military and similar professions as they see it as below their intellect. She went against her parents to join the Planetary Alliance and because of it holds herself to an impossible standard, and we see it when in an episode she faces her worst fears and the worst fears of her crew members and succeeds. It is a powerful episode and reaffirmed why she is one of my favorite characters on the show.

Isaac – Isaac is from a race of artificial non-biological beings who believe themselves to be the most superior life forms in the galaxy. Isaac joined in order to learn about humankind, and is our Data stand in. His arc is him learning how to care for humans and organics beyond just studying them and it is handled really well. I can’t wait to see where his arc goes.

Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson – The main arc that drives the story is the relationship between Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson. They are divorced after Grayson cheated on Mercer with a blue alien. We later learn the alien can make anyone fall in love with him when it is going through mating and that might have been what happened. There are a few false starts and with each friendship grows between them but Grayson cuts it off in the finale when she realizes that their love is causing Mercer to do things he wouldn’t have usually done as a Captain that put him and others at risk so they cut it off. It is touching and the arc is fun.

The Secular Future – The future is won by science and I loved it. This is a future where humanity has myths still but they mostly come from television shows and past knowledge, as far as we know there isn’t supernatural and there is no religion to speak of beyond the Krill or less advanced species and it usually comes up as a problem. Seth MacFarlane wrote this and it shows, and for what its worth as a secular agnostic humanist, I enjoyed this future greatly. Like “Star Trek” it showed a world not defined by religion but by even deeper ideas of self.

Exploring Dilemmas – One of the great things about “Star Trek” that “The Orville” does well is the exploration of moral dilemmas. Be they dilemmas of culture and technology (justice by “likes” and “dislikes”) the agency of a person within in a nation in regards to their family (an all male species forcing a newborn born female to be turned male and her choice being taken away, and this species if a major player in the Planetary Union) why there are rules for first contact (Kelly sets off a religion on a planet that exists orbiting through universes when she heals a little girl with her technology)  and countless other dilemmas where crew-members have to make choices where there isn’t always a clear answer.

Okay: The Humor – The humor is good at times but falls short on others when it has characters like Lt. Gordon going on away missions, when all he does is jokes, or Lt. LaMarr grinding on a statue on an alien society and no one on the crew being briefed on how the culture they were down studying worked as they searched for scientists who had gone missing…The humor made these stories that were largely solidly written otherwise, to go down in quality. Cheap laughs are not the way to go. When the show nails it, it is amazing, but it wasn’t consistent.

The Series Arc / The Episodic Nature of the Show – The show is largely episodic with the only consistent arc being Ed and Kelly working through what their relationship is now. I would have preferred more of an arc with the Krill, they do still a giant Krill warship in the last episode the Krill are in but it doesn’t go anywhere after that. That was missed potential that made the show not really get the great exit it deserved, since it really did have a great entrance. Solidly good show, but not great.

This is a show that if you are a fan of sci. fi., “Star Trek” or Seth MacFarlane, you will probably enjoy. This is easily the best thing he’s ever done by miles and I’m glad the show was renewed for another season. Where he chooses to take the show remains to be seen, as it could remain like TNG and TOS and largely remain episodic with some powerful episodes along the way, or it could go the way of DS9 and later ENT and give us some powerful arcs that payoff on a personal and galactic scale. I’m all for finding a good medium inbetween as well, arc episodes and bottle episodes together. As someone whose missed “Star Trek” since it went off the air and all we had were movies, this and “Discovery” made this Trekkie happy. If you like “Star Trek,” you should at least give this show a chance.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. Humor often time hurt the drama and lack of an overall arc kept the season from greatness.

 

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Ambergris Element” – First Contact and Change

Kirk_and_Spock_mutated

     “The Ambergris Episode” was a fun first contact episode that actually worked! Kirk and Spock having gills was not something I expected to work given how “Voyager” handled things in “Threshold” but this one was different as it focused on how complex first contact is that within a culture or people there are differing points of view.

      The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Margaret Armen.

     The episode involves the exploration of Argo where Kirk and Spock are attacked by a Sur-Snake leading them to be transformed into aquatic species by the younger generation of Aquans. When they attempt to reach the Elders they are left to die on the surface until one of the Council leaves to rescue them and Kirk and Spock seek a cure of their state and find out the history of the Aquans.

The Pros: The Aquans – The Aquans are fascinating! You have the Elders who fear surface dwellers because they were once them and fear the destruction that occurred and the younger generation who wants to change and are the biggest advocate for first contact. Eventually contact with the outside world is made after Kirk and Spock cure their state using Sur-Snake venom and the Elders stay below as the younger generation comes into the new galaxy.

Kirk – Kirk is the one always seeking contact with the natives and even after they are left to die still does diplomacy. This one really shows how driven he is to seeking peaceful solutions, even when wronged.

Spock – Spock is the one who helps them find the cure and shows how rough the reality is as if Kirk and Spock stayed in a tank their roles would be limited in what they could accomplish.

Raising the Fallen Continents – The Enterprise changes it’s phasers and sets them in such a way to raise the continents. It is really cool and shows how they are a force for change (for better and for worse) and help the Aquans become a part of the great galaxy.

Okay: The Sur-Snake – Okay enemy, but looked kind of stupid at times.

The Cons: Execution – The story could have been done better if we could have seen more of the point of view of the younger generation. This lack of perspective was the only thing that brought the episode down besides the main crew not being allowed to do much.

  This was an episode worth checking out, not a favorite but it is solidly good. It explores the complexity of first contact and manages to turn a strange idea into it’s favor while giving a fascinating society in the process!

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 3 – “One of Our Planets is Missing” – New Life and New Contact

The Cloud

   “One of Our Planets is Missing” is one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek.” “Star Trek” is all about making contact with new life and new civilizations and the dilemmas sometimes presented by that. This one explores that thoroughly and shows the hope that there is for mankind when we truly seek out every new possibility before destruction of life. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this episode.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Marc Daniels.

    The story involves contact with a mysterious cloud that devours all life around it and ends up eating the Enterprise. From here it is up to the crew to stop or kill it before it can reach the furthest Federation world of Alondra, destroying all life there.

The Pros: Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk does all he can to protect the Federation while also exploring all ways to speak to the Cloud. This is partially on prompting of Spock who reminds him that it is against the code of the Federation to end new life…but in the end he finds away, giving Spock until the final minute to convince the creature to turn away from the planet.

Scotty – Scotty shows how resourceful he is when he improves the ship to survive the interior of the cloud. It is a great moment and we see him thinking fast when they are devoured on how to keep them alive and keep them from being digested.

Spock – Spock is the one who makes contact with the Cloud and is able to show it that they are life and should not be destroyed. It is that convinces the creature to return to it’s place of origin. It is powerful conversation and sharing of minds that feels Spock with wonder.

The Cloud – The Cloud does not perceive things that are small until the ship is able to amplify Spock’s mind to communicate with it. Once it sees the Ship and Universe through Spock’s eyes it leaves though since it does not wish to do harm to others, only to survive.

The Dilemma – The dilemma is whether to end something that is possibly a new life form before and if unable to make contact and in turn save the planet or to do everything and try to make contact first. It ends working out and they were lucky the Cloud was a benevolent life form.

This is an episode that showed “Star Trek” at it’s best. Not all life is humanoid or like us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of thought or feeling or that it is incapable of being made aware of others. It’s a powerful episode that shows the risks and possibilities in first contact with life that is truly alien from us.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Contact (1997): Better Use of Characters But Better Point in the Book

Contact-movie-poster

    We continue Sci. Fi. Movie Week with the before the last film we’ll be covering. That film we’ll be covering is “Contact.” “Contact” is an interesting film to review. I liked it, though the director putting it in Carl Sagan’s honor while presenting a message at the end that contradicted the point the book and Sagan’s work felt like it missed the point. First off, Carl Sagan is one of my favorite people…but wasn’t that good of a fiction writer. Contact the novel was very detached so it was hard to get invested in the interesting things that were happening. The film is very different from that and you care about the main characters…though I think Sagan’s point in the book comes out much stronger versus the film where the message is a bit muddled and not entirely clear in it’s execution.

     The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis who was also one of the producers and written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg. The other producer was Steve Starkey. The story was by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, which I am glad about as it’s Sagan’s story so at least his core points were able to get through than if he hadn’t been a part of the process.

     The premise of “Contact” is that Ellie (Jodie Foster) is seeking alien life in the Universe but is having to fight for it every step of the way as funding for SETI gets pulled by her boss Drumlin. She finds away around it as she gets funding to use some government radio telescopes and right when she is about to lose it an alien signal is heard and contact made. From here the story unfolds as there is a rush to interpret the message as religious and political factions seek to use it to their gain. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is clear and captures the sense of wonder and personal trials of the characters really well. It reminds me of “Apollo 13.” Don Burgess truly did an amazing job on this film.

Theodore Arroway – David Morse is back and fantastic (really liked his performance in the “Green Mile”) and in this he’s great as Ellie’s father who inspires her to look towards finding life in space and becoming a scientist…and whose death makes it hard for her to be in relationships as she was not able to save him. I wish we’d seen more of his character as he did not get enough screen time.

Palmer Ross – Matthew McConaughey plays Ellie’s love and the other side of the coin in the debate between religion and science. His arguments aren’t great but his coming from a place of emotion and connection (reason he doesn’t support her going on the mission is fear of losing her) are a nice contrast to Ellie’s fear of connecting to people. He is the person who connects to people easily and it’s because of the language and emphasis on religion. He goes from religious to agnostic religious as he trusts Ellie’s experience of meeting the aliens. Ellie’s arc goes in the other direction.

Kent Clark – William Fichtner is good as a blind SETI scientist who is one of Ellie’s major support folks and is the one fighting at the front lines for her for the first half of the movie. He kind of disappears later, which is a shame as he’s a great neurotic scientist who adds character to every scene he’s in.

Ellie Arroway – Jodie Foster is great in this as she’s a character who has trouble connecting to others because of the loss of her father but over the course of making contact with the aliens is able to heal from that and to understand the perspective of faith a little more. She’s an active character and her flashbacks lend to her present as we see how rich her relationship was with her dad.

First Contact – Ellie meets the aliens after the first machine gets destroyed by a religious fanatic, killing the original pilot but a secret base gives her the chance to finally go. The machine creates a wormhole and she talks to an alien who takes the form of her father and tells her that they do this will all species but not all species make it here. It’s a cool scene and the world they are in feels alien and unreal the entire time. The feel of the aliens is very true to the book.

The Cons: The Antagonists – There is a religious fanatic, militaristic government official and Ellie’s boss who are just one dimensional villains. This is where the problem in the book “Contact” really comes out as these simple caricatures only disprove the points they try and make which makes Ellie look good even if she’s acting from a place without evidence. I really didn’t like that. James Woods is even one of the folks but how they were written cannot save this film and it’s one of the biggest reasons I can’t consider this film great or a favorite. They are used to prop up the directors point and because they are unfair antagonists Ellie looks noble in all her actions no matter how stupid said actions may be. Not going to list their names since they don’t function as characters, just plot devices to advance Ellie’s plot and the director’s point.

Who Needs Evidence – At the end after Ellie has visited the aliens, everyone things she was lying because there was only static and the pod just fell through the machine. Rather than seeking evidence to prove what she experienced and prove intelligence in the universe she falls back on the faith argument which completely ruins her point and why she doesn’t believe in God and is an agnostic. This really annoyed me as Sagan was writing from his own perspective of skepticism and agnosticism in his novel and the director completely missed that point. Experience is good and should be valued but that wasn’t the point of Sagan’s book or his shows and work.

     This is a movie worth seeing, and it is a good. The main issues I have though is how the scientific process gets ignored in the end when so much of Jodie’s arc is fighting for that and helping others to recognize that what she found is based in the scientific process. The acting is good though and is the greatest thing that makes it better than the book, where the detachment from the characters really made it hard to care about them. If you want a movie that captures wonder, check it out. The cinematography does a good job at capturing that, even if it does get a bit sidetracked at the end. Glad this movie got made and grateful that it was made in honor of Carl Sagan, one of the greatest scientists who has lived.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10. Solidly good and actors and cinematography elevate a script that has issues in it’s point and execution.