Film Face-off: 'Interstellar' vs. 'Contact'

Film Face-off: 'Interstellar' vs. 'Contact'

Nov 10, 2014

Matthew McConaughey has boldly gone where he has been before: a dramatic space movie. In Christopher Nolan's new film Interstellar, McConaughey plays a slightly futuristic pilot, who will hopefully save humanity. In Contact, McConaughey is a Christian philosopher. All right, all right, all right, you might be thinking, "How dare you guys compare a Nolan film to a Robert Zemeckis movie," but there are plenty of comparisons besides McConaughey (one pre-McConaissance, one post-McConaissance).

The films are about space exploration, the possibility of humans not being alone in the universe, and at the core of both films is a father-daughter relationship. Since there seems to be a lack of think pieces celebrating the 17th anniversary of Contact it seems like a perfect time to have Interstellar battle Contact in this week's Film Face-off.


The Lead Character/Star


There is no acting star brighter than McConaughey right now. He won the Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. He was fantastic in Killer Joe and Mud, had a killer role in The Wolf of Wall Street, and was the best part of True Detective. In Interstellar he plays a pilot turned farmer turned pilot, who desperately wants to explore, but feels guilty leaving his family behind.


In '97, Foster hadn't done a film for three years, though those previous movies were notable (Maverick and Nell). It had been six years since her Oscar win for Silence of the Lambs. In Contact, Foster plays Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Ann Arroway. She works for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and is convinced Earth has received contact with someone from a galaxy far, far away.

WinnerContact. One, she plays an atheist in a mainstream movie, which is rare, especially back then. Two, people were thrilled she was back on the big screen. Three, and absolutely most important, the character is written with gender barely at play. That is very rare. Jessica Chastain enjoyed a role like that with Zero Dark Thirty. Both films have one toss-away line about a "girl" or "woman." Actresses rarely get to play roles that aren't about being women. McConaughey lets you hang out with him in Interstellar, but it seems like quite the stretch that he'd be allowed to pilot the spacecraft. Arroway deserves her shot. Plus, We're pretty sure McConaughey quotes one of his "Where are we going, how do we get there," Buick commercial lines late in the film.


The Father-Daughter Thing


When we said Cooper felt guilty about leaving his family behind, it wasn't his son or his father-in-law, it was just a young Murph (Mackenzie Foy). The reason he feels guilty mainly seems to be because she didn't want him to go.


Ellie's dad, Theordore Arroway (David Morse), is perfect. He consistently loves, appreciates and encourages his daughter (played by Jena Malone). He also leads her down her path by getting her excited about amateur radio.

WinnerContact. With Interstellar it's messy. But not the good kind of dramatic messy. It just feels like sloppy storytelling that didn't leave us emotionally connected. Murph can hold a grudge. That is obvious. But did Cooper have to leave that second? Couldn't he have waited a day or at least the afternoon to try to get her to understand? Did he need to train? If so, why didn't we see it? Why the rush? Plus, if she was so upset with abandonment issues, why did she work for the company that took him away? Plus, you could see it coming, right? Even though Cooper is eventually dealing with the drama and danger on a distant planet, and exactly how much time will pass on Earth, we know about how much time because Jessica Chastain clearly hasn't shown up yet. So who else could she be, but the older Murph? Which means something will be going wrong with Cooper and the mission. With all of that said, Ellie and Theordore are definitely too perfect in their relationship. Heck, they even make a little girl talking to truck drivers seem adorable.


The Others


On the spaceship we have Anne Hathaway as Amelia, Wes Bentley as Doyle, and David Gyasi as Romilly. Michael Caine is Professor Brand, Casey Affleck is Tom Cooper, Topher Grace is Getty, John Lithgow is Donald, there are two nice surprises, plus robots, with one being voiced by the great Bill Irwin.


We mentioned Morse, Malone and McConaughey, who plays Palmer Joss. There is also William Fichtner as the blind Kent, Tom Skerritt as David Drumlin, James Woods as Michael Kitz, Angela Bassett as Rachel Constantine, Rob Lowe as Richard Rank, Jake Busey as the insane Joseph, and John Hurt as S.R. Hadden.

WinnerInterstellar. Irwin could be the highlight as the robot with a comedic setting named TARS. Having Caine and Lithgow in your film can never hurt. Sadly, Chastain doesn't wow us with this performance, but Hathaway does a nice job. There is no reason for Affleck and Grace to be in this film. Their characters are near pointless. With Contact, it's an interesting crew, but the use of President Bill Clinton is very odd here. He was president at the time, and Contact used real footage to make it seem like he was in the film. The White House actually protested his use.


The Ugh Moment


This is a spoiler alert, again this is a spoiler alert. The crew makes it to Dr. Mann (Matt Damon), but it is fairly obvious that things won't be going exactly as planned.


Drumlin is selected to be dropped into the three-spinning ringed machine. It doesn't go well, things explode, but don't worry Hadden lets Arroway know that there is an exact replica that she can man.

WinnerInterstellar. It is nice to see Damon show up. Unfortunately, there is a pretty obvious nod involving the robots, so you know exactly where things are going. Plus, the actual physical fight is pretty boring to watch. So it just feels like filler. But, there is nothing nice with Contact having death and destruction happen, yet that's supposed to be a positive step for our main character of Arroway. It feels terribly convenient. To top it off, more of Hurt is not necessarily a good thing with this particular role.


The Ending


Cooper finally figures out what exactly is going on with gravity, and how he might be able to use to save the day. Thankfully, Murph is on Earth and available to help.


Arroway has an amazing experience, making first contact with beings beyond our solar system. Unfortunately, she asks people to take her on faith, since there doesn't seem to be any proof.

WinnerInterstellar. This was the closest one, but mainly because we have issues with both. The Interstellar ending feels like it would have worked amazing in a novel. Plus, it's completely dependent on the idea that they really don't need to explain things. While Contact attempts to say that an atheist is asking people to have faith, that's actually not the case. Michael Kitz and Rachel Constantine find 18 minutes of static, which pretty much confirms Arroway's story, which removes the faith, and allows her to continue her work.


OVERALL WINNERInterstellar beats Contact, 3-2.

New McCounaghey beats old McConaughey, let the McConaissance reign supreme! We know Interstellar and Contact both have amazing (for their time) special effects, Interstellar just has more of them. It's also 20 minutes longer than the two-and-a-half-hour Contact. That will be up to you on being a good or bad thing. If you do watch Contact again, you should definitely focus on our perception that while Foster's lead could easily be a man or woman, with no dialogue or motivations to change, McConaughey's Palmer Joss is definitely the pretty woman in that relationship. Thankfully, that's the old McConaughey.




Categories: Features, Sci-Fi
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