I know, I know. I finished Contact several books ago – but finally got around to watching the film last night. I loved this movie as a child, and now that I’m quite a bit older it lacks some of the awe and wonder I felt back then, but still is entertaining. The differences were few, although some quite big – but overall the message of the novel remains in tact.
Biggest Differences: Ellie and Joss’s relationship is shown to evolve much earlier on in the film, prior to her ever discovering the message. Joss is not in any way affiliated with the radical religious practitioners (probably a move that made him much more likable and grounded). No significant time is spent explaining international politics, nor the building of the machine – which makes sense given the limited time frame allowed, and also helped the story move along. The Machine only has space for one person to travel – also a big change, but ultimately the Machine storyline plays out the same. And the biggest difference: Ellie’s mother is unknown to her, and her father dies at age 9. None of that uncertainty regarding her family, nor death, is a part of the final moments of the movie. I would say in most regards, it stayed true to the book and nailed the message home. (Only wish we would have got more McConaughey rants a lá Rust Cohle). While I’m distinctly not religious, these sorts of stories and revelations are exactly why I do not dismiss or discount the faithful.