Who caught the Contact homage in the season finale of Loki? There have been a lot of comparisons made between Loki and Doctor Who, and the Disney+ series is of course packed with Marvel Easter eggs. What you might have missed is the reference in the opening scene to Robert Zemeckis‘ excellent 1997 adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Contact.
Scientists once argued about whether or not the universe was geocentric (Earth-centered) or heliocentric (sun-centered). The opening scene in the Loki finale puts all those questions to rest and establishes once and for all that the Marvel Studios logo is the center of the known universe.
As the camera pulls back from said logo and shows planets and other cosmic imagery, you may be reminded of a similar opening to another work of science fiction: namely, the aforementioned Zemeckis film, Contact. Speaking to TV Line, Loki director Kate Herron said:
“We had this opening for Episode 6 that [writer] Eric Martin had written, where he said, ‘Oh, it’d be cool to do an homage to Contact,’ because we wanted the show to be a big love letter to sci-fi. We were going to go through space until the end of time, and we’d see the Citadel in the physical timeline.”
The Glory of Contact
Zemeckis was fresh off the success of an Oscar win for Forrest Gump when he made Contact, and it would be one of the last live-action films he made before pivoting more to mo-cap in the 21st-century.
Contact stars Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey whose characters take opposing views on the existence of God but still respect each other’s views and have intelligent conversations. Foster plays Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Ann Arroway, the atheistic SETI scientist who discovers evidence of alien life in radio signals sent from the star system Vega.
Included with the signals were also an early terrestrial radio clip from the 1936 Olympics and a set of blueprints for a machine that could facilitate FTL (faster-than-light) travel for a single Earth occupant to the farthest reaches of space. Arroway would ultimately be selected to make first contact with the aliens, and this is what gives the movie its title.
Contact offered a realistic depiction of its science-fiction scenario and it featured many real-life locations like the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, which provided the huge satellite dishes in the film’s poster. The movie’s opening, which you can see in the video embed above, pulled back from Earth into space in a much slower manner than Loki‘s does. It began just above our planet, where the viewer could hear the cacophony of radio transmissions, before backing through the galaxy into the cosmos and eventually exiting through the eyes of Arroway as a girl (a young Jena Malone).
Contact is one of those ’90s dramas that used “a big budget to ask big questions,” as The New York Times put it. It was an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and is just generally the kind of movie that conjures up feelings of, “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Superhero films and TV shows may now dominate the media landscape, but it’s good to know that at least some of them are partially inspired by stories outside the genre.
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