I’ve never been a huge Roland Emmerich fan. I’m a big fan of Universal Soldier and I dig Stargate, but everything else he’s done I either find to be just ok or it’s simply not my cup of tea. With that said he’s a filmmaker that is very easy to appreciate. He does what he wants and he will not be deterred. His last movie bombed at the box office and crushed by critics? It does not phase him, he bounces back with more of what he does. Hard not to like that.
Earlier this year Kino Lorber released Making Contact on Blu-ray. Also known as Joey, this is an early Emmerich film and his first to be in English. Prior to this release I had not seen this particular film but when I heard about it I was eager to see it because there is some fascinating about seeing the early work of a now established director. Making Contact did not fail to disappoint.
Joey (Joshua Morrell) is grieving from the recent passing of his father. The death of a parent is difficult for anyone to overcome but it’s especially hard on a little child. Joey begins to act strangely and as first his mother just assumes this is his way of dealing with the loss of his father. Makes sense, right? It’s not odd for children to behave strangely with the loss of a parent. But then she notices that Joey appears to be talking to his father on a red toy telephone, at least that’s what Joey thinks. Is it his father? Or is it something sinister?
I think it’s something sinister. Pretty sure it’s an evil dummy and least it’s implied that it’s an evil dummy, but it’s not super clear. Like something it could be the dummy and sometimes it could be the father. Either way there is an evil dummy and he starts to terrorize Joey and makes his world awful. Also Joey somehow develops telekinesis that he can’t fully control. None of this is explained.
The film then spends the next 70 minutes or so — if you’re watching the short US cut, which is the only version available on this Blu-ray — is Emmerich “borrowing” from every Spielberg and Lucas film of the 80’s. And by borrowing I mean unabashedly ripping off. Making Contact feels like a student filmmaker tried to recreate their favorite scenes from E.T., Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars all in one movie. It’s like this wonderfully strange mash up of great movies but done much worse. If this were made today it would be a YouTube upload and then it would get pulled down from YouTube for massive copyright infringement.
Towards the end of the film Joey’s powers become so out of hand that he is quarantined so he can be study. Vans of people showing up and surround his house. They set up tents and everyone is wearing plastic suits and they begin to poke and prod at him to see what the heck is going on. This is straight out of E.T. It’s amazing.
Joey also has a robot that is basically an R2-D2 knock off. His name is Charlie I believe. This is confusing because Joey spends most of his time with the robot and his dog and it feels like the dog should be named Charlie, but it’s not. Whatever, Charlie does manage to be pretty adorable, so I’m ok with it.
The film was shot I Germany but Emmerich was clearly making it for American audiences. He definitely tried to Americanize it the best he could. Joey’s bedroom for example has a bunch of posters and pennants of American sports teams, but they don’t quite add up. There’s Los Angeles Lakers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants stuff. A small boy likely wouldn’t be a fan of all those teams, but to people outside the US they are very American.
There are a few scenes shot in the Virginia Beach area. These are just exterior shots to show the US I think. Oddly enough they show Krispy Kreme multiple times. My guess is that because this is viewed as a very American company, but it would never be one of the first ones I would think to show. Interesting choice, Emmerich, very interesting.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks fantastic. There are a lot of great 80’s toys and details highlighted in the film and this Blu-ray shows them off in great detail. As far as special features go there isn’t much, just a few trailers trailers — two from the US and one from Germany. I would have loved to have the longer, international cut included. I’m guessing those material weren’t available for Kino Lorber to use which is too bad. Maybe that longer cut makes more sense, but I doubt it so it’s not a major loss.
Making Contact isn’t a good movie and some may find it to be very bad. I’m in the camp that think it’s incredibly charming and fun and that makes up for its many faults. And the mere fact that it exists is wildly impressive. The final scene of the movie throws out a ton of things from other movies. It’s something else and I think worth checking out.
Making Contact is available now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
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