I started to do an article on the biggest jerks in Sci-Fi movies. My main target was the David Drumlin character in the movie Contact. When I started to make up my list, I found that Contact had a good number of jerks. You know, opportunistic, self-serving, deceitful, and smarmy people that get in the way of the main character. Poor Eleanor Arroway had an Earth load to deal with in this movie. I decided to focus just on Contact for this article.
Some of the characters do not fit into this category. They too had to wade through the morass of jerks. The one that I do not feel belongs in the list is:
S.R. Haddon (played by John Hurt) spent a lifetime thwarting all the other governmental jerks. After his death, the government pinned the supposed 'failure' of the machine on him. They even accused him of perpetrating a hoax!
Here is my list of jerks from mildly to wildly jerky:
6 - Kent Clark (played by William Fichtner)
Kent bails on Eleanor when funding is pulled at the Aricebo Telescope in Puerto Rico. He could not even wait to see if Eleanor can get funding outside the government. He does, however, wheedle his way back in when the signal is found at the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and during Eleanor's trip in Japan!
5 - Rachel Constantine (played by Angela Bassett)
She has to get a jerk rating because she goes along with Michael Kitz's plan to bury evidence that Eleanor Arroway did go somewhere, and to blame the 'failure' on S.R. Haddon. Just because she OKs a grant to Eleanor, basically to keep her quiet, does not absolve her.
Jerk-O-Meter: * *
4 - Palmer Joss (played by Matthew McConaughey)
Derails Eleanor Arroway's bid to become the passenger on the first machine. No, he does not get points back for saving her life. He did not know that the machine was going to be sabotaged when he shot her down AT THE VERY LAST SECOND during her candidate interview. That it was revealed it was a selfish move only adds salt to the wound. He makes a public statement that he believes Eleanor after her 'trial.' But, that doesn't absolve him of his previous jerk move.
Jerk-O-Meter: * * *
3 - Michael Kitz (played by James Woods)
The ultimate Alexander "I Am In Control Here" Haig character. He buries facts that prove Eleanor did travel somewhere in the machine. Then he stages public hearings to get to the bottom of the 'failure' with the goal of pinning it on S.R. Haddon. In the end, he accuses Haddon of perpetrating a hoax on the world.
Jerk-O-Meter: * * *
2 - David Drumlin (played by Tom Skerritt)
The ultimate mustachio-twirling bad guy! Always in it for himself no matter who he steps on. He closes down Eleanor's research at Aricebo for not being 'practical.' He cuts funding to Eleanor's research at the VLA. But, when she finds a signal, he quickly steps in to take credit for and control of the project! Then, when they find the plans to the machine, he quickly resigns his position in order to become the occupant for the machine's first trip. When Eleanor stumbles in her answer to Palmer Joss (see above), Drumlin crafts his answers to please the committee and win the seat! He just drips smarminess as shown in the image above! Did anybody cheer when he was blown up in the first machine?
Jerk-O-Meter: * * * *
1 - The Aliens (image of Eleanor's father played by David Morse)
The aliens are even bigger jerks than the humans. They contact us and send us plans for a machine in order to visit them. Humans build the machine at great cost. When we send someone to meet them, they: 1) don't reveal themselves, but project an image of Eleanor's father into her mind, 2) tell us how ferocious and child-like we are, 3) won't let Eleanor stay for any length of time, 4) tells Eleanor to "run along home now," 5) block Eleanor's recording device from capturing proof of her trip, and 6) do not confirm a return trip in the future. Plus, they reveal that the technology wasn't even created by them! They are keeping it to themselves and kicking us out of the sandbox!
Jerk-O-Meter: * * * * *