Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“Signs” Movie Review

A Lesson in Too Many Signs
Image from IMDB

M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film “Signs” labors intensively over filling in plot holes and leaves behind a heavy glaze of disinterest.

“Signs” is about a minister, who through the course of losing his wife to an accident, loses his faith with god. Mel Gibson does a fine enough job in the role of Rev. Graham Hess, a father who is trying desperately to raise his children with only the help of his brother, Merrill Hess, played by Joaquin Phoenix

I had seen this film once before and didn’t think much of it at the time. The twists didn’t seem interesting enough and I ended up leaving the theater feeling cheated. I went into this second viewing focusing less on the twists and more on the quality of the film. “Signs” is a movie full of quiet moments reflected in the dark colors of the film, the use of film noir lighting, and moments of contemplation by Hess. But ultimately the film left a dissatisfied taste in my mouth. 

The tension in the film surrounds the appearance of crop circles on the Hess farm and other farms around the world. At first the crop circles are thought to be part of an elaborate hoax. Eventually aliens land and quickly make their presence known. They are malevolent aliens and seek to use humans as a food source. The aliens aren’t well developed characters. They don’t need to be, they are cardboard symbols of anti-Christianity. The biggest scare involved with the aliens is the lack of attention given to them.

The signs are everywhere. So much so, that the audience feels like a child in a bible school lesson. The director should have had more respect for the audience. Water is a symbol for holy water and is the only weapon that kills the Aliens. Mumbled gibberish, present in an excruciatingly long flashback, from the dead minister's wife are prophetic.We know this because the director rams that point down our throats. (Think "Swing Away!") 

During the final battle with an alien intent on kidnapping Hess’s son, the alien sprays the boy(played by Rory Culkin)with a poisonous gas. But because the son has had an asthma attack, his lungs are closed and the poison does not get in. The son is in a sense resurrected, the good guys kill the alien, and the Earth is free to continue on it's way. Hess returns to the ministry having found his faith once again and the film ends on a promising note. The movie tries so hard to make the signs make sense, that it forgets to “let” the signs speak for themselves.


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