Defend your favorite movie! (Spoilers for SIGNS & other movies)

Everybody has at least one: a movie that the rest of the world – or at least the rest of the Dope – thinks is reeking donkey vomit, but when you think is brilliant. Among Dopers the hatred of such movies generally stems from perceived plot/characterization/plausibility flaws (or George Lucas being involved); we Teeming Millions can’t abide lack of logic in our films. But the defenders of the unpopular films generally contend that their is a hidden logic the majority is overlooking.

Here’s your chance to make your case.

I’ll go first. Just to be nice, I’ll use a spoiler box for this discussion of Signs

It’s not hard to find threads in CS mocking this movie. I contend that those who denigrate it are missing a few key elements to understanding it. To wit:

  1. It’s not really a science-fiction story. It has science-fiction trappings, to be sure, but it’s main theme is the loss and regaining of the faith of Graham Hess (Mel Gibson’s character). The alien attack only the vehicle that moves the plot along, just as – for instance – the upcoming nuptials in My Best Friend’s Wedding are a means of exposing Jules’ fear of being emotionally open.

  2. The aliens weren’t trying to conquer the Earth. That’s why their plan seems so incompetent; if you think this was an invasion movie, you’re misreading things. As the radio announcer contends late in the film, what happened during the alien assault was a raid. Moreover, as I contend in another thread I’m too lazy to find and link to, they were engaging in a ritual of some sort designed to test the bravery of the participants, who deliberately handicapped themselves–no weapons, no clothing, choosing a planet that is largely toxic to them–to make it a real challenge.

  3. You’re not meant to think God is omnipotent in this movie. Powerful, yes, but even so Hess’ deity is constrained in ways we cannot imagine, just as he has abilities we cannot imagine. Graham’s God is a father to humanity. The clearest indication of this is the scene in the basement, in which Graham’s son Morgan (Rory Culkin’s character) is having his asthma attack, and Graham can only comfort him, talk to him, help him breathe both physically (by holding him) and indirectly (by talking him through it and helping him focus). Listen to Graham’s words during this scene. Also consider the earlier bit with the family arguing around the table during what they think is there last meal on Earth. Morgan’s rage at his father for letting his mother die stems from his not understanding the situation–because he is only a child, just as, in the Signs world, humans are only children compared to God.

  4. You’re not meant to believe that Morgan’s book has all the correct answers to the aliens’ motivation. Graham points out that the information in that book is too precise and detailed to be believable; there was no way for humans to have gotten that information. Morgan’s UFO book is a symbol of humanity’s quest to understand the universe in general and God in particular, which is doomed to always be inadequate because we lack the intellectual and spiritual maturity to accommodate our desire. We can get bits and pieces of the truth, but never all of it.

  5. Never knowing the full story behind the defeat of the alien raiders is deliberate. The story’s told from an everyman’s perspective on purpose, because, as averred in point 1, the real point of the tale isn’t the alien attack; it’s the Hesses’ coming to terms with their grief and regaining their faith. Just as in a real war–say WWII, during the Battle of Britain–the civilians never know the fullness of what was done to protect them, only glimpses and hints.


I liked Signs, for one reason; It scared me enough that I didnt have time to pick holes in it. When Joaquin leaves the screen at the top of the basement stairs, for what seems like an eternity, I swear to God I was ready to run out the fuckin cinema if ANYTHING but Joaquin re-appeared.

I’m not a huge fan of Signs, but I’m sick of people ragging on it over and over and over and over again. In particular, the “yuck yuck wow they were dumb to conquer earth if they’re allergic to water yuck yuck” criticism. Which is, in a weird way, SUCH an obvious and relevant criticism that either (a) the filmmaker was retarded, or (b) that wasn’t the point. And whatever you might think of M Night’s films, he’s obviously a very deliberate and conscious filmmaker, so I think it has to be (b).
Another movie that gets bashed way more than it deserves, imo, is the recent War of the Worlds. I remember one doper saying something like “… it could have been closer to the book. Oh, yeah, like Spielberg ever READ the book…”. I will bet a million to one odds that he not only had read the book, but spent a LOT of time thinking about how his movie should or should not follow the book. Maybe his choices were wrong. Maybe the happy ending was pointless and tacked on. But CLEARLY Steven Spielberg is not someone who makes big-budget adaptations of famous and seminal novels without having ever READ them. Please.

And then there’s the Most Unfairly Bashed Movie Of All Time… Titanic

Venerable SDMB member tracer wrote this gushing fan page for Shallow Hal once upon a whenever. If that’s not dedication to a cause, I don’t know what is.

As for me, I would like to defend Cutthroat Island. Here’s what it’s got going for it:

[li]Pirates! Pirates everywhere! Damn, I love pirate movies![/li][li]Loads of action. No long talkie bits about curses and whatnot, just a quest for a treasure, with lots of swordplay and cannon firing.[/li][li]The final ship to ship battle, with cannons blazing as the two ships blow each other to pieces, is one of the coolest things I have seen in my entire life. I wish I’d seen it on the big screen.[/li][li]The villain is superb. Dawg Brown, played by Frank Langella, is supremely evil, and his savage love of blood and carnage comes through brilliantly. It’s a shame that the character is so little known. “We can’t leave yet, captain, we haven’t enough food on board.” “We need less mouths.” BANG.[/li][li]And…erm…there’s a monkey![/li][/ol]
So, yeah. I love it. It doesn’t deserve to be so universally ridiculed.

I, too, have stood up for Signs on the Dope before. I maintain that the aliens who built the space ship and the aliens attacking the humans are two entirely different species, and the kidnapping aliens are, themselves, slaves, tasked with getting an exotic new species for their masters. The aliens we see were perfect for this job: they’ve got natural defences, so you don’t have to give them laser guns or anything else they might be able to turn on their masters. Plus, they’ve got that weakness to water, which means that, on Earth, they’ve got no choice but to do their job and return to their slave pens. Trying to escape and stay on Earth would be a death sentence.

I think I’d have had less of a problem with Signs if I’d walked into it expecting something along the lines of spiritual cinema. But the trailers I saw played up the horror/scifi aspect, while so much of the movie was about Graham’s personal spirituality. And I’m sorry, but Signs doesn’t hold up as science fiction- besides the whole water thing, the idea that the aliens wouldn’t use any of their technology to assist in collecting people seems silly without any reasoning backing it up. Miller and Skald, you guys both have plausible backstories (that I’d enjoy arguing about)- trouble is, I was expecting some backstory from M. Night Shyamalan. So I suppose my beef is more with the trailers promoting it as a science fiction/horror movie. Rewatching it recently, I must admit it does a pretty good job as a spiritual cinema type movie.

What, you want an answer to your first question? I refuse! But I’ll defend a book.

I may be the only person I’ve ever met that enjoyed Battlefield Earth. It’s borderline unreasonable premise, executed with some likewise questionable mechanisms (though nothing quite so bad as the movie. I refuse to defend the Harrier thing.). But it’s a good adventure story, and if you can stomach the switch halfway through into a political intrigue, it’s entertaining. I have never read anything else by L. Ron Hubbard, and don’t really intend to. But I enjoyed Battlefield Earth

This was my defense for “Signs” last time on the Dope. “They are fucking aliens! Humanity’s actions and thought processes make little sense a lot of the time and you want FUCKING ALIENS to make sense.”

Nah, I thought it was decent–the book, that is. I don’t acknowledge the movie any more than I acknowledge that silly LOTR adaptation you guys keep claiming Peter Jackson made in EnZed.

I think mine would be “The Core.” Yes, I am aware that the science of it was deeply flawed (if I recall correctly, they did stick to the sci-fi convention of only one leap allowed. Mind you, theirs was a doozy, but still…). I don’t care. It was a well-acted, well-paced, fun movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

(And I loved “Titanic,” too. So there. :p)

I have two. The first is Scooby Doo. Matthew Lillard’s Shaggy and Linda Cardellini’s Velma are enjoyment enough. However, the fact that the monsters ended up being real this time was the icing on the cake.

The other is Event Horizon. A quote from D.J. pretty much sums up why I like it so much: “Look, if what Doctor Weir tells us is true, this ship has been beyond the boundaries of our universe, of known scientific reality. Who knows where it’s been, what it’s seen. Or what it’s brought back with it.” As far as horror movies go, the scenes are pretty run-of-the-mill, but the premise really hooked me.

Okay. I really liked Titanic too.

Oh, I almost forgot. Skald the Rhymer’s point #2 about Signs actually improved the movie for me a whole lot.

Am I the only one who came away from Signs understanding the implication was that the Aliens were on a Harvest? They were on a raid… but it was for food. I thought that was the announcer’s allusion? They had come to make us chattle.

Cattle… you need provisions on an interstellar trip.

Yeah, cattle in need of a steady supply of water.

I’m just gonna say this about signs- why does everyone think that those things were aliens? Did we see spaceships? no. Did we see alien technology? no. Did the monsters claim to be aliens? no. They might have been aliens- but they might have been demons, or gremlins or CHUDs for all we know. The characters call them aliens, but they don’t know anything more than we do- and we don’t know anything.

Exactly. You can fanwank till the cattle beasts come home, but in the end the movie just lacked what it obviously should have had.

Well, that, and I didn’t find it scary at all. Ridiculous, more like.

Cool. I know what I’m doing this afternoon. :cool:

That was a foolish mistake. Never assume a trailer is a description of the film. It’s only there to get you to go, and if they find a hook – even if that hook’s irrelevant to the film – then that’s what they’ll use.

But it’s wrong to blame the film for its inept marketing.

I liked Signs. And, yes, it’s a science fiction film – science fiction does not have to have good science and, I’ll argue, it’s not about science at all.

For my own choice, I’ll go with Ishtar. See link for reasons.

Although I’m not really buying any of your reasons, and genuinely feel that CI is an absolutely terrible movie, I am still compelled to come to its (limited) defense for one reason:

John Debney’s score is absolutely brilliant–one of the best from the 90s and perhaps the best score ever written for a terrible movie. I listen to the soundtrack all the time, and whistfully imagine what a good movie might’ve looked like accompanied by this score. The movie itself is too cacophonous to fully appreciate everything Debney does, so even if you’ve never seen the movie, I wholeheartedly recommend buying the CD.