Signs is Stupid Horrible (Spoilers)

And Horrible Stupid. Managed to catch most of it on TV the other night. I wasn’t giving it my full attention as I was web browsing at the time. I thought the build-up was managed quite well, it was suspenseful and tense. It did a pretty effective job of conveying the anxiety and confusion of people facing a complete upheaval of the life they know. So far, fair enough.

I’m not going to catalogue all the ways in which the aliens were total fuckwits. I’ll simply observe that a species capable of interstellar travel should probably have the sense to equip themselves with, at minimum, an umbrella, when invading a planet largely covered in a chemical deadly to them. Some kind of door opening device might also have come in handy, such as a crowbar, but maybe mechanical leverage has fallen out of fashion in their sector of the galaxy. I used to think that Independence Day was the benchmark for extraterrestrial stupidity, but we have a new winner.

What really bugs me though, is the central message of the film, “everything happens for a reason”. M. Night Shyamalan likes to say he makes spiritual films. What he has actually portrayed here is a vision of God playing with a human Rube Goldberg machine. Here is the divine plan for saving Gibson’s character’s son:

  • Inflict son with bad case of asthma. Check.
  • Give his sister a case of OCD, which causes her to leave half-filled glasses of water around the house. Check.
  • Fuck with his uncle’s baseball prospects by giving him the compulsion to swing wildly at every pitch. His strong arms will be needed elsewhere. Check.
  • Kill their mother by crushing her between two vehicles. Ensure she remains conscious, so she can implant a few words into her traumatised husband, which he is sure to remember later when under similar stress. Her husband’s breakdown will also cause his younger brother to move in with them, in an attempt to look after the family. Check.

And, to quote The Joker, “away we go”. With the aliens turning hostile, the family vote to stay at their home “where they lived with their mother”, rather than heading for the safe haven by a lake. (As we later find out, there is a reason the signs have not been seen near water). They board up their doors and windows, but fail to prepare a panic room or seal the attic. The wily aliens somehow find a way in, so the family rush to the basement. Fortunately, the people from the stars are defeated by an axe wedged under the door handle. One comes down the coal chute and grabs the son, but is chased off, and a sturdy barricade is constructed from four bags of fertilizer and a can of beans. Oh no! The shock of being grabbed by an alien life-form has caused the son to have a serious asthma attack, and his inhaler has been left upstairs! He cannot breathe and loses consciousness.

Later, the family find an old radio, and the news is good. The invaders are retreating! A crude (but somehow amazingly effective) method of fighting them was first developed in the Middle East. Perhaps all that conflict was good for something after all. Sadly, details of this method can’t be released at this time, possibly due to intellectual property issues. The family cautiously leave the basement, but one alien has stayed behind. Somehow (I wasn’t paying much attention at this point) he grabs the unconscious son, and threatens him. The aliens can spray poison gas from their wrists! Suddenly, Gibson has an epiphany, one that doesn’t involve Jews. He remembers his wife’s dying words, that he should “see” and his brother should “keep swinging”. He looks around, and notices his brother is standing next to his prize bat, which is mounted on the wall. It’s a sign! At his word, his brother grabs the bat, but the alien sprays poison gas in his son’s face. Brother batters the hell out of the alien, which falls and knocks a glass left by OCD kid off the TV and onto itself. A miracle, the glass of water is literally a Chekhov’s gun, the chemical so vital to our life is deadly to the alien. Alanis Morisette writes a song about it.

But kid has been poisoned! Oh No! But hallelujah! He’s OK folks, his asthma attack “closed his lungs”, preventing the poison gas from entering his body. Gibson can resume his former life as a priest, his faith restored. And if one of his parishioners has their arms ripped off by a grizzly bear, he can comfort them by telling them it’s all part of God’s plan. Maybe someone will go to shake their hand, come to the embarrassed realisation that they have none, and then go home and not kill their wife.

I call this kind of thing “Popcorn God”, and it’s the most extreme example I can think of. Popcorn God never loses, but he has a lot of fun watching people’s crazy antics as they wriggle on the hooks of fate he’s impaled them on. Seriously, does anyone find this kind of thing satisfying? Am I missing something?

I found it amazing that such an advance civilization failed to undertstand that they were landing on a planet covered with WATER and that the creatures they had planned on dining on were made mostly of WATER.

I might be wrong, but I think the internet has discussed this before.

So, who do you like better, Mike or Joel?

I have no problem suspending disbelief for this kind of film. I actually quite like it. The Happening on the other hand has traumatised me with it’s suckitude.


I’m stealing “Popcorn God.”

I agree. Despite my subsequent loathing for Mel and Midnight, I accepted the film as a well-made fairy tale.

Scared the crap out of me in the theater, too.

Before I saw this movie, I had seen a review in which the reviewer said this had to be seen as a “haunted house” movie. I think it works well on that level.

I did search before posting, but it looks like I did it wrong. I’ve searched again and found a few interesting points in this thread. I’ve noted the idea that the alien’s motive were unknowable and they might be performing some kind of ritual or carrying out a raid, but its counter to the film’s own message. If the attack isn’t the real deal, humanity faces a lovecraftian future, where any plans we make can be destroyed on a whim of capricious and unknowable beings.

I quite like the idea that the aliens are actually demons, but there is nothing in the film to suggest this. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… Even if the film-makers thought of this, they must have been aware that the vast majority of film-goers would have seen them as aliens.

I do understand that it’s primarily a film about faith. I’m arguing that it’s a horribly contrived film about faith.

As I said above, I thought the first 2/3rds of it were quite well done. I can suspend disbelief up to a point, until something too far-fetched takes me out of the film and kills enjoyment dead. For me, a menacing alien that can be defeated by balancing a bucket of water on a door is right up there with Indy’s fridge escape. (The alien would be so pleased with itself for actually getting through the door it wouldn’t think to look up). It’s like having a Cthulhu who is scared of mice, something can’t simultaneously be horrifying and ridiculous.

This is why Shymalan should direct and not write. The buildup to the invasion was thoroughly effective, as was the scene when Merrill sees the alien on TV for the first time. Really ratcheted up the suspense.

Now that’s a god I could believe in. All of life, the universe, and all the rest, will in the end turn out to just be an insanely over-complicated way to crack open god’s breakfast egg. (While OK Go play in the background…)

That alone was way more entertaining than the movie…

As to the colossal stupidity displayed by the aliens: I thing it was someone on this board who put forth the fanwank that the aliens are actually engaging in the equivalent of teenage hijinks. They put up crop signs all over the world to get us all riled up, then they come down to acid-world in their birthday suits just run around and scare the locals.

Other than that, I have no defense for this film, except to say that I kind of like it.

And as a bit of trivia: the teeny town where I grew up appears in the movie for all of about 15 seconds. It’s playing the role of the local town as Mel and his family are driving in to eat and hit the bookstore (if I remember correctly).

Apologists here on the SDMB have pointed out that we never actually find out why the aliens showed up: it could be a rite of passage for youngsters bravely proving themselves with a naked hunt on the planet of acid lakes; it could be exiles being dropped off in an inhospitable backwater, where they’ll probably die but it’s more humane than killing 'em outright; who knows?

I decided to justify the stupidity of the aliens being nontechnical and killable by water as they were actually a worker slave species, and the big owner daddy smart aliens that owned and operated the UFOs dropped them off for a bit of R&R and fresh chow [company picnic?] and then left when they were done.

Have you not been paying attention to US politics?:p:D

I really dislike this film for pretty much the reasons already given.

I have a similar idea. The aliens who built and operated the space ships are some sort of slavers. The ones on the ground grabbing people are one of the other races they’ve enslaved. They’re using them on Earth specifically because the planet is so incredible hostile to them: it ensures that they won’t run away. Later on, they might use the humans they captured to get new slaves on the hydrochloric acid world, using the same logic.

This is, admittedly, 100% fan wank, and while there’s nothing in the movie that contradicts it, there’s really nothing in the movie that supports it, either. But like other have said, I really liked the first 2/3rds of the movie, so I’m willing to go to extraordinary lengths to salvage the ending.

I can’t do much with the “popcorn God” thing, though, except try to ignore it.

I think it works on most levels. First of all, it’s not about alien invasions or monsters. It’s about religious faith. On that level, it works beautifully (I say this as an atheist, too).

Also, it does work as an alien invasion film, mostly because of the nice sense of unease it projects. There are some superb moments of the TV reporters reporting on the story and clearly being frightened about what’s happening. Something that scares anchormen and women onscreen is pretty damn scary.

The water is trivial and has nothing to do with the issues discussed; it’s not meant to be logical. It’s meant to be a matter of belief. Complaints about it show a severe lack of imagination.

HEY! He wrote the screenplay to Stuart Little, which I happened to find quite charming.

“He’s a MOUSE! He can’t play catch with me!” Heh. Good times…

I find that alternately scary and ridiculous, which isn’t quite the same thing. :wink:

I actually think it could have been a pretty effective deconstruction of faith if, after Gibson’s character’s rationalisation of “his lungs were closed”, his son had died anyway. Then his brainwave would be him projecting and trying to find meaning where there was none.

I agree those parts of it were handled well.

No, it’s just bad story-telling, plain and simple. It’s much more satisfying to the audience when a story can be resolved gracefully, rather than forcing them to find a contrived explanation. Almost anything can be fanwanked, and when a work has enough merit it’s sometimes worthwhile, but by your argument anything that can be tugged on should be. It’s a weakness in the plot, and should be acknowledged as such.

Yeah, the thing with the water is a classic fairy tale motif, a seemingly invulnerable monster is defeated by some trivial means. I don’t argue that the aliens in the movie aren’t really supposed to be aliens, of course they are aliens from outer space. However, they don’t act like real world creatures, they act like creatures from dreams and fairy tales. Hence the hiding behind doors, and lurking juuuuust out of sight, and acting in ways that don’t make sense unless what they really want to do is scare people.

Of course, the real reason they act to scare people is because they’re characters in a movie, and the movie wants them to scare the audience. That’s the reason the killer in a slasher movie only moves at a slow walk when the victims can see him, but must run like hell when they aren’t looking to get under the bed or inside the closet.

So when I say that the aliens are bogey-men, I don’t mean they’re supposed to be, in the movie, bogey-men. I mean that they act like bogey-men because that’s their function in the movie. There are plenty of bogey-man movies where the bogey-man is a shark, or an escaped mental patient, or a giant carnivorous rabbit, or a flying piranha, or a rabid dog. It’s not that these characters are supposed to be understood as bogey-men, only that in the movie they spend a lot more time scaring their victims (and thus the audience) than they do killing their victims, or engaging in whatever behavior would be natural for a rabid dog or flying piranha.