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?