Since the season of spooks is upon us and I want to see the movies my wife loves that I haven’t seen, there was no better time than now to finally watch Signs. In terms of M. Night Shyamalan movies, it is the third of his popular movies behind The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I never got caught in the Shyamalan fever, so I somehow missed Signs altogether. I love Unbreakable and liked Sixth Sense, but after I saw The Village I was done with his movies … except for the time I got suckered into watching Avatar: The Last Airbender even though I never watched the show. From what popular opinion has told me, there wasn’t anything worth watching of his between Signs and The Visit. I heard about the premise of The Visit and deemed it not worthy of my time. Then there was his big comeback movie Split. I had the ending spoiled for me beforehand, but still thoroughly enjoyed it and am beyond excited for Glass.
Back to the movie at hand! What did I think of Signs giving it 15 years to breathe?
I would give it 6 “tin foil hats” out of 10.
FOR THE UNINITIATED
Signs takes place in rural Pennsylvania corn farm where a former priest (Graham – Mel Gibson) lives with his brother (Merrill – Joaquin Phoenix) and his children (Morgan – Rory Culkin / Bo – Abigail Breslin). Crop circles appear and other traces of aliens soon follow. Once it is clear there are aliens, it is up to the family to decide what that means on a larger scale.
As a whole, Signs is a typical alien invasion movie. Where it makes itself unique is focusing on the individuals and the aliens on a smaller scale. Similar to some famous monster movies, the aliens appear closer to the end than the beginning. So viewers and the characters are left to wonder if they are real or not. Once we all learn they are real, it then changes how we view the world and what is beyond. More importantly, it affects what we believe. Near the middle of the movie Graham and Merrill have a conversation about how there are two types of people (insert a joke here): people who see what happens as luck or as a sign there is something bigger. It becomes a character study of someone who wants to see it as luck (Graham) and someone who wants to see it as a sign (Merrill), or a someone who is a dreamer living off hunches and is right (Bo) and someone who bases their beliefs on science and is right.
In my opinion, Signs is more of a movie to look back on and talk about than to sit and enjoy. The story moves along fairly slowly and the characters are there more to serve the purpose of the story than be “real” people. Even once the aliens show up the story drags a little. The pacing and building of suspense was erratic at best. Aside from that everything fit together too perfectly, which I know is the point of the movie … it just seemed too fictionalized.
Signs is a fine movie now and likely would have been much better at the time of its release. Maybe I went in with too low of expectations or knowing the ending affected my experience. There are great scenes and some great dialogue, but it just seemed like it was missing soul. If you want to see a movie that was written and shot like it was a project, this is it. Not to say that is entirely a negative thing, it is just a little hard for me to endorse.
My recommendation is a little bit of a stretch, so follow me here: The LEGO Movie. The premise isn’t a selling point, the characters aren’t very memorable or original, and the ending should not work … but it is an awesome movie. Whereas Signs is the sum of its parts and almost scientifically so, The LEGO Movie adds up to more than the sum of its parts. It perfectly encapsulates the imagination a kid would have playing with LEGOS and hits the nostalgia center hard – for me at least.