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10 June 2004 @ 05:42 am
Signs  
Watched the movie Signs tonight with Kialyn.

(Oh, Kialyn, i was right, the person they were all staring at _was_ played by M. Night Shyamalan.)

It was scary, as i'd expected. I spent a lot of the movie peering around from behind my hand. Yes, i am a whimp :)

Other than that however the movie wasn't that great, except for the amusement in seeing if the aliens could manage to out do the humans in a stupidity contest.

Perhaps it's just that i've read too many science fiction books, but i couldn't believe the implausibility of the aliens, nor the incompetence of the humans. If that's the best the average person can do i'm going to be well placed to survive any alien invasion or other apocalypse, especially if any kind of competition is involved. (I don't need to outrun the aliens, i just need to outrun the stupid people :)


Just about the only thing the movie got right is that the aliens were here to harvest humans, rather than any of the other material resources that aliens frequently seem to come to earth to get but that could be found much more easily in the comets and asteroids wandering about this (and probably any other) solar system, and without the need for messy conflicts with another species either.

The aliens themselves managed to be scary, however they also quickly revealed themselves to be incompetent, pathetic, and stupid.

They presumably consider themselves to be a warrior race given their actions, and yet they are apparently unable to fight their way out of a _pantry._ LITERALLY. A walk-in pantry with a thin wooden door that had a table leaned against it. It's truely unfortunate that no one had the chance to investigate the results of sticking one of the aliens in a paper bag. It probably would have been amusing.

So either the aliens are incredibly weak, too stupid to realize that you can break down obstacles, or have some weird kind of honor code that prohibits traversing through openings that have been warded against you, any of which would make the paper bag experiment especially interesting. Perhaps the doors should have been blocked with cellophane so they could watch the aliens inefectively pawing at the other side.

Whatever the reason, it can _not_ be a great survival tactic for a warrior species.

Just about the only bright thing the humans did was infer that if the aliens can't bust down a flimsy wooden door they might have trouble with boarded up windows as well. (Of course depending on the reason the boards might not even be neccessary, in which case you can just skip them and make faces at them through the locked windows and they can't do anything about it)

However their efforts towards securing the house were pretty pathetic. First of all they really should have gone with the brother's room above the barn/garage thing (at least until i realized they had a basement.) It was on the second story with apparently a single set of stairs as access. Only the one door and far fewer windows. Instead they tried to board up every door and window in the main house. When they realized they were running out of boards they started boarding up the doors to rooms with lots of windows in them. It was somewhat amusing watching them board up a door that _opened the other way._ Yeah, the boards would present something of an obstacle, but still.

Boarding up everything as a precaution is a resonable idea. However one of the primary tenants of defense is that you don't want unmanned approaches. As the assault begins they're standing in some kind of living room area on the first floor with line of sight to far less than half the potential entryways. This is not good. Then they realize they forgot to block one of the entrances! Specifically a plainly visible trapdoor to the attic. At this point they all run into the basement.

What?! They had a basement? And they _hadn't_ already considered it as a fallback position?? Given the situation i would have _started out_ by fortifying the basement, but even if for some lame ass reason i decided not to do that i would have considered it as a possibility to retreat to. They however arrived in the basement and realized they had "nothing" to block the door with. By "nothing" i mean that while digging through piles of stuff and searching through shelves loaded with all kinds of stuff he was unable to find anything of the exact size required to jam under the doorknob. He finally found some kind of pickaxe that fit the requirement, although one has to wonder why he didn't just rip down one of the wooden boards they were serving as shelves.

At this point the aliens start banging on the door, but not in a forcefull way so as to break through, but just in a manner as to make a lot of noise. From this they cleverly deduce that the aliens are trying to distract them from something. Which causes them to realize that they uncleverly didn't block yet another entrance to the house, namely an old coal chute into the basement. After much drama they find the chute and block it with what ironically appeared to be bags of charcoal (where were those when they needed to block the door?) In some ways this makes it a good thing that they forgot to block the trapdoor to the attic. If not for their panicked flight to the basement they might not have remembered about the chute until aliens started pouring up out of the basement. Ooops.

So at this point, having been thwarted by the insurmountable obstacles of a locked door and a couple bags of charcoal (or possibly dog food,) the aliens gave up. The humans all decide to take a nap, presumably because they've deduced that the aliens are incompetent and won't try anything while the opposition is unconscious.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world collectively kicks the aliens asses. Anyone who's been paying attention to the movie has probably guessed by this point that their weakness is water. The people _in_ the movie should have at least thought about it, but apparently it slipped their minds. In a meta sense i noticed the little girl's obsession with water and figured it would play an important role in the movie. The people in the movie can understandably be forgiven for missing that clue, however one of their neighbors says he noticed that none of the crop circles were near water so he was running away to a lake on the theory that they didn't like water. The father then tells his family that he heard the aliens don't like water so maybe they should go to the lake. His family votes the idea down, and then everyone promptly forgets that the aliens might not like water. Although to give them faint credit, perhaps they would have considered it if at even one point during the night or previous day they had considered equiping themselves with _any_ kind of weapon at _all._

Somehow someone else on the planet figured out the weakness to water however, and when they wake up in the morning they hear on the radio that the aliens are in retreat. The tv report says that someone in the mideast figured out a "primative means" of defeating the aliens, but they weren't sure what the exact tactic was. Don't you think that if aliens were invading the earth and you figured out an easy way to beat them that that would be the _first_ thing you would tell everyone else?
"Hey there, i heard that Joe figured out a way to beat the aliens. What is it?"
"I don't know, he told me that it was a 'primitive means' and then laughed at me when i couldn't figure it out."
"That bastard, thinks he's so smart. Once the aliens are gone, I'm going over to his place and I'm going to beat the crap out of him."
"Sounds good, I'll help."

At this point of course they run into a lone alien who apparently didn't get the recall signal so they could have their final climactic confrontation. (Anyone suprised by this, hang your head in shame.) They don't figure out the water thing right off. Instead the father has the sudden inspiration (discussed further below) to tell his brother to grab a nearby baseball bat and commence hitting the alien. The alien is completly unable to defend itself against this _brilliant_ strategy, and gets pummeled across the room a few times before it collides with one of the many glasses of water left out be the little girl, which procedes to disolve it in a great display of overkill. Perhaps i'm wrong about the "primitive means" of defeating the aliens. Perhaps they actually meant hitting them with sticks.

I can just imagine the aliens at the time the retreat was ordered:
"How is the invasion of the planet by our brave but unarmed and unarmored troops going?"
"The people in the rural areas caused us some difficulties at first by locking their doors and refusing to open them when we knocked. We were making some headway on that problem when they started picking up sticks and beating us with them."
"That is unfortunate. Perhaps our troops fared better in the suburban areas where there might be less sticks?"
"We were making good progress there until about 3am local time, when all our forces in those areas were anihilated by an ingenious weapon called a 'sprinkler system' that doused our soldiers with that vile substance, water."
"A trap! They must have known we were coming! What about our troops in the urban areas, where it was reported that the human armies were fortifying themselves, armed with machine guns and tanks and such?"
"Don't even ask."

Yes, the aliens had no armor or tools of any kind. Their only defense was a really crappy natural camouflage ability. Their only weapons were, as far as we were shown, really long fingernails and a natural poison spray that was only effective if pointed at the target's face from a range of about two inches and the target didn't think to hold their breath.

And yes, they were in fact completly naked. Which means that they must have been getting a really nasty rash from the humidity, not to mention the difficulties they would have encountered when it rained! (Some people have argued that they didn't know water was bad for them originally, however if so then why did they avoid making crop circles near water, which is what first tipped the humans off to the potential weakness?)

The only reason we're given for this weaponless behavior is that the aliens feared that if they attacked us using advanced technology that we'd respond with nukes. What? I'll admit that setting up the fight so that you get your ass handed to you before the day is out will probably preclude the use of nukes by the opposing side, but that really doesn't seem like a very good plan. If they had actually started winning using hand to hand combat, what makes them think the humans wouldn't use nukes against them anyways? I sure hope that as soon as the conflic started the military tried launching missiles at the ships hovering over the cities. If that failed and things ended up going badly on the ground i think nukes would be a viable last ditch attempt to prevent extinction no matter what manner of weapons the aliens were using.

According to this same dubious source, if the aliens were defeated in their ground invasion they would retreat and return again with a full scale invasion force, but not for hundreds or thousands of years. What idiot of a commander would depend on a naked and weaponless invasion succeeding and wouldn't bring along advanced weaponry even as a backup? I doubt they're going to get their chance at a second invasion now anyways. Having been informed that there are hostile but incredibly stupid aliens out to get us i expect that earth will work on developing the technology to follow them home, at which point we can either plaster them from orbit or demand that they all strip naked and let our ground forces hunt them down at leisure with water guns, or we'll break out the nukes and they wouldn't want that right?

So the stupid humans and stupid aliens aside, my other big problem with the movie was the stupid god and the stupid faith.

Apparently the protagonists survived because god wanted them to. However god was apparently too busy saving them to do anything about all the other people killed by the aliens. Not only that, but the best way god could figure to get the message across to the one family it decided to save was to kill the mother in an incredibly messy accident so she could mutter vague warnings just before she died. What message was so vital that it necesitated widdowing the person god was trying to save and causing massive emotional trauma to the family? "Hit the alien with a stick."

What's sad is that they were too stupid to figure this out on their own and actually needed god to tell them that.

God in its infinite wisdom also decided to give the son cripling asthma so he wouldn't breath in the poison, and made the girl obsesive compulsive about clean water so that there would be pleanty of "dirty" glasses of water lying about the house for the alien to trip over.

So either this particular (fallen) priest is the only person god thought was saving (other than perhaps the people in the middle east) or about six months prior there must have been a worldwide rash of loved ones of religous people muttering cryptic statements just before dying from bizare and improbable accidents while the rest of the family develops strange (but later amazingly convenient) aflictions. Either that or only Mel Gibson's character was too stupid to figure out the stick thing on his own, which makes you wonder whose fault is it exactly that his wife had to die? (Since the theme was that everything happens for a reason and nothing is a coincidence, clearly some entity had to be responsible.)

Personaly i'm going to opt to worship the god whose chosen get a mysterious urge to go vacationing on a houseboat and thus they and their healthy and well adjusted family spend the week worried but perfectly safe in the middle of a lake.


So all in all it had some pretty major problems. Some people have tried to defend it on the basis that it was about faith and signs and not really about aliens. However it was promoted pretty much as an alien invasion movie, so that's what i was expecting. Sixth Sense and Unbreakable both delivered what they promised, and Signs didn't.

On the other hand it might be worth watching again just to laugh at the "plot canyons," as someone else put it. I don't feel too bad for owning the DVD either, since i paid about $5 for a used copy at a video rental place.

While i was looking around at reviews i found a couple really hilarious ones, with pleanty of spoilers though.

Review 1 (spoilers)
Review 2 (spoilers)
Review 3 (spoilers)
Review 4 (guess what, spoilers)

Wow, i started this post about 11:30, and it's 5:30 now. Of course i spent a lot of time cruising the web and then watched Titan A.E. while writing it :)
 
 
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Leora: ouroborosleora on June 10th, 2004 03:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I thought Unbreakable was really good, but Signs was disappointing. I think the point was he needed signs because he lost his faith and needed it restored.

I agree, a sudden strong houseboat urge would have been better.
DonAithnendonaithnen on June 10th, 2004 04:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's strange that judging by both reviewers and box office numbers that most people liked Signs more.

Looking at the reviews on rottentomatoes it seems that:

A: many people are not very critical of gaping plot holes. A lot of them can't tell the difference between willing suspension of disbelief and embracing blatant stupidity. If you say that spacefaring aliens deciding to invade earth is okay, but spacefaring aliens being unable to open a door is not, many will respond that if you're going to critisize the movie for being illogical, then why are you okay with the aliens at all?

B: A slow pace with lots of discusion (i'm trying to think fo some word that fits well, but my brain keeps getting stuck on "extrapolation," which i know isn't right, stupid brain) is unwanted when it's just intelectual and philisophical stuff in what is in part a superhero action movie. However it's okay in an alien action/horor movie as long as it's about GOD, and talks about how people who have faith will be saved, because they're special and everyone else isn't. And of course that if bad things happen GOD meant it that way, and clearly it's for a good reason even if you don't understand why, so shut up and accept GOD's glory.

Okay, i should stop ranting now :)