Next up on the annual EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is the M. Night Shyamalan movie, Signs, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
Honestly, when I first saw this movie, I disliked it tremendously. For me, this, along with The Village, was when Shyamalan started his downward spiral after two films that I truly loved (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable). However, I have heard many people defend the film and so I thought it might be deserving of a rewatch. Perhaps I would feel differently about it now than I did back in the early 2000s.
And I did.
I have to say that I found this considerably more engaging and emotional than the first viewing. I was much more connected to it than I was then and I even found myself tearing up a bit.
At first, I had to get past Mel Gibson being on screen. After the hateful things that Gibson has said, he is a presence in the film that threatens to overpower everything else. After the beginning of the film, I was able to put those feelings aside and immerse myself in the story.
I found the relationship between Gibson and the two children, played by Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin, was at the very center of the success of this movie. There was so much pain from these characters from the past events that seeing them struggle with them in the face of the invasion was powerful and very realistic. It grounded the story in emotion in a way that we could relate instead of in a situation that we have not had experience with in our lifetimes.
I was also surprised with how many moments of humor found its way into a movie that was intended to be so intense and suspenseful. Most of the laughs were from small moments or minor details and they worked among the tragic circumstances.
My guess was that, when I saw this the first time, I may not have appreciated the slow pace of the film. Now, much older, I enjoy a good, slow burn, particularly when it develops character, and this is absolutely what happens in Signs. Some of the dialogue here is just excellent and on point. These tendencies may not have appealed to me as much in 2002.
I am still not 100% fond of the ending of the film as it feels a tad contrived, but the emotional moment between Gibson and Culkin at the end was worth putting up with the rest of the final confrontation. The idea that these aliens had a weakness to SPOILERS water and they come to a planet where 75% of the planet is covered with water is a bit silly END OF SPOILER as you would think that if they could travel here in UFOs that they had the ability to understand what the planet is like. Still, I think that is a little nitpicky since the movie is really more about the relationship between Gibson and his family and dealing with his own loss of faith instead of being about an alien invasion.
My opinion has changed on Signs, showing how film can be subjective once again. I brought a different mindset into this viewing than I did 18 years ago and that can lead to a difference in perception. I wonder how many years it will take for me to change my perception of Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender?