As I was researching first contact stories for this month, Signs kept coming up. I vividly remember seeing Signs in the theaters roughly 18 years ago and that I liked it, just not as much as M. Night’s prior movies. I had some of the same complaints that other viewers had, which is probably why I haven’t revisited the movie in all these years.
For my second watch I was genuinely surprised by how much I still liked it and thought it held up pretty well. Also the issues I had back at 16 didn’t really matter that much this time around (you can do the math on your own).
I do want to state that since the movie has been out for 18 years I will be going into spoiler territory! SPOILERS AHEAD! BEEEEWAAAARE! 🙂
A refresher: Signs centers around the Hess family, who wake up to find crop circles out in their fields. The father, Graham, along with his two children and brother, Merrill, slowly realize that they’re in the fight for their lives. In the midst of all this, Graham, an ex-priest, is still haunted by the sudden passing of his wife, which left a giant vacuum in the family.
In terms of First Contact, I think at first glance Signs could have easily been an average ‘hostile invasion’ movie, but it’s how the events affect the Hess family which gives this tale a little more flavor.
In the middle of the movie our ex-priest reveals his thoughts on humanity and how they handle the unknown. For Graham, people are split off into two groups and “the lights in the sky” (the aliens) reveal which group you’re in.
Group 1 sees ‘signs’ or miracles in everything, and believes that we are not alone in the world. When they see the aliens in the sky they remain positive, because no matter what happens some supernatural force is with them, they’re not alone.
Group 2 sees everything as luck and chance, and when they see aliens in the sky they are filled with dread, because no matter what happens they know they will have to face it alone.
Six months prior to the movie, Graham believes himself to be in that first group, but after witnessing the passing of his wife, he realizes that he is the latter and strips away his old perspective along with the collar that represented that belief. Graham’s journey in the movie isn’t that he just goes back to what he was before, but that by the end he truly believes. There’s no longer any doubt.
Between the story and the chemistry between the actors (Joaquin Phoenix, forever and always is the best), I think this is worth the rewatch. Yeah, there’s a couple of gripes, but nothing major (expect for the presence of Mel Gibson).
While we are here…
For years the two biggest gripes of Signs were ‘if water is poisonous to the aliens, why come to a planet that’s 70% water’ and ‘they never should’ve shown the aliens at the end.’
I can forgive the water issue because we are not given the point of view of the alien race at all. The information gathered is from our own observations. The aliens have coordinated a hostile attack to abduct humans. Our species is the resource they need and I’m guessing there’s not a lot of us around in the galaxy. The aliens just might have been desperate?
In regards to ‘seeing the aliens’, it’s unbelievable how your memory can distort after 18 years! I didn’t think it was that bad, at least not on the level people deemed it to be for years. Now I did see it in the theaters originally, which probably highlighted more of the flaws, maybe boasting that bad reputation. But on my TV, it was fine and didn’t ‘ruin the movie’.
Now I can take a deep breath and let it go. Again, not saying it’s a masterpiece, just that sometimes I think audiences can get hypercritical about certain elements of the story. I would say that in terms of first contact this is a strong entry and one to check out.