In all honesty, I don’t really understand the appeal for Signs. The film is riddled with so many plot holes that, fundamentally, it just doesn’t work. Yet, for some reason, fans of Signs are willing to overlook the many flaws and still somehow declare it as a great movie.
Signs stars Mel Gibson as Graham Hess, a former preacher who lost his faith after his wife was killed in a car accident. He lives with his brother (played by Joaquin Phoenix) and kids on a small farm in Pennsylvania, where crop circles started appearing almost overnight. Along with these crop circles, other strange events start taking place all around the world. Marking what might be the start of an alien invasion that could end human civilization on Earth forever.
I’ll go ahead and start with what I like about Signs, that being the mood and atmosphere. The film does an effective job at creating this eerie mood that is, truly creepy. The sparse use of a soundtrack also added to how eerie Signs generally was.
Sadly, all the acting in the film resembled typical Shyamalan-style dullness. Just about everyone speaks in this low pitched whisper with a blank, expressionless stare. I can’t tell if Shyamalan was going for artsy, dramatic performances or if the poor acting was unintentional. Either way, the performances in Signs were incredibly boring and drab.
The camerawork was unfortunately not much of an improvement from the acting. There were so many shots of uncomfortable close ups that the film became very obnoxious to watch. There were also these long sequences where the camera would continue to pan 180 degrees between two characters talking. This was also quite annoying, and came off as really pretentious. It was as if Shyamalan was trying too hard to make the camerawork interesting, while in the process drawing attention to how bad it was.
The alien in the film is the exact same generic alien audiences have seen a million times over. There is so much buildup throughout the film for these supposedly frightening aliens that when you finally see them, it’s extremely disappointing. I don’t know why this design was chosen, but it sucked.
Now, I’ve saved my biggest issue with the film for last, an issue that I feel prohibits Signs from being considered anywhere near a good film. That being, how the aliens can’t open doors, and are easily killed by water. Why is it that an advanced alien race with technology far beyond our own, would invade a planet made up of seventy percent water, if their weakness is water? Also, how can the aliens not understand the concept of opening a door, seriously? These are obviously concepts that were neglected during the writing process.
The plot issues with Signs go far past just the few aspects I mentioned, which is why I am confused that so many people like it? Critics and audiences went nuts when Signs originally came out, people even said the film resembled a work of Hitchcock. I know I’m the minority opinion on this one, so maybe I’ll never understand its appeal.
I think the eerie mood that Signs builds with its slow pace and reserved use of sound makes for a premise with a lot of potential. Where Signs is unsuccessful, is in its execution. There were just way too many plot holes, lazy writing, and ideas that weren’t thought all the way through for this film to be good.
I want to like more of Shyamalan’s work beyond The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, because he clearly has talent. However, somehow I get the feeling he’d prefer to just turn out films with pretentious camera work and major plot holes, like Signs.
The Verdict: D-