My cousin recently told me to watch “Signs” – a movie starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Now, just as a warning, there will be spoilers in this post – but hey, it was done in 2001, so if you haven’t watched it by now, it’s probably not a big deal to you if I ruin it for you, right? Anyway, I thought I’d just give a few thoughts on the movie.
First off, as far as the movie itself goes, it was decent. The acting wasn’t impeccable, but it was good enough. And I thought the suspense was kept fairly high throughout most of it, which was good. Shyamalan keeps you guessing right until the end as to what is going to happen. I was really wondering how humanity was going to fend off a huge alien invasion within the last 30 minutes of the movie, but it all got wrapped up neatly. Not to my liking, perhaps, but there was at least an explanation.
However, I’m not doing an official movie review, so I’m not going to say much more about the acting and the plot and all that sort of stuff. I’d like to talk about the meaning behind it – the ultimate message of the movie. Now essentially, Mel Gibson plays a former priest (I’m guessing he must have been Orthodox, as he was a priest yet he was married) who loses his faith after his wife dies. One day he suddenly faces some strange things happening on his farm, and finds that there are some big crop circles smack dab in the middle of his cornfields. He and the other characters try to figure out what’s going on, but it’s a little bland just because you know they’re not going to make a movie about a supposed alien invasion that turns out to be a bunch of teenagers sneaking out to cornfields at night. But at any rate, the strange occurrences increase rapidly, and pretty soon they’re boarding up their house to fend off an alien attack. Mind you, these aliens are pretty pathetic – somehow they’ve managed to master intergalactic space travel, yet they can’t seem to figure out how to open a wooden door. No wonder they leave so quickly! But anyway, the thing that really bothered me for most of the movie was that the whole time, Gibson never picked up any sort of weapon to fend off any aliens that managed to, you know, knock down his door or smash through his window or anything. He knew they were out there, and when they get to the basement, they barricade the door with a pick-axe, but if I were him the first thing I would have done would be to run down and grab that pick-axe. Even when they open the door at the end to see if it’s safe to come out, they just remove the pick-axe and then don’t even carry it up with them!
But with that aside, let me get back to the main point of the movie. Gibson has lost his faith, but through a string of events that some might say were coincidences, he regains it and becomes a priest again. The combination of a) his son having asthma, then later being attacked by an alien and shot with poison gas, b) his daughter’s strange obsession with water and the aliens being allergic to water, and c) his brother’s spectacular batting skills and the need to use a weapon to fend off an alien, all lead him to the conclusion that there must be someone up there watching him and coordinating these events. He sees these as “signs” – from where we get the title – and thus concludes that it was all “meant to be.”
This might be the case. I’d probably conclude the same thing were that to happen to me. It sure can’t be coincidence that the guy with an asthmatic son, a water-obsessed daughter, and a slugger brother gets attacked by an alien who sprays poison gas, is allergic to water, and needs to be hit. I think I’d be more apt to conclude that it was the director who put together these events, but I suppose the character in the movie wouldn’t assume he was in a movie. But yes, I’d probably conclude that these were much more than simple coincidences. But would I return to my Christian faith? Probably not. Think about it: Christianity claims that God loves all his creations. And yet God a) allowed a massive alien invasion, killing probably untold thousands on both sides and many more sick and wounded, b) created a child specifically with asthma just for this one occasion, and c) gave a small child some sort of odd obsessive-compulsive behaviour for the cleanliness of her water, something that could potentially lead to worse behaviour and might need treatment at some point. And all this, for what? To get one man to pick up the faith he left? Such a supposed God would certainly not fit any definition of “love” that I can come up with. Why not skip the whole alien invasion and the asthma and such and just give this guy a portrait of Jesus in his french toast? Or a bona fide vision or appearance? Such a thing would avoid such needless bloodshed and horrible pain.
Now, granted, I’m likely reading way too much into this movie. I’m analyzing it at a deeper level than it was likely meant to be analyzed. But I think it’s warranted. Perhaps these events would signal the existence of some higher power, but I wouldn’t call it a loving God. Maybe Zeus is back and ready to arbitrarily intervene in human affairs again. Or perhaps God is up there but not doing anything, and the demons are the ones setting this up. But a loving God? No, I don’t think so. A loving God would have caused the engines of the alien spaceships to fail. He would have created an unalterable message carved on the surface of the earth for the aliens, saying, “Stay away! Hazardous water!” An infinite and all-powerful God could have come up with a hundred different ways to resolve this situation, all without allowing innocent people to die at the hands of a force they didn’t even know existed.
At any rate, with that said, I thought it was a decent movie on the whole. It seemed a bit contrived, but I suppose that was the point – it was, after all, a movie about coincidences that weren’t actually coincidences. But I liken the philosophy of this movie to the philosophy of religious people after a terrible plane crash. Some people hear about a devastating plane crash where 150 people die and 4 survive, and they say, “It’s a miracle that those four survived!” But wouldn’t the real miracle be the one where the plane crashed and they all survived? Or the one where the plane did not crash at all? No, a plane crash where 150 die and 4 survive is a tragedy. We can celebrate for those who survived, and we can mourn for those who were lost, but such a thing is not a miraculous event. It’s life. So too, on a grander and stranger scale, is an alien invasion where thousands die and one man regains his faith. Some may look at the situation and claim the miraculous for the man and his family, but to me, the real miracle would have been the alien invasion that never happened.