Signs is a movie with a heavy identity crisis. Everything, from the ending to the build-up to its tone, is all over the place. There’s a great movie here that doesn’t quite reach its full potential.
Mel Gibson plays a former preacher and farmer with two kids. When crop circles show up in his fields, he plays it off as a hoax. These scenes are handled perfectly, building a sense of fear early on and engaging the audience.
In fact, many scenes carry this same style. M. Night Shyamalan’s static, well framed direction is consistently well done and unique. He lingers on shots until they’re no longer effective for their needs and moves on.
The mystery, key to nearly all of Shyamalan’s films, is crafted as well as the tension. Brief glimpses of news reports serve their purpose to provide the proper amount of information to the viewer before being cut off. As with Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the clues are there, though not completely noticeable in some cases.
While the film spends much of its running time building up suspense and terror, there’s an odd humorous side to Signs that feels completely out of place. It’s funny, and the lighthearted humor is delivered properly. Quite simply though, it doesn’t belong here. This isn’t some massive summer blockbuster where quirky tones are the norm. This is trying to be multiple genres at once, and they clash with each other constantly.
Then of course there’s the ending, or the payoff if you will. While the effects are more than admirable, the concepts are not. The idea that aliens would invade the most water-filled planet in the galaxy is beyond stupid when the secret is revealed, and to assume the entire world went under attack so one man can find his calling is even more ridiculous.
Signs may not be as awful as The Village. There’s credit due for the intensity of the build-up and care taken to create a believable invasion scenario. Where the film falters is trying to believe there’s something more to it, but it can’t even take itself seriously. How is the audience supposed to?
Signs has a shaky Blu-ray debut. Up close, the transfer performs admirably. Detail is remarkable, and the sharpness remains steady. In longer shots, it takes on an overly filtered look, muddy and lacking definition. Flesh tones tend to waver, and some edge enhancement is noticeable. Black levels are beautiful for their depth.
The audio is hardly a disappointment. While bass is at a premium (no scenes particularly need it), the use of surrounds to enhance the on screen action is flawless. The opening scene noticeably captures the movement of cornstalks while dogs bark in every channel. The separation is each channel is absolute perfection. Later scenes, especially when the aliens enter the farm house, are equally stunning.
Signs carries over the Vista Series DVD extras. Four deleted scenes are decent additions if you’re a fan of the film and run a little over seven minutes. Making Signs is a six part documentary on the film. This is a detailed and superb behind-the-scenes piece, offering insight into every aspect of the movie. Multi-angle storyboards and another one of Shyamalan’s early films (as with all of this DVD releases) round off the special features.
Mel Gibson tells his two on-screen children the story of how they were born as the aliens break into his home. The stories are in fact how Shyamalan’s kids were brought into the world.