Hollywood gives Signs of its lilting imagination

The previews of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs showed the usual trappings of alien stories: cornfields, Iowa, intuitive children and crop circles.

I figured these elements were just candy to get us into the theater and that the movie would have a plot twist to blow my scalp off – the kind that would make me rifle through past scenes to spot early clues to the ending (like Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, which didn’t blow my scalp off; it just made me sit forward in my seat a little more). I imagined there would be no aliens, especially not the kind that looked like they were painted on a skateboard in 1997 – big eyes, almond-shaped heads and all. I suspected that in the end, we would find the Iowa family was just the victim of an extreme and clever mindfuck.

But no. There are aliens, ones with the same kinds of powers and weaknesses as all their extraterrestrial and fantasy hero forefathers. They blend, chameleon-like, into their surroundings (almost like the morphette Mystique from the X-Men) and they writhe under contact with water (think the Wicked Witch of the West in the “Wizard of Oz”).

And even though they’re built like genetically-engineered decathletes and are clever enough to create spaceships, they can’t bust out of a blockaded pantry door. It’s like they’re made to be scary enough to furrow the brow of Mel Gibson’s cardboard character, yet are stupid enough to be conquered by Joaquin Phoenix’s doltish character. How convenient for Shyamalan and his crew – it cuts down on the strain they have to put on their imaginations.

Shyamalan, whose movies have encouraged us to expect the unexpected, delivers a bland prototype of aliens. This movie prompted me to write a letter to the moviemakers of Hollywood, in hopes of prompting them to change their sorry, uncreative ways.

Dear Hollywood Moviemakers,

It’s the same old story. You release another alien movie and it’s got the usual alien elements. This just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’m not growing in my moviegoing experience. Frankly, I just wish you could create a blindingly clever alien. That’s what I dream of.

You always depend on green complexions, saucers and corn field invasions. I’m sick of the giant insects and big-eyed aliens, or anything that looks like it could be a remote cousin to an alien who walked through a studio lot. I believe you have it in you to make an alien with senses and capabilities so far from what’s been done before that in the first half hour of the movie, most of the audience wouldn’t be able to comprehend what’s going on.

I know that’s a lot to ask for, considering that the general audience (equipped with its generally miniscule patience and brain capacity) is the easiest to sell tickets too. But think of what we could have! Think of how it will improve our moviemaker/movie-goer relationship. I just feel like you can’t take me seriously when you rely on poor computer graphics, over-hyped actors and the usual alien characteristics. It’s just that if you really valued what we had, you’d change. And I can’t see that happening soon, so until then I’m not going to see your alien movies. I can’t bear the disappointment and the monotony any longer. I’m looking for something new.