Entry from August 7, 2002

Movie Odds and Ends:

John Hayward writes about Minority Report:

If anything, I thought your review cut the movie a remarkable amount of slack for its implausibilities. Are we to believe that the same America which agonizes endlessly over the delicate legal rights of John Walker Lindh, and seems ready to summarily execute police officers for getting a bit rough with a resisting suspect, will — in just forty short years! — be ready to allow the police to arrest people for crimes they have not actually committed, and sentence them to cryogenic storage without trial? Or — perhaps even more absurd — allow the police to invade low-rent tenement buildings with hordes of terrifying mechanical spiders? Where”s the ACLU? What happened to People for the American Way? What became of the first homeless fellow, in shaky health, who suffered a massive heart attack when the mechanical spiders started crawling on them? Heck, I”m healthy as a horse, and that might do me in.

I also note that this is the second movie in row wherein Mr. Spielberg proposes that consumers of the future will be perfectly happy to zip around in tiny little Yugo-sized cars, which looked uncomfortable even for Mr. Cruise, a man of modest height. I find it difficult to believe that Grandma would ever get used to that forty-story drop straight down the side of her apartment building. And, if this was the DC Beltway that our hero was driving around on, where were the stretch limos of the political class? Are we to believe that the Tom Daschles and Ted Kennedys of 2047 are willing to ride around in those little two-seater deals? Maybe they used hovercraft, and we just didn”t see it.

On the other hand, I don’t think your review gave the film enough credit for its astonishing, visionary ending, in which… (drum roll)… a government program that didn’t work was actually shut down! Even more implausible than the mechanical spiders, I grant you, but it brought a tear to my eye nonetheless. I call it the feel-good ending of the summer movie season!

Tony Siriano writes in quite another vein:

I often agree with your assessment of a movie, and if not, I usually come away with something of interest to take with me to a second viewing, but your review of Signs was way off the mark. I took my family to see it, mostly because we love Shyamalan”s style, and we were all thoroughly pleased, and for many reasons.

Also for many reasons, he didn’t like my review. Here are some of them:

The film had a profound Christian message, that God is in control of every aspect of our lives, that God is the great orchestrator of the universe. The message was the whole movie and all subplots revolved around it. This is what I loved about it the most. In the War of the Worlds, all philosophical themes were subjugated to the story of man against Martian. In Signs, man against Martian was incidental to the theme that faith is not only required, but impossible to avoid. The subordination of the invasion was indeed less important than Graham’s lost wife and lost faith. The Martians were merely an effect, and again a symbol, of faith’s ability to overcome all obstacles, both personal and universal. Obviously, Shyamalan’s surprising philosophies might have been explored by a different genre, but so what? One could say the same thing about Dracula, a book whose many creepy effects never undermine its main themes (in my opinion, man’s capacity for evil and evil’s relentless quest to pervert the good). Interestingly, I also read the New York Times review of Signs today, which was ridiculous for different reasons. The man hated the film not for technical or literary issues, but for philosophical ones. His review reminded me of Harold Bloom’s comment that C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity was “dogmatic.”

Jake Garbus, taking another view of Signs, points out that “Graham Hess is the only farmer who does not own a tool necessary for any farmer, namely, a gun.” Moreover, “Did you notice that television reports of crop circles were made from India? The film appears to be set in the summer. If I was an alien susceptible to harm from water, I would not want to be in India during the monsoon season.”

And Dusty Gulleson adds: “If Signs has a Christian message, are we then to suppose that Christ died for the aliens too?” Good question, Dusty!

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