In the Dark

Signs and Wonders

Signs
Produced by Blinding Edge and Touchstone Pictures
Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures

In his third commercial feature, Signs, M. Night Shyamalan seems to be delivering a belated riposte to those who lorded over his Indian ancestors.  His movie concerns an invasion by extraterrestrials who have imperial designs on Earth.  As the tension builds, Shyamalan has one of his protagonists remark that “It’s just like H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.”  The comparison is apt, but only to a point.  It would be more accurate to say that Shyamalan has created a revisionist adaptation of Wells’ story.  While the novel and the film clearly share the same premise—superior beings come to Earth bug-eyed for our resources—their subtexts could not diverge more.  Wells wanted to shake his readers from their theological lethargy.  His novel rudely upends the warm, responsive cosmos in which his contemporaries cosseted themselves, as if it were an extension of their overstuffed Victorian parlors.  Wells confronts them with a cold, indifferent universe inhabited by merciless beings who have no compunction about wiping out their intellectual inferiors.  Then, with a Darwinian fillip, his narrator allows the invaders some slack.  They should not be judged too harshly. ...

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