At least it causes you to remember other, better, alien movies…
by Adam Miller
For those who have been with this site for some time (yeah, exactly) you might recall that M. Night Shyamalan is not my favorite director. His spiritual themes and “twist” endings are too gaudy for my taste and more often than not he leaves me feeling underwhelmed by his films and overwhelmed by his ego. But I will give Mr. Shyamalan credit for stake out his cinematic area. When you watch a Night film, you know you’re watching a Night film. Likewise, when you’re watching a knock-off of a Night film, you know you’re watching a knock-off of a Night film.
Enter Joseph Ruben’s THE FORGOTTEN starring Julianne Moore as Telly a mother whose son, Sam, died in a mysterious plane crash. The plot thickens when we learn from Telly’s husband and psychiatrist that in fact Sam never existed, that she was making up a son she never had. Telly doesn’t buy it, and so goes on the lamb to try to find proof of Sam’s existence (and possibly recovery). We start to believe Telly when the NSA picks up her trail and when neighbor Ash (Dominic West) also “remembers” that his daughter was lost on that plane crash too. We cease to believe, however, the entire premise of the movie once we learn that the real cause of all this confusion is aliens. You see where I’m going with the M. Night Shyamalan thing…
Now, I’m a big fan of the X-FILES, I enjoy a good alien conspiracy and think it can make for captivating entertainment. On the other hand, I found SIGNS stupid and unbelievable. Now, who am I to say that the X-FILES is more believable than SIGNS? Because the X-FILES sets up its “rules” of how its aliens operate and winks at you when it knows its breaking those rules. SIGNS, and likewise THE FORGOTTEN: no such wink.
Aliens are the classic sci-fi foil. Aliens exist in science fiction to allow us to look at ourselves in a foreign light. I believe it was Noam Chomsky who famously recommended we view Earth as if we were Martians so as to realize just how similar humans are to one another. I’m cool with that. But a foil must be at least somewhat believable. As much as I know, at the literary level, that Laertes is Hamlet’s foil, I also need to believe that Laerte’s actions are driven by his own logic. I have to believe that he is still a character if I’m to be invested in that final sword fight at the end. Right?
This is where THE FORGOTTEN misfires big time. Our aliens are bonkers idiotic. The answer to all these riddles (yeah, I’m sure you’ve been dying for it) is that the aliens have been conducting experiments on Earthlings. Ok, nothing new there. But what kind of experiments? Why, the kind which test the “bond between mother and child” of course. Because, yeah, after travelling however many light years and having the power to be invisible, omniscient, and apparently omnipotent, the one thing these aliens are interested in is the bond between mother and child???
But even if you can buy the idea that this is a worthwhile thing to “experiment” with, things become even more outrageous when we learn that the scientist (I guess) alien (Linus Roache) must produce the expected results. In other words, the alien must prove that the bond between mother and child is not unbreakable or else (not to give anything away here) he gets sent back to the Home Office in the sky. In other words, these aliens don’t even follow the scientific method!!! And yet they can travel through space and suck people up into the clouds whenever the plot calls for it? So why did I bother with those damned bio classes?
The movie’s conclusion shovels on only more confusion as the entirety of events which just took place somehow are… undone? Telly and Ash get their kids back (and their memories… kinda?) and everything is shot in a nice golden light. And the aliens? The NSA? Oh well, as the title suggests, I recommend you just forget about them.