Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special

Some short thoughts on the film Midnight Special with maybe some spoilers.

I thought this film had two main faults:

1) The tone was too serious, which made the film feel less serious. With so little humor in the film, its attempt at making you feel something powerful by directorial fiat (the character is teary-eyed and just listen to the brooding score!) falls flat. Some humor would’ve provided contrast.

2) The nature of the child’s powers, which provide the driving force of the entire film, remain ambiguous throughout. Since this is kept ambiguous, character goals remain ambiguous by extension, making the characters and their actions difficult to relate to or care about.

“But!” someone may say, “it makes you think! If you need a plot spelled out for you, you must be stupid! You have to pay attention! I like films that make me think!”

OK… but what does an ambiguous film make you think about? And is it worth thinking about? And why does a certain ambiguity make you think it?

After all, Usually an ambiguity just makes you think about the ambiguous thing. If you’re never going to give the audience answers, is that really what you want?

Also, if I want some thought-provoking ambiguity, I can just think about the bizarro dreams I had last night, daydream my own ambiguous imagary, or read the Book of Revelations.

By which I mean to say: If you find coming up with thought-provoking ambiguity on your own is difficult, then I doubt the ambiguity is provoking very deep thoughts.

Anyway, after Googling a bit, I found the director quoted here as saying:

“Our house was very small, but we were freaked-out first-time parents, so we put a baby monitor in the room — even though we could hear everything he did from our bedroom, because we were right next door,” Nichols said of he and his wife becoming a new parents. “But I sat there listening to everything. Every breath, every movement, every sound. And I realized at that point in his life, here was this person who had no concept that just outside the space of his consciousness, there were these two people who cared so deeply for him and were listening to everything he does. We knew everything about every moment. I was struck by that. And that became the basis for this bigger multiverse idea.”

That actually sounds like an awesome idea, a great theme for a film, especially a sci-fi one. Maybe I’ll steal it for a novel. Because Midnight Special fails completely to relate this theme, unless you’re already looking for it. Otherwise your interests will likely have more to do with trying to understand the kid’s powers and goals, only to be disappointed when you find they remain ambiguous. If the director had really wanted to explore this parenthood theme, a little less ambiguity would’ve gone a long way.