Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Happening Review


Overall Grade: D+

Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable both being in my top 100 of all-time), and I always look forward to a work of his. Even his lesser works like Signs, The Village, or even The Lady in the Water all contained great elements whether it be camera work, the score, or the script. The Happening unfortunately doesn’t contain any exemplary work (with maybe the small exception of the cinematography, if it wasn’t for all those stupid shots of trees swaying in the wind), nor does it contain much to recommend. Sadly, the only thing worth going to see in this film is the depths to which Shyamalan has sunk since the standard that he set with The Sixth Sense.

Although the film doesn’t really contain any twists or turns (the cause of the happening is talked about early in the film), I don’t really want to spoil any of the plot for anyone venturous enough to see it. What I will say about the film is that like much of Shyamalan’s other work, The Happening tries to transcend its natural genre. Typically a film about nature trying to kill men, and men responding by running and trying to figure out the weakness of nature, would be in the sci-fi, monster-horror or disaster genre, but Shyamalan tries to make it several things at once; sci-fi, horror, suspense, thriller, political message, drama.. This attempt at transcendence really sinks the film. Had the film picked one of those genre’s and at least did it well (as Shyamalan did with Signs as Sci-Fi, and Sixth Sense as horror) then we would at least get a halfway decent film. As it stands, Shyamalan doesn’t fully commit to any genre, and we get an awful mess of a film.

He runs into the same problem when it comes to the nature of the plot. The details of the Happening are so ludicrous and crazy, that they seem straight out of some 1950’s science fiction film; and this would be fine if the film seemed to recognize its own ludicrousness. Instead we are asked to take it seriously, yet I found it hard to get filled with suspense when our main characters (who I knew were going to live) had to start running from the rushing wind. The movie is too ludicrous to take serious, and too serious to enjoy.

Lastly, I wasn’t sure what to make of Shyamalan’s political message in the film. Is the film pro-global warming, or is it just a horror story for entertainment? After watching the film, I honestly don’t know. If it was a message of warning about global warming than it was heavy handed propaganda, and if it was just a horror story for entertainment, then it failed to entertain. So on both counts, nothing happening (no pun intended).

It would be easy to hit on all the other aspects of this film that just didn’t measure up (Mark Whalberg’s performance, the subplot about bee’s), but really I’ve already given too much time to this film. Don’t pay money to see this film, and if you do end up seeing it, wait till Mystery Science Theatre does a commentary track, at least it will be a comedy then.

2 comments:

JulViel said...

This one still pains me just thinking about it. When was it that the first poster came out? All I had to see was Shyamalan's name and I was hooked. But then they threw in Wahlberg and I was ecstatic. I just did a count and four of Shyamalan's movies are on my top 100 (3 in the top 20!). This one was just awful, I don't even know where to begin. It was completely crazy, way over the top. Just take everything you said and repeat it, I agree with all of it (we agree on two movies in a row, wow :) ). Even Wahlberg, whether it was him or his character I don't know but he was awful! And then Zooey Deschanel, I'm not a big fan of hers but I thought, hmmm, maybe, M. Night knows what he's doing, but nope. I didn't get her and Wahlberg together at all and hated their little banter while running for their lives from the killer wind. Also, loved how they threw the little girl in there for extra drama, the typical woman cheating on her husband thing had been getting a little old.

So, it might even be a 'D' for me. What was the last movie I graded as a D? Last Kiss? It's just painful.

JulViel said...

Hey, I was just looking up stuff on IMDB and the little girl is the same one from Crash! I don't know why I found that weird but I do. Yeah, that's it.

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