Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Happening (2008)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: We've Sensed It. We've Seen The Signs. Now... It's Happening.

Plot: A paranoid thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity.

My Rating: 5/10

Would I watch it again? Only if Night sat next to me and tried to explain what the hell he was doing.

I'm beside myself here. I've seen all of his films since THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) and I have absolutely LOVED every one of them. I totally dig this guy's slow, intense, emotional story telling abilities. Except for LADY IN THE WATER (2006), I've seen them all in the theaters. I've always avoided spoilers to his films and I've also gotten used to hearing people poo poo this man's movies. Yet when I see them I continue to allow Night to take me on a journey with his characters, through his story and his world.

SO WHAT THE FUCK WAS HE THINKING WHEN HE MADE THIS ONE? The acting across the board is pretty bad and amateurish. The dialog (written by Night) is silly at best. Most of the film feels like Night had a breakdown early in the shooting and he gave the directing reins over to the kid who held the boom mic. And that kid doesn't know doodley squat about movies. Maybe I should back up some.

The movie starts with Marky Mark (where's the Funky Bunch when you need them?) teaching his high school science class. He talks to them like they're children and I mean 4-year-olds, not mid-teenagers. I've got a problem with people who talk down to others; especially in situations like this. When asking the students for possible reasons why millions of honey bees have suddenly disappeared without a trace he gets a few possibilities. After pondering those answers and dismissing most of them he, A SCIENCE TEACHER!!!, says the following:

Marky Mark: Science will come up with some reason to put in the books but, in the end, it'll be just a theory. We will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding.

THIS, coming from a science teacher!!! I'm speechless. Is it me or is he refering to some invisible magician in the sky that's pulling all the strings? Just a theory? Hell-fucking-O, McFly! Stay with me on this one. He's blown his credibility right there. He's just discounted science and relegated all that has come before as "just a theory". Night should know better. A scientific theory is different that a theory that you or I may come up with. It is not a "best guess" as to how things work. Here's a good definition:

Scientific Theory: It is a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time. Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory.

I'm getting off on a tangent here, I know, but this scene ends with the vice-principal entering the room and he sneaks over to the wall by the door, turns off the lights and cowers in the shadows. The kids think it's funny but I'm sure in the real world his observed lack of respect of his superiors in front of his students would land him in some serious shit. After class is dismissed he reminds the kids, as they leave the room, of the different elements of the Scientific Method! Now I'm confused. Does he even have a clue? He's hot, he's cold.

This is the exact look I had on my face throughout the entire film.

Shit, I need to wrap this up. Night does do a good job building curiosity by way of people stopping in their tracks with the sudden urge to kill themselves and not each other but he's not able to sustain it. There are some great deaths by way of walking off high rise buildings, guns to the head and impalement. But then there are others that seem like, "hey, it'd be cool to have this" deaths like a man having himself run over by a giant lawnmower and another walking into a lion cage at the zoo and having the lions eat off one are and then over to another lion for the next arm and so on. It starts to get silly.

One complete goofball comes up with the idea that the plants, who can talk to each other (a tree talks to the bush who talks to the grass), are waging war against the humans because they cannot move and won't tolerate us any more!??!?!!???!! WTF? More than a few people start to believe that and make some pretty stupid mistakes as a result. The thing is is that no one really knows what's causing this and, as a science teacher, Marky Mark should be more rational but he isn't. He's a certified idiot. Maybe that was Night's intention. Maybe I just need more to drink.

You've probably heard that his acting is terrible in this. That's a fairly accurate statement.

People stand around doing nothing, saying nothing or saying idiotic things. I'd swear that George Lucas wrote and directed it. It's pretty bad. I went into it with a clear mind and a willingness to be told a story. I really liked the story but without characters I can care about and actors that can make us believe, I was left at the doorstep waiting for my ride to the prom that never showed up.

There's a really good movie in here, somewhere. It's just that we're not allowed to see it. It must be Night's secret from the world. Ssshhhhhhh!

UPDATE 10-12-13: I watched it for the second and last time but with a group of friends...and liquor (but the latter didn't flow until after this was over).  It's still hard to watch.  There was a lot more laughter this time but all of the reasons I didn't like the film five years ago stand.  These characters say and do the dumbest things.  Perhaps in fifty years this will be looked back on like we  view those cheesy sci-fi/horror movies of the 1950s.  It's dumb, goofy, earnest and poorly acted. 

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