Sunday, July 12, 2009

Movie Review: The Happening

Avoid seeing The Happening at all costs. It tries to be a chilling parable but instead it's inconsistent nonsense with incredibly annoying characters. Yet again, and worse than ever before, M. Night Shyamalan foregoes character and any logical progression of actions to stage creepy scenes with his actors.

This film attempts a theme that humans are harming the planet (or more precisely that the planet is upset with us) but fills it with such ridiculous ideas and horrible dialog. I'll end this with a series of quotes from the film, the first one is spoken by a science teacher to his class:

"Science will come up with some reason to put in the books, but in the end it'll be just a theory. I mean, we will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding. To be a scientist, you must have a respectful awe for the laws of nature."

"You know that everyone gives off energy, right? It's scientifically proven. They got these cameras that can record what color you are when you're feeling different things. People that are angry give off a different color than people that are sad. See this ring? This ring can supposedly tell you what you're feeling. Let's see what you're feeling right now. "

"Why are you giving me one useless piece of information at a time? What's going on?"

"We're so much the same, Jess. I don't like to show my emotions either."

"Can you believe how crappy people are?"

"We're not gonna be one of those assholes on the news who watches a crime happen and not do something! We're not assholes! Elliot please tell us what to do!"

"We're packing hot dogs for the road. You know, hot dogs get a bad rep. They gotta cool shape, they got protein."


Richard said...

Read in the voice of Marky Mark Wahlberg's character: That's a great insight Howard but let's take it further - Didn't you wish that you had a running lawn mower to crawl under when you were watching the movie? I know we can figure out why the movie was so bad if we just think.

I saw this movie in the theater. I realized quickly that it wasn't worth the money I paid for it. Walberg's character was weird in a nebbishy, dishwater kind of way and awkward even to watch. Zoey Deschanel is pleasant to look at, but that doesn't save the movie or her character. yes it was horrifying when the people killed themselves but then you were wrenched from the picture by bad acting. Please don't get me started on the general attacks on science and civilization.

Howard said...

I was astounded at how horrible the characters were. It wasn't just the acting but the writing and directing. They must have seen dailies and realized how annoying these characters were but did nothing to fix it. Wahlberg's sniffling voice was horrible. I've like him a lot in other films, but not this one. Deschanel had big eyes and just stared.

I have the same complaint with a lot of Shyamalan's scripts. My best example is in Unbreakable. He suspects something is unusual as he lifts weights and can easily life heavier and heavier weight. He gets to superhuman levels and we cut to the next scene where he's back in the doldrums. A real character would have some reaction to the revelation or go through some extraordinary rationalization but we aren't shown that. Instead we just jump to the next scene as if the last one didn't happen. Here's another example of unknowing character almost realizing something...

The Happening does this with the characters again but seems better at doing it with the whole world. First, notice how everyone they meet is strangely weird. Did that soldier strike you as anyone you ever met in the military?

Then notice how the information spreads. It's like a movie plot and not real life. If everyone died in central park who told the story of the 3 phases of symptions? If not everyone died then it's not 100% fatal, but that's not explored at all.

I assume there were no plants on the top of a city building under construction but that's the second site hit? If it's spread by air, wouldn't it be best to stay in recirculated environments like office buildings rather than travel? Why did I only see two gas masks (and were they effective?) and not anyone else even with a handkerchief over their mouth?

Where's the government or any other authority figure dealing with the happening? Is that how the train station would be during an emergency? Did any of that strike you as to how your experienced finding out about 9/11 or Katrina?

Would a train that loses contact with everyone just stop at a small town, and have everyone disembark and have the conductors standing around talking amongst themselves (seemingly about something unrelated) and not inform the passengers of anything? What did they tell them to get them all off the train at what probably none of their stops?

Ugh, the film is just so infuriating. I called it a parable because it was so obviously not realistic I couldn't believe it was trying be. It stuck with the two main characters and you can say well these characters behaved this way. (Though is that how you would expect a 9 year-old to deal with losing both her parents? she was just a prop in the film). But what was the point of sticking with these two characters? Some of the most annoying around (well aside from everyone they met who at least could have been considered humorous).

Ugh, I have to stop.

Richard said...

I didn't mean to tear open the wound with my comment, but I definitely agree with you on your points. When I see it on TV it is a movie that I talk back to.

M. Night Shyamalan seems to be able to still get these movie deals even though he appears to have peaked at the Sixth Sense or maybe Signs. Lady in the Water was especially galling with the self-aggrandizement of him being the write that saves the world. Whenever I see him in his films anymore I wish he was being killed in the movie like Quenten Tarantino usually is in his appearances.

I take it you won't be going to see Avatar: The Last Airbender, whatever that is.