June 16, 2008

Movie Monday: The Happening


* This post contains spoilers for 'The Happening'*




My Mom was nice enough to watch Sam all day on Saturday so we could get things done around the house and then go out and do something fun. We decided to go and see the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.

The Happening: The previews for this movie told me basically nothing about what it was actually about. I was immediately excited when I saw the first preview about 6 months ago as I've been a fan of M. Night from the beginning. I watched The Sixth Sense again recently and was reminded of how good it was. His last movie, The Lady in the Water, didn't get good reviews. I thought it was amazing. It was so well told and the story and characters, especially Paul Giamatti, touched my heart. It scared me, it was perplexing and it made me cry. Also, it included the phrase "Baby on the Half Tip" which I think of more often than I should. When The Happening came out the same things started to happen. Bad reviews, which I didn't read.

I go to the movies a lot. I am generally entertained by pretty much every movie I decide to watch, and I often like movies that don't get good reviews. I have problems with movie reviews because one, they often act like every single movie that's made should be a GREAT FILM and don't seem to understand the value of a movie being stupid, but still entertaining. Two, I don't like it when filmmakers or actors are pidgeonholed into one role. So, M. Night Shyamalan made a movie that didn't have as twisty an ending. That does mean it's less good than his first films, just different.

So, I went into this movie now really knowing what it was going to be about. The first thing that surprised me was that it was fairly gruesome. Think people offing themselves with whatever means are at hand, including guns, glass, knitting needles and giant riding mower type things... I was a little surprised. It was scary, it was unsettling. And it was basically about nature fighting back. Weird huh? In this day and age of global warming and environmental awareness, it's no suprise that authors and filmmakers are going to come out with books and movies that give us an idea of their point of view on the subject. M. Night does it a thousand times better than Michael Crichton did in "A State of Fear", but part of that might be that Crichton made a large argument for the fact that global warming doesn't exist, and I don't think that's realistic.

I do agree that it wasn't the best performance Mark Wahlberg has ever given - that his character was a little bit one-sided with the same emotions and worry coming out in every scene. But, he's still nice to look at... moving on... It might have been interesting to see what John Leguizamo could have done in the main role instead of his character being killed off by the toxin and leaving behind a small daughter.

I have been thinking about the movie since I saw it and trying to decipher what I really thought of it, but it's hard. I defintely think it's worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of M. Night Shyamalan and if you liked his last couple of movies despite the reviews. I think it's an interesting concept, and it would have been interesting to see it further developed (the movie is only an hour and a half long). The ending was somewhat abrupt. Interestingly enough, I've found that most of the bad fan reviews I've found on this movie don't have much to offer other than "this sucked" with nothing to back up their review, whereas the people giving it good reviews are saying why they liked it.

I enjoyed the tension as I sat there in the theater, and all in all I liked the movie. I wasn't disappointed about it, but there are lingering thoughts of what might have been. I loved the humor thrown in as Mark Wahlberg's character had a conversation with what turned out to be a plastic house plant. I agree with one review I read that said "original, creative, and intriguing". I liked it party because it was DIFFERENT. It wasn't some gory disgusting horror movie with no point. I feel that people need to look a little deeper at M. Night's movie's - yes, The Sixth Sense was about ghosts, but if that's all you got out of it, that's probably why you're not enjoying his more recent movies which actually require some thought, and can benefit from multiple viewings.

All in all, I give it a definite thumbs up, and I'll be waiting eagerly for the next installment in M. Night Shyamalan's awesome career.


auds at barking mad said...

Once I get back from dealing with the Little Imp's meltdown (number 332 today!) I'll tell you why I didn't like the movie. I just didn't want to go into too much on my blog because I really hated to spoil it for anyone who was looking forward to it.

Back soon.

Nap Warden said...

I really want to see this movie...I think I will!

Rachael said...

Auds, I want to hear why! And I'm sorry about 300 meltdowns... those days seem about two weeks long!

Immoral Matriarch said...

How obvious was it that it was M. Night's first 'R' rated flick? I mean from the first scene - you could tell.

Wow. Mass suicide. I had no idea that that's what it was going to be about.

auds at barking mad said...

OK I'm back, and oh look its only taken me two days.

There is so much that I DIDNT like about The Happening that it's hard to list it all as succinctly as I would like.

I think I was exepecting something fantastic along the lines of Sixth Sense, Signs (others were let down with Signs, I enjoyed it) or even The Village...sure, I got more in the way of lots of gratuitous mass suicide that was shocking and almost funny in a couple of cases. And that's the thing....suicide shouldn't be funny, but combined with everything else happening and NOT happening in this movie, it was a bit comical.

My other huge gripe is the fact that, in my opinion, this film was nothing more than environmental propaganda...plain and simple. I half expected to see Al Gore's name fly by during the credits, listing him as the writer - seriously...it really wasn't up to M. Night's usual fare.

The dialogue was choppy and unbelievable in some cases. Could a lot of the scenes between Wahlberg and Deschanel have been any more contrived? Perhaps it was a huge casting faux pas, but sheesh...

The film is a huge mess. Especially the concept. Take for example the scene when the two kids and Wahlberg and Deschanel are trying to outrun the wind and somehow manage to escape whatever it was. Not very plausible, especially if everyone else was overcome with whatever airborne toxin was flying around.

The humour in the film was misplaced at best, and a lot of things that were not intentionally supposed to be funny, ended up amusing as hell.

When we left the theatre, which was almost packed, there was not one person who wasn't making fun of it. Some people were standing still, others walking backwards...it was a huge cacaphony of jeers and slams for M. Night's latest foray into shockers.

I have a hard time believing that M.Night didn't see this coming...it's not just bad, it's bad on an epic scale. The acting didn't help at all. Perhaps this was one of Wahlberg's WORST performances ever. And whilst I've seen enough of Z. Deschanel's work to know that she often looks comatose/stoned, she was not real convincing in this film. But then, I've noticed a trend in M. Night films were the female leads are never really very strong characters and their voices are merely background filler.

It's hard to write something expressing how bad I think this film is, especially when you seem to have enjoyed it so much. Alas, whilst I don't regret the $11 I spent to see the film, nor the laughs both intentional and unintentional, I do feel hugely let down (this IS M. Night afterall!), and like it was just about one of the dumbest films I've seen in ages.

Rachael said...

Auds, thanks for the pov! It seems like with all of M. Night's movies that you are given almost no information before the movie comes out. I wonder if more information had been available about what this movie was ACTUALLY about, if it would have been received better? It's just a thought I've had since reading some reviews, but I guess we'll never know!

I do think that this concept was much less tangible than his other movies, and that you have to dig deeper to find the meaning he was going for - and I'm not even sure what those meaning were yet, I feel like I'd have to do a lot more work on this one and watch it more than once.

Thanks for sharing!