My love for M. Night Shyamalan films has been widely documented. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village. Unbreakable was pretty cool. But I'll be the first to admit that Lady in the Water kinda sucked. So naturally I was really hoping that Night (as he is known on his sets) could pull off some magic in his newest thriller and bring us something as high quality as his earlier works. As I'm sure you've heard by now, The Happening wasn't exactly a return to form: it was down there with Lady in the Water as a cool concept that was badly executed.
Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
It's becoming harder and harder to stay a supporter of Shyamalan when he keeps pumping out stuff like this. The Happening, according to an interview with the writer/director, was supposed to be a 50's style B-movie reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Birds. That aspect of the movie was all but hidden from everyone besides people who happened to read that article, and it seems like the film suffered greatly in critical reception because of it. I knew what the film was aspiring to be when I sat down in the theater, and it still didn't live up to my newly-lowered expectations.
The most glaring proof of its B-movie nature can be found in the performances from the main characters of the film. Usually-bankable actors Wahlberg and Deschanel gave some of the most rigid performances I've seen in a long time, no thanks to the sometimes-laughable dialogue written by Night himself. I KNOW that Mark Wahlberg is a better actor than what his performance indicated in this film, so there had to be some sort of instruction from Night to make his acting as stiff as possible. If this were made known to the movie-going public beforehand, then perhaps the film wouldn't have been as lambasted as it was upon its Friday the 13th release date. Deschanel looked like she ate some bad eggs for breakfast the whole movie, and I'm not kidding when I say that Marky Mark had the same look on his face the whole movie:
Without giving away the patented "twist" ending (hint: there is no twist ending), I won't go too much into the cause of the mass suicides depicted in the trailer in case you decide to watch this movie and want to be surprised. Wahlberg plays Elliot, a high school science teacher who is having some marital troubles with his wife Alma (Deschanel). When the first event occurs, they meet up with John Leguizamo's character Julian, who is a fellow teacher at Elliot's school, to escape from the city.
The movie started with a mass suicide scene, but never really got going after that. We couldn't care for these characters because they were so distant to the audience due to their (purposefully?) poor performances. Thanks to this factor, the sense of urgency that was necessary for us to feel worried about the characters was nonexistent. Aside from that, the cause of the "events" only seemed to affect certain people, which made no sense to me at all.
It features a standard message of "protect the environment" and falls into the same type of apocalyptic-themed flicks as the recent I Am Legend and Cloverfield. Growing concerns over global warming, rising gas prices, and constant wars seem to be pushing the world into a state of paranoia, and we can only predict that movies with these types of themes prominently displayed throughout will not stop in the years to come. Whether they be government-themed paranoia like Disturbia or the upcoming Eagle Eye, or disaster-themed like War of the Worlds or the others I've mentioned, these types of movies are sure to be on the rise for a long time until we can figure out what to do about fixing some of these problems that are apparent in today's world. Until next time...