Friday, August 21, 2009

"The Happening" review- with spoilers

So, I have a Netflix account (which I love, but that's another blog). The other day I got the next 2 movies on my queue which included M. Night Shymalan's "The Happening". As I was in the mood for something different I decided to watch this one first... and now I have decided to tell everyone what I thought about it.

For those who have not seen the movie, let me give you a quick run down. The movie centers around a Science teacher (played by Mark Wahlberg), his wife (played by Zooey Deschanel), and a young child (played by Ashlyn Sanchez) who are suddenly having to survive some sort of disaster. People are being over come with a toxin that is affecting their brains and makes them kill themselves. The ideas run the gambit from terrorist attack, to nuclear plants, and finally to the idea that the plants around us are actually communicating and releasing this toxin.

Mother Earth is pissed.

There's a lot of running, mostly whenever the wind blows, and trying to find shelter. There's a lot of people killing themselves in interesting ways (laying down in front of a huge lawn mower, offering oneself as a meal for some lions, ect ect). There's a lot of speculation about what could be going on and why this is all happening... you know, the usual for this genre.

In the end our heroes survive and go on to live happy lives.

So how was this movie as a whole?


Let me give you a couple reasons why:

1) The characters are easily forgettable and don't have any traits that make you care about them. They are as bland as bland can be. Most of the movie I simply found myself wondering who was going to die next, not because I had any feelings for any of them, but to simply break up the monotony.

2) The writing was horrible. The actors seemed to be doing the best they could, but it was hard with what they were given. Many times I wondered if they had just seen their lines that morning and had not had time to rehearse.

3) Near the end of the movie, our trio comes across a farm. A woman by the name of Mrs. Jones (played by Betty Buckley) lives there. She has removed herself completely from society, has no electricity, and grows her own food. Plus, she's freaky as hell. While the character was okay, the addition of her to the movie made NO sense. There wasn't a point to her being there, except to kill her off the next morning and allowing our teacher to realize that the plants are now targeting single people instead of just large groups. It unintentionally slowed the pace of the movie down.

4) The special effects were horrible. They were cheesy, obvious, and not well done. Now, some movies do make these effects obvious for the giggle of it... but these were not done like that. They were supposed to be taken seriously but it was impossible to do so when they were just so BAD. Prime examples include when a group runs a jeep into a tree and people go flying out and when a man decides to feed himself to the lions.

5) There's no lesson! The survivers go on to lead perfectly normal lives. Nothing seems to have changed (or at least we are not told of any changes made).

Now, there were a couple good scenes as well. The beginning and the end of the movie were great. They set the feel and tone of what the whole thing SHOULD have been. The beginning shows the viewers the start of the disaster as it begins to effect those in New York's Central Park. The end shows us the reappearance of it in Paris' Tuileries Gardens. Both use a single person who is slower to be affected to show us what is going on. The breeze picks up, they hear a scream behind them somewhere... then the person they are with starts saying random things. They look around and everyone just stops in their tracks and stares straight ahead...

These scenes set a mood and that is what the movie should be about. However, Shymalan loses that tone as the movie continues and it becomes just another disaster film... instead of what it could have been... a movie about the human condition and the impact we can have... and what can be the consequences.

I give this movie a Grade F. It failed on too many levels; acting, effects, writing and plot. It would have been a good concept in another director's hands.

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