The Happening, or: What the hell just happened?

THE HAPPENINGNice poster for The Happening

  • Director/Writer: M. Night Shyamalan / M. Night Shyamalan
  • Release Date: 11 June 2008
  • Plot outline: A paranoid thriller about people on the run in a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity.
  • Freebase entry.

[UPDATE] See the conclusion in the comments below.

And now for a look at science fiction: I watched Shyamalan’s The Happening last night and, you know, this may have just been the most interesting movie this year. No really: simply because I can’t wrap my head around it. What the hell was that? Why the bad acting, why the goofy protagonist? Is there a puzzle in there somewhere? Read on for a brief rant.

Mark Wahlberg admittedly has his good sides when he has a gun, is on the run and shoots his co-actors on sight. But here he was simply a horrible actor. Horrible. And it wasn’t only him-there were other horrible scenes.

I honestly think Shyamalan made them act bad on purpose.

There’s no question that Shyamalan knows how to direct, we’ve seen that in his previous films. We also know that he can be brilliant and can tailor elaborate plots supported by logical ideas (e.g. Unbreakable). But The Happening? For the life of me I cannot trace what he was thinking.

The likeliest thing I can imagine is that he was going for some kind of old-school horror film style. There is the piano music which supports that, but still, how does that tie in with the notion of seemingly harmless natural things being able to fight back[make something Happen] via distributed intelligence (which, by the way, is a horrifying and brilliant concept).

Is there some meaning in the odd combination of characters plus bad acting? Or was he inspired by the Global Warming issue and in his craze to point out our stupidity threw together a film in haste?

I’m going to watch it again.

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5 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Stephen

    Yes after watching this movie I thought “That was horrible” but then I thought of something else. I looked at a couple other things (blogs reviews etc.) and they had the same idea. Is this movie about doom to ourselves and procreation. How about abortion does that play in this bad movie. I don’t know. Maybe someone out there can reveal something on this concept maybe I’m just showing something thats not even relevant to this move.

  2. Your comment enticed me to have a look at some reviews, and unfortunately I think io9 has the scoop — it was an anti-evolution, a religion based film.

    Avowed Christian Shyamalan told us that The Happening is really about religious faith, and explained that he chose Mark Wahlberg to play science teacher Elliot Moore because of the actor’s intense belief in Jesus.

    I noticed the hints, like Wahlberg saying evolution was “just a theory”. But like I said above, I didn’t realize how everything tied in with harmless things using distributed intelligence against us — I was assuming that he was going for a scientific explanation and intended to simply point out the youth of science and humanities frailty.

    But then hearing this, I think we can quite safely assume he was trying to express his religion about there being things that science can’t grasp, like Wahlberg said in there somewhere as well. It was staring me in the face. The hook and plot thereby argue that there is something supernatural at work in the world simply because we haven’t explained them yet, and the tie-in script-wise is providing no explanation for the movie’s “happenings”. Sigh.

    That is an extremely disappointing realization. The movie was bad after all, and beyond. Thank you for your vigilance, io9.

  3. I think your both wrong… I’ve seen this movie a few times but just watched it again tonight…. its about how humans mess with nature…. we chop down tree’s helping along global warming…. we genetically change our corn so it grows better in our climate in the USA and also so it doesn’t die fighting off our pesticides. its to the point i believe bee’s are not even pollinating plants anymore and that was the beginning of this movie. so plants like what the one guy said use a chemical to fight off whatever is messing with us… maybe its just trial and error by plants not intelligence is how i reason it that they probably let off other stuff trying to fight off our pesticides and genetic altering chemicals and corn because if you don’t know ask a local farmer seed is now able to be patented and the 1 major one that’s out there takes over other crops because of how strong it is from genetic alterations… even the insecticides can cause it to spread i.e roundup. so one day the plants let off a chemical that bam…. starts killing off whats causing them to lose what genetically makes them up which i see as a real thing that could happen maybe not all plants or creepy winds…. but what if it was grass that finally did it… its everywhere and we would be screwed…. like its own seed that spread everywhere just as our corn does we where not meant to mess with genetics it disturbs the balance…. or at least that’s what this movie got me thinking… and i don’t think its bad acting either… just mellow dramatic….. i mean how would you act… maybe to me the acting just portrays how some people that wouldn’t freak out might act under those circumstances i mean if you where an actor how would you play the part? anyways… that’s my 2 cents

  4. yourwrong

    joshua corn is not a natural accuring plant dumass.

  5. McHaha

    You misspelled “occuring”.

    Mr. Shamwow wanted to create a movie that left us doing just this…wondering what the hell the movie is. Interesting concept, horrible acting from all actors (on purpose), no resolution with a predictable ending. Its a total mess. I suspect and contend this is what he wanted.

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