Apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep rescues what he thinks is a young woman from the pool he maintains. When he discovers that she is actually a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back to her home, he works with his tenants to protect his new friend from the creatures that are determined to keep her in our world.
M. Night Shyamalan
Bryce Dallas Howard,
Coming together to solve a series of murders in New York City are a police detective whose family was slain as part of a conspiracy and an assassin out to avenge her sister's death. The duo will be hunted by the police, the mob, and a ruthless corporation.
A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.
Elliot Moore is a high school science teacher who quizzes his class one day about an article in the New York Times. It's about the sudden, mysterious disappearance of bees. Yet again Nature is doing something inexplicable, and whatever science has to say about it will be, in the end, only a theory. Scientists will bring out more theories, but no explanations, when a more urgent dilemma hits the planet. It begins in Central Park. Suddenly and inexplicably, the behavior of everyone in the park changes in a most bizarre and horrible way. Soon, the strange behavior spreads throughout the city and beyond. Elliot, his wife, Alma, and Jess, the young daughter of a friend, will only have theories to guide them where to run and where to hide. But theories may not be enough. Written by
After the soaring success and near hysteria over "The Sixth Sense", a hysteria I didn't think it worthy of I might add, M. Night Shyamalan has failed to achieve the same level of success with subsequent efforts. I think it fair to say, however, that with each one he has gradually succeeded in becoming one of the most frustrating directors in the history of cinema. His initial ideas aren't at all bad (on the contrary, the ideas for his films tend to be rather compelling), but I have become rather accustomed to the fact that he nearly always drops the ball, the only variable from one film to the next being when this is going to happen. I say nearly, because in fairness "Signs" was a pretty well-crafted, gripping piece of work, albeit with a rather tenuous conclusion.
It turns out, with "The Happening", the ball is dropped rather quickly, and never really gets picked up again. It opens well enough, the first five minutes throwing us straight into the bizarre events, and fully achieves the intended audience reaction of, "What is going on?" Then we're back to that frustration, with our attention very quickly being drawn to other issues, like the misjudged pacing, the 'made for television" shooting style, the clunky dialogue that is often nothing more than plot exposition, and the pastiche performances that appear to have actually been directed to be as hammy and obvious as possible, because you don't get this level of awful by accident.
Even if an actor isn't particularly great, it takes a special talent to draw a performance from them that is as plastic as the plant they end up talking to. Mark Wahlberg is a perfectly competent actor; he won't be winning any "Best Actor" Oscars anytime soon, but it is fair to say he serves his purpose in a film, so you have to wonder how on earth it is that every line he delivers is stilted and unreal. At first I wondered if it was his discomfort with the material, but quickly realised this phenomenon applied to pretty much the entire cast; actors you recognise as good at what they do, looking completely out of their depth, a very strange experience.
A big issue I very quickly had with "The Happening" was the nasty sense I got of being patronised, and it even reached a point where I genuinely wondered if Shyamalan had decided with this film to do nothing more than make fun of his audience. As is nearly always the case, he develops ideas far above his station, and his view of himself as a visionary and hugely clever director gets the better of him. The problem being that this time, I suspect even he got lost in the ideas. With plot points and explanations (or lack thereof) being contradictory, it begins to feel as though he really never knew how he was going to resolve what he had set up in the first place, and so resorted to making it up as he went along. He ends up relying on the sound-bite that "we'll never really know everything", and expects that to be an acceptable coat hook on which to hang any unaddressed issue. This film does not give license for that, and the result is that he simply loses your trust.
So was there anything I liked? As I say, the premise is good, and the score works as best as it can with such an awful set of images. Note to director: Attempting to personify the wind with 'dramatic' shots of fields is not innovative, it's just stupid! After films like "Unbreakable", "The Village" and "Lady in the Water", all of which hit a different level of failure, you would think he would begin to accept he is simply an "ideas man", eat some humble pie, and pass all future thoughts on to somebody who can actually turn his ideas, which are more often than not perfectly fine unto themselves, into good pieces of cinema. Of course he doesn't! Instead, we get "The Happening", with Shyamalan once again doing everything (writing, producing and directing), and once again messing it up very badly! Better luck next time.
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