Saturday, October 25, 2008

Movie Review: The Happening

Just watched M. Night Shyamalama Ding-Dong's hate-letter to humanity, The Happening, and felt compelled to immediately review it. The movie's premise is *** spoilers ahead *** that the plants feel threatened by human activity, and since they're stuck in the ground and can't run away, they have to defend themselves the only way they can. So they release some kind of neurotoxin that causes humans to become confused and kill themselves in gruesome, inexplicable ways. The self-slaughter ramps up for a couple of days, and then suddenly stops.

The kicker is, the happening only happens in one part of the world, Northeastern United States, ostensibly as a warning. A warning, I guess, that rural Pennsylvanians are most to blame for the impending destruction of the Earth. A reasonable person watching this movie might wonder why the trees in Central Park are in a murderous rage, yet aren't up in arms in Beijing, Mexico City, Cairo, or Chernobyl. Lest we think the trees just have it in for Americans, we get a closing shot of the happening starting to happen in Paris. Apparently body odor, public urination, cigarette smoke, and unscooped dog poop are more threatening to the survival of vegetation than massive amounts of smog, lead contamination, and radioactive fallout.

I kept wondering what Shyamalamalamyalan was thinking when he wrote this thing. I can accept that some people are so concerned about the environment that they think the Earth could become angry and strike back at the polluters. But according to Time magazine the ten most polluted cities in the world are in China, Russia, Ukraine, Zambia, India, and Peru. Not a single Western city made the list. So why didn't Shyamalamyamanan have the trees and shrubs and weeds rising up against the people in those places instead of the U.S. and France? Because none of them have large populations of guilt-laden well-off Westerners. Because it's a projection of Shyamamamamyalam's self-loathing and the self-loathing of the movie's intended audience. That's the only explanation I could think of, and it's supported by a subtle message we get late in the movie when the survivors are running through a brand-new housing development and we see a billboard announcing "You DESERVE it!" in big letters.

I wonder if the people involved in the making of this movie realized what a pointless, misguided, hate-filled downer it was. It would explain why Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, both of whom can act, are absolutely lifeless in their roles. But what I really want to know is why no one has pulled the plug on Shmyamamyamalan by now. The Sixth Sense was novel and intriguing, and Signs had its moments, but all of his other movies have been absolute turkeys. Who keeps giving him money to crank out this crap? Whoever it is, I wish they would find a better use for their money, like composting it.


Blogger Gringo_Malo said...

You know, I think you've just given me a plot for a sci-fi story:

A mysterious virus turns people into tree-hugging animal rights wackos (THARW). Unable to consume either animal flesh or plant matter, they begin starving. Our hero, let's call him Jim, is on a business trip to California. At first, Jim doesn't notice anything unusual because - hey! - it's California.

Then, an emaciated THARW bites Jim's buddy Bill while they're on their way to In-n-Out to get a burger for lunch. The THARW drops dead, and Bill starts acting strangely, kicking off his leather shoes and refusing to eat anything but concrete. As paramedics haul Bill away, Jim recognizes that CA is even more screwed up than he'd thought. Eventually, Jim, the last normal red meat eating guy in America, begins a harrowing journey back to his wife and kids in Houston, struggling to avoid a fate worse than death, and terrified of what he might find.

Throw in a gun store robbery (no Kali gun store will sell Jim a gun), the usual post-apocalyptic urban wreckage, a few hair-raising encounters with the THARW creatures (it doesn't need to be a head shot, center of mass will do), some homicidal bikers, and a desert cult offering human sacrifice to the Virus God. It just might work. What do you think?

10/28/2008 3:55 PM  
Blogger carnaby said...

OK, couple of thoughts:

1. Gringo: Heh.

2. Shyamalamyamanan: Heh.

3. It's "Ukraine" not "The Ukraine" (not since the USSR died anyway).

4. I just got my nice bound copies of my thesis. Apparently my dissertation had something to do with "AUTOMOMOUS SYSTEMS" argh!

5. Of the two copies of my dissertation that I had printed, the second one is bound with most of the pages in order but upside down. Argh!

6. Argh!

7. I'm voting for Obama! True! The reason being that a buddy of mine agreed to vote for Dino Rossi for governor if I vote for Obama. Obama has a lock on Washington State, so my throwaway vote doesn't hurt anything, and Rossi's race is close, so that vote could help (he lost by 124 votes on the second recount for those of you who don't know.)

8. Peace, out!

10/28/2008 4:34 PM  
Blogger Gringo_Malo said...

If your thesis was bound by an autonomous system, you need to add an appendix explaining why some of the pages are upside down.

10/29/2008 7:00 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Gringo, your plot sounds great. I think you should flesh it out (get it?) and try to sell it. One other wrinkle you should consider is that every second we're slaughtering zillions of harmless microbes just by breathing in and out. It's slaughter on a scale hitherto never before considered!!! Save the world, stop breathing!

You know, I just thought of something. In the context of The Happening, consider what a garden would represent to these vengeful plants -- a slaughterhouse!

carnaby, is Rossi the same guy who ran against Fraudoire last time?

And are you going to get your dissertation re-bound? (Argh!)

10/29/2008 7:39 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Oh, I just realized you said that Rossi lost by a tiny margin last time. Duh. So, 124 votes? Wasn't there all kinds of evidence of voter fraud? And isn't there a law that there has to be another election of the results are that close?

10/29/2008 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Skipper said...

I got a deep discount dvd copy of this movie and i was thinking that it was really an interesting one..but seems like it was just another movie that wasn't too good,maybe i should rent it instead of having a copy...

10/30/2008 3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you could understand The Happening, my hat is off to you. As best I could understand, MNS was playing with raw archetypes (that stuff about assembling a group with a healer... and what ever the others were) and hadn't bothered to write a story at all.

11/01/2008 2:48 AM  
Blogger Mile66 said...

La Oroya, Peru, not quite a city, but definitely a western mining town (pop. 33,000), is located in the same time zone line as Washington, DC (EST). That is "western" enough for me.

11/12/2008 7:56 AM  

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