Friday, June 20, 2008

On The Green Planet (No Twist)

The Happening(2008)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan, tries to make a summer horror movie, with no pretentions. The problem lies that pretentions are what make some artist's good, it's their ambition(insane, and annoying at times though it may be), that makes them so vital. "Lady In The Water" was ridiculous but it was interesting, it's arguable, it has ideas greater than itself. "The Happening" is an example of what you see is what you get. There is no twist here, just survival and some thin guess work for a plot, some very intense sequences, and an ending which has some subltle hints at enviornmental crisis and the woes of global self-destruction.
People continously go see Nights movies expecting "revelations", when at best he's made some clever twists and subversions of standard speculative fiction conventions; ghosts, superheros, aliens, fairy tales, utopias and monster myths, etc. He stands out as much as he does because he makes interesting genre films in places other's wont tread, or tread poorly. At a time when all movies are either franchise attempts or remakes or both, it's nice to see someone (anyone), at least try and think of something new. It just feels like people expect Night to be Hitchcock, when really he's somewhere between him and Larry Cohen.
I don't want to give away any crucial plot details, but the drama begins when all across the east coast people begin seeminlgy spontaneously killing themselves. No one knows what's going on(Night questions of any ever could), but sooner than later, the characters find it's not terrorists, and it's happening to smaller and smaller groups of people.
So what's left is a good pop corn horror film, with some original images, good music, a few awkward bits in the dialog, but over all decent writing with some light comedic touches (very needed), for effect. I think as a director overall he's grown, while as a story teller, he may be running on steam. Even though it's not as thought provoking as his other films, it's got all the suspense and dramatic tension, audiences have been waiting for since "Signs". So a little dissapointing, but overall still worth checking out.
(Spoiler Following): There's alot places the plot could have actually gone, there are theories that the evolution of flowers helped wipe out the dinosaurs, which I was just sure this movie would mention, but it didn't...or maybe something more with communication between human and plants (hinted, joked at, but never done). The movie makes it clear that "man" is the problem, like the ending of "Planet Of The Apes", one can imagine M. Night Shyamalan somewhere on a beach banging his fists into the sand shouting at the statue of Liberty, "You blew it up you maniacs", however in 2008, pointing out that man is self destructive, and an enemy of the enviornment of the planet, is like shooting fish in a barrel. Every movie from Godzilla to Frankenstien to Inconvienient Truth tries to point out how were messing up the natural balance(and does a more competent job), only Night doesn't seem to see any possible end in sight, just the beginnings of crests on a terrible wave of future problems (which is fair, and if nothing else honest), and so it seems the optimist of "Lady In The Water" and "Signs" where we had hope and each other to beleive in, has finally given in to modern pessimism (remember all those cars driving away from the dinner)...were all fucked, humanity is a disease...but at least we got movies.

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