Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

Not that you were going to see The Happening anyway.

For the record, I enjoyed the movie -- which is like some of the other M. Night Shyamalan films I've seen in that they often need to age a little while before you realize just how silly they are.

One of Shyamalan's more obnoxious tells is that whenever he wants the audience to know something of significance to the plot, he'll have one of his bit characters just come out and say it. Thus, he uses his own cameo in Signs to tell the Mel Gibson character -- without any indication as to how on earth he might have come across this knowledge -- that he thinks the scary alien invaders are allergic to water. Which, of course, turns out to be true.

So as soon as the creepy old botanist who's fleeing the yet-unknown phenomenon that's causing everyone along the eastern seaboard to kill themselves randomly tells Mark Wahlberg, "I think I know what's doing this. It's the plants." -- well, you know it's the plants.

Turns out, the entire northeastern flora has up and decided its finally time to punish humanity for their wicked, polluting ways -- or, in more scientific terms, rapidly evolve a chemical defense mechanism that attacks people's self-preservation instinct.

Anthony Sacramone over at First Things has some interesting and only half tongue-in-cheek thoughts as to why the film's message might not be entirely as eco-radical as meets the eye, before coming to the conclusion that it's best not to think too hard about all this.

Which is probably true, because what I picked up from the film was a sneaky and none-too-coherent attack on nuclear power.

The question gets raised from time to time throughout the movie: Why is this "happening" only happening in the northeastern United States? We never find out for sure. But during the split-second that Wahlberg flips on the radio in an abandoned truck he finds, Shyamalan makes sure the entire audience knows (see above rule) that the northeast contains the highest concentration of nuclear power plants in the country. Then there are those cooling towers ominously (and probably anachronistically) looming over our heroes as they flee through the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. And the very last scene -- after everything's supposedly returned to normal -- contains rumblings of a new attack in (of all places) France.

Though one wonders whether Shyamalan's killer flowers have really thought this out all the way. If its really nuclear power that's got them in such a tizzy -- as opposed to deforestation, or greenhouse gasses, or suburban sprawl -- do they really want to be killing off all the people who run the plants in the first place?

4 comments:

Miles said...

John,
I confess that I saw The Happening as well.
An attack on nuclear power? I think you're seeing political messages in very strange places, my friend. What other political messages has Shyamalan given us? Children can see ghosts? Aliens fear water and God will teach this to us by killing our wives? We should heed ancient Korean fairytales? I grant you that The Village does present a somewhat political message--we can't escape from the social roots of violence because they're within us.
My personal explanation is that Shyamalan likes hiding the ball (even if he failed to do that in The Happening for as long as he usually does) and proffers alternative explanations throughout the movie--I don't think he was actually using one of the alternative explanations to attack nuclear power.
On a final note, I think your review of the movie failed to touch on the main redeeming feature of the movie: Mark Wahlberg is SUCH a hottie. (:

John said...

But Miles, then why do the plants hate us so much?

On a related note, whats-her-name is now sleeping on the roof. I'm taking no chances.

Miles said...

Noooooo! Poor Lila.

Tessa said...

I haven't seen the movie, but perhaps the idea was more that this inexplicably fast mutation was the result of nuclear radiation, a throwback to the archetypal comic book superhero creation of yore.