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The Happening
Shyamalan's usual with a bit of gore.
The Happening
Mark Wahlberg Stars in "The Happening."
OPENING WEEKEND: $30,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $120,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 3rd, 2008: A paranoid thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity.

What to Expect: There are two types of people in this world: ones who love M. Night Shyamalan and think he is a genius and those who hate him and consider him a hack (in true Shyamalan fashion I am not going to tell you which group I belong to 'til the very end). The latter group of haters has grown significantly larger after his last offering, Lady in the Water, which was rejected by moviegoers and critics alike. Now, there is a growing number of people who feel that his movies are way too similar in terms of style and are tired of some of the disappointing plot twists that he tries to throw at the audience. Yet, he is not disheartened by some of the criticism that is leveled at him and is coming back with another thriller, The Happening. Will he be able to recapture some of the magic of his early movies like the Sixth Sense and Signs or is this it for Shyamalan for a while? Fortunately early buzz for the film has been extremely positive for several reasons. First, he made a wise choice of addressing one of the hottest issues, man's relationship with his environment. Secondly, he made this movie significantly scarier than some of his previous offerings. All and all, I think the general movie going audience is going to forgive him for Lady in the Water, give The Happening a shot and not end up being disappointed.

Article continues below

In order to understand the future we must first revisit the past, which in this case is Lady in the Water. It all started like any other movie. Shyamalan, being a man of habit, went to Disney, the same studio that produced all his previous projects, with the script expecting all to go well. However, this time, Nina Jacobson and the other Disney executives were extremely critical of his script. They felt that the movie was too confusing and he had given himself too big of a part. Shyamalan did not take this well and took his work to Warner Bros who were eager to steal such a proven director away from their rival. Unfortunately, when the movie came out, Jacobson's criticisms were validated and the movie bombed.

Shyamalan took this as a learning lesson and was back in Hollywood with a new script called "Green Effect." The script centers on science teacher/wannabe musician, Elliot, and his wife Alma. The two are having marital problems and are on the verge of separation when people start mysteriously killing themselves. At first it is reported that it is some sort of a terrorist attack, but then our heroes learn, to their dismay, that this is going on in every city around the world. Elliot figures out that nature has finally become fed up with humanity's abuse of the environment and is fighting back. All the plants are releasing a toxin that is causing people to lose their survival instincts and hurt themselves. Now Elliot and Alma must travel away from populated areas in hopes of finding a place where plants and people live in harmony. As they travel, they witness the carnage along the way.

Shyamalan went to every major studio except for Disney and pitched his idea. However, unlike the previous year, he went into these meetings with an open mind and took careful notes of what the studio execs were saying. His most productive meeting was with Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman, Tom Rothman, who proposed that Shyamalan make the movie R-rated, and to significantly beef up the intensity of the film. This approach is very different from Shyamalan's usual style where you never actually see much gore. Rothman brought up the other movies like Silence of the Lambs and Pan's Labyrinth which all made good use of the R rating without going overboard. Shyamalan really liked Rothman's ideas and felt that 20th Century Fox could market his movie the best, based on their success with other apocalyptic films like "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow." Now this can be interpreted in two distinct ways: One would be a stubborn director being able to except failure and learn from his mistakes. The other would be an artistic director completely selling out to make his movie more marketable. Well, it is probably a little bit of both since this is the only way he could have this film made.

Shyamalan went back to Philadelphia to rework his script in order to make it more to Rothman's liking. The next time he returned to LA he was armed with a new screenplay now titled "The Happening." It was now loaded with graphic violence like people getting chopped up in lawn-mowers, setting themselves on fire and lots of power tool deaths. This may shock some die hard fans, but they will be pleased to know that a lot of that signature suspense and Shyamalan heart will still be present. Those same themes of hope, love and faith that take center stage in all of his movies will still be there, but they will be a lot harder to notice with all of the graphic violence.

Rothman was extremely happy with the new script and was even happier with the other things that the director brought back from Philly. First, he got Barry Mendel to produce. Mendel had served that same function on two of Shyamalan's most successful projects: "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable." Then the two actually negotiated with Bollywood studio UTC to provide 50% of the budget and distribution in exchange for exclusive distribution rights in India. Finally, Shyamalan recruited Mark Walberg for the part of Elliot because he felt that "he has a unique blend of charisma, humanity, authenticity and skillfulness as an actor," which would make him perfect. Walberg has been a really big fan of the director's work and was extremely excited to finally get a chance to be in one of his projects. I think this is a very good casting decision.

Shyamalan's movies are really about how people react to the situations they are in rather than the people themselves. In Signs it is really about Mel Gibson's character loosing his faith in God after the death of his wife, with the alien invasion being more of a catalyst for restoring his faith rather than being the central theme. Mel Gibson was able to act the part and the movie became successful, meanwhile Lady in the Water did not have anyone talented enough to sell the human side of the story and the movie bombed. The same talent and humility that Mel Gibson showed in the Signs is extremely important for The Happening because the greenery killing people is really a catalyst for Elliot to grow into a leader and reconcile with his wife. Elliot dealing with these problems requires a talented actor and Walberg seems to be the right man for the job.

Rothman was so impressed with Shyamalan's changes and initiative that he automatically greenlit the film for immediate production. The director happily returned to Philadelphia and began shooting right away. As usual the entire movie was shot in and around Philadelphia in a very short time.

In Conclusion: Well, have you figured out yet if I like Shyamalan or not? The answer is no. I think he is all style and no substance. His ending and plot twists, with the exception of Sixth Sense, are usually pretty anticlimactic. It is usually something like love, hope and faith conquers all, while the audience is expecting something much bigger. I believe that this movie is going to be much more of the same, except he has sacrificed a lot of his personal integrity to satisfy some bigwig and Fox. Now, a lot of that style that most would agree is the best part about his movies is going to be replaced with a lot of graphic, rated R violence. The one thing that the geniuses at Fox did not think about is that people who enjoy Saw-style gore will not like Shyamalan's feel good ending. Meanwhile, the type of people who would enjoy the heart aspect of this movie might be turned off by the rated R tag. Fortunately for Fox, this movie is a goldmine since it only cost $57 million to make with half coming from UTC, which they should make back in the first weekend. I personally have grown pretty tired of his movies and I am going to stay away, but make your own choice.

Similar Titles: The Day After Tomorrow, Signs, I Am Legend
June 13th, 2008 (wide)
October 7th, 2008 (DVD)

20th Century Fox

M. Night Shyamalan

Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Spencer Breslin, Ashlyn Sanchez

Total: 728 vote(s).

Drama, Science Fiction

Click here to view site

Rated R for violent and disturbing images.






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