Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer
What is man's responsibility to the environment? Answer
Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer
|Featuring||Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Bailey Jr., Spencer Breslin, Betty Buckley, Lyman Chen, Richard Chew, Victoria Clark, Frank Collison, Stéphane Debac, Joel de la Fuente, Tony Devon, Derege Harding, Edward James Hyland, John Leguizamo, Shayna Levine, Susan Moses, Ashlyn Sanchez, Jeremy Strong, Cornell Womack|
M. Night Shyamalan
“Lady in the Water” (2006)
“The Village” (2004)
“The Sixth Sense” (1999)
|Producer||Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer, Jose L. Rodriguez, John Rusk, M. Night Shyamalan|
|Distributor||20th Century Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company|
“We’ve sensed it. We’ve seen the signs. Now… It’s happening.”
When Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), a young science teacher in New York, starts explaining to his high school class about the strange disappearance of the bees, it had me intrigued, because I had been taken in by that very real report myself when it came out in the news just last year. Oddly, the news has neglected this phenomenon ever since, and I had always wondered why.
Then, when I saw the Einstein quote sprawled across the blackboard in his classroom,
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.”
…my interest level went up a notch as well. What I had read about the bee population and how it can suffer serious effects and possibly vanish from a variety of natural-occurring chemicals in plants, such as ethanol resulting from the fermentation of organic material, stood out in my mind. The movie suggested that exposure to ethanol from fermented nectar or ripe fruits and natural chemicals in our environment, could cause a chain reaction resulting in life threatening consequences; it sounded fascinating.
I sat, eagerly waiting for the ball to get rolling. M. Knight Shyamalan hit upon a somber note for our survival here on planet Earth, that, by taking away our bee population, could in fact have a resounding domino effect on life as we know it, as well as wreck disastrous consequences on all human survival.
Not long after Elliot Moore begins the scientific discussion of the bees, there is news of strange occurrences—of people being suddenly confused, followed by loss of speech and within minutes later, death, spread throughout New York and it’s outlying cities. All inhabitants were being encouraged to evacuate. The high school students and teachers are dismissed, and we are swept along with the characters’ confusion and numbing this-can’t-be-happening realization that terrorists have somehow found a way to spread an airborne toxin throughout the US environment, with fatal accuracy.
While taking a train out of the city with his friend and colleague, Julian (John Leguizamo) and his 8 year old daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) as well as his new wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), Elliot learns the event has swiftly spread to every part of the eastern seaboard of the United States.
People are dropping dead all around them, there is no apparent escape from the unseen menace, which somehow blocks human neurotransmitters making people kill themselves. Moving in small packs, survivors try, without much success, to run from their invisible attacker.
While they are searching for a safe haven, the back story running through the plot is centered around Elliot and his sweet wife, Alama and their being unable to express the love they truly have for one another. This sub-drama helps to bring what we are truly here on Earth for into strong focus. It, in many ways, proves to be a more solid story than the main focus Shyamalan was going for, and that is we might be unwittingly forcing nature to defend itself against our rampant pollution of (and killing off of) planet Earth.
As riveting and mysterious this all sounds as a storyline, it just doesn’t pick up enough momentum throughout the film to make an impact as it should. I enjoyed “The Happening,” and the performances were handled in a convincing, realistic way, right down to the news reports and people’s reactions to the surreal events happening around them. I believe that a lot of pressure has been placed on an M. Knight Shyamalan script to have the ultimate ‘ah-ha’ factor at the end, because of his success with “Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” and “The Village.” We want to be fooled by his movies, and I for one, always look forward to seeing him in some sort of a cameo appearance (ala Alfred Hitchcock), which I didn’t see in “The Happening.”
Although I enjoyed this film, I was disappointed with the flat feeling I had at it’s conclusion, and felt even a bit cheated because I could almost tell how it was going to end. I wanted to be surprised and wasn’t. I also was disappointed to find that the Einstein quote was not really Einstein’s, but ‘attributed to’ his thoughts on the subject. I felt like I was being subliminally preached at (yet again) about going green and the environment. The message of “The Happening” is—no one's killing us but ourselves.
The “R” rating is very appropriate. Although there was no foul language, nudity or sex, there was lots of death in all kinds of creative forms (and blood). A character stabs herself in the neck with a long hair pin, people fall from buildings and are shown lying in bloody tangled heaps on the cement, men and women are shown shooting themselves in the head, blood spurting onto the ground, a man’s arms are shown being ripped off by lions, a car is shown slamming into a tree and bodies go flying out through the windshield, and on and on. There is an instance where people are shooting themselves in front of the 8 year old character, and another scene where two teenaged boys are shot by a man with a rifle—more blood, and very disturbing, even to me as an adult viewer. This is not a movie for anyone under 16!
“The Happening” does portray with chilling realism what people might resort to if they feel scared and threatened. What desperate people may do to survive, and that, in itself, is a heartbreaker to contemplate.
There is a bit of humor spattered throughout to break the tension. Although some characters used God’s name as an explicative (“God in Heaven”), God was not mentioned as our comfort and our help in times of despair and peril. God was not held high as the one to mend a marriage or the One to turn to when there seems to be no human answer. I couldn’t help but hang my head and lament, a world without God as it’s comforter and deliverer, is world truly without hope.
If you are an M. Knight Shyamalan, Wahlberg, or Zooey Deschanel fan, you will probably like this movie, but it definitely is not in the same caliber as Shyamalan’s earlier works. On a Christian level, I would use caution when viewing it, because of the very graphic scenes of death, as mentioned above. Christian families should note very young children including ‘tweens’ should not be exposed to the horrific emotional impact it’s story and images portray.
In conclusion, my thoughts are these:
When we are with God, we are not alone in life. He shares life with us. He rejoices in our good times. He shares the burden of sorrow and hardship.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalms 46:1-3).
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).
“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalms 55:22).
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalms 9:9).
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.