A science teacher, his wife, and a young girl struggle to survive a plague that causes those infected to commit suicide.A science teacher, his wife, and a young girl struggle to survive a plague that causes those infected to commit suicide.A science teacher, his wife, and a young girl struggle to survive a plague that causes those infected to commit suicide.
The film sees some sort of mysterious ecological event leading to people committing mass suicide, the phenomenon spreading first from large cities then to smaller towns until it is clear a huge chunk of the East Coast is affected. At first, it is assumed to be a terrorist attack but, as more and more people are spontaneously kill themselves, it is clear the cause may be something else entirely...
One of the problems with the film was the quality of the acting and the characters themselves. Mark Wahlberg stars as Elliot, the science teacher who is our main protagonist, and he does flounder in many scenes as if he forgets he's playing an intelligent but ordinary everyday guy, not a gung-ho military hero who is cool in all situations. He could have injected more emotion into his performance. Zooey Deschanel plays Elliot's girlfriend Alma and she too fails to make the audience care for her with the way she depicts the character to be some sort of an escapee from a teeny-booper romance flick. To be fair, it is not entirely Deschanel's fault as Alma is a weak, self-centred character with the emotional capacity of a young adolescent (for example, she puts Elliot and a child at risk a couple of times with her stupid decisions and, at the start, when it's clear people are dying, she is in a huff because Elliot and his friend 'hurt' her feelings).
When it comes to the actual storyline, the plot does start off intriguingly and there are many chilling moments when we see people are coolly committing suicide like mindless zombies. However, the finale doesn't deliver what the build-up promised. There are no real explanations or solid end result. In many ways, this film is similar to Shyamalan's previous project 'Signs' both in terms of a mass disaster and no real end resolution to the events but 'Signs' worked better because the characters were more effectively portrayed and their personal storyline was enough of a finale to compensate. This is not the case in 'The Happening' where the storyline fizzles out.
Overall, this is by no means a terrible film. It is enjoyable and fits nicely into the apocalyptic genre but 'Signs' has done this sort of idea before and did it better. That said, there was not only moments that had me on the edge of my seat but also lines which were quite humorous. And certainly, it does make one think about the state of the planet in regards to whether humanity does have it coming to them and how we would cope in such an event. It is worth a look, especially in a week when the other premiere is 'The Hulk, a film aimed at keeping twelve-year-olds' entertained.
- Jun 13, 2008