Spoiler Points for The Happening (2008)

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Spoiler Points for The Happening (2008) [R] 91 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.25
DVD Release Date: 7 October 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer
Click to read the non-spoiler review
Click to see photos or video coverage from the Premiere of The Happening
Spoiler Points for The Happening – or – What's Really Happening in The Happening
Note: What follows is the calculated speculation as to what's really happening in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Read at your own risk.
• The first thing to realize about The Happening is that there's absolutely nothing implausible scientifically speaking when it comes to what happens. People, in large groups, starting mostly near parks, in large cities, suddenly stop functioning and then, if possible, act to willfully and forcibly kill only themselves. It's as if a natural population control has been released by the planet to reduce our numbers as we over-populate and over-control planet. The idea that there are signs out there now that we choose to ignore is not only the big twist of this film, but the fait accomplis for our species (that is, if we choose to continue to ignore).
• Next, there are very real signs on the planet right now that we are doing irreparable damage that will, if left to continue unchecked, eventually lead to the demise of our species and many hundreds of thousands of others; but you don't have to spend too much time on the web to find a vast movement out there working to convince us that all of these signs are fake. Am I being too vague? Here it is…GLOBAL WARMING aka CLIMATE CRISIS. Oh, sure, it's a vast left wing conspiracy cooked up by Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Michael Moore, to sell their movies and books because they've got nothing better to do. There's no global warming? If we release the carbon dioxide that it took plant life over 400 million years to trap in the earth as oil, coal, and natural gas, in the span of under 200 years, that's not going to have any effect on the climate or the earth? Nope, it's just fine? The solution to pollution is dilution? Didn't we all learn that in high school chemistry in the 60s? Well I didn't because I wasn't alive just yet, but my high school chemistry teacher colleagues all learned it because they grew up in a world that believed there was literally nothing humans couldn't or shouldn't or wouldn't do to this planet without any concern for the chain of consequences.
• Notice in the film, that the eventual explanation for what happened was that plants evolved to produce a neurotoxin that kill human beings exclusively, except that, since the government was mum on the topic, there was plenty of room for people to believe it wasn't nature sending us a warning sign at all (here we go again), but a leaked government experiment gone wrong. Had it happened anywhere else in the world, then it might have been believed to be a sign from nature. The final scene, however, does show it happening again, this time in Paris as if to say, "You people really do have to have this hammered down your throats to get it don't you, well fine, here it is. What more do we have to do to wake you up?"
• The clues that Mr. Shyamalan plants, sometimes more subtly than others surround a real life world occurrence that hasn't gotten nearly the media attention it probably should. For some reason, and this is true, bees are disappearing. No one knows where they are going, but speculation has taken us down similar paths as those Mark Wahlberg's science teacher Elliot Moore draws out in his classroom on the matter. But, it turns out, "we don't really know" is the correct answer, to the question "What happened to the bees?" Then a bit later in the film, there's an Einstein quotation flashed up on the wall noting that should the honey bee ever vanish from the earth, man would survive exactly four years more. Einstein understood the importance of the interdependence between the species of life on the planet. He also knew the important role that bees play in growing our food supply. What the film plants but doesn't point out directly, is that bees are often theorized as to having a collective consciousness sometimes called a hive mind. As the final speculation on the twist that M. Night Shyamalan may have been driving us toward…What if their hive mind has allowed them to perceive the reality of the damage we've done than either we know or think them capable of knowing, and what if either due to genetic behavioral evolution or actual planned thought, bees began selectively breeding plants just like we do, only their goal as to produce species capable of releasing a fatal toxin to human. Shyamalan never points to this notion directly, but biologist would have a tea party contemplating this very possible notion. Perhaps the bees perceive global warming as a war by us against them and the planetary ecosystems which hang in delicate balance as hundreds of thousands of their Brethren are being wiped out each day by increasing levels of UV radiation and many millions more are 'enslaved' in honey production? How clever it would be for them to have evolved the ability to selectively breed flowers (we assume only we are capable of such), but what if they've actually been capable of it for millions of years, and now have 'decided' to cultivate plants capable of killing off their greatest enemy? If M. Night Shyamalan thought of this notion, he might have concluded, much like you might in reading this, that including this notion directly in the movie might have made him and the film sound too kooky and far-fetched. Sort of like what happened in the last 20 minutes of Steven Spielberg's A.I. when all that kooky extra-terrestrial stuff just kind of got in the way of the beautiful essence of the film. As a point of fact, we really have no way of knowing if bees have a collective hive mind or if their hive minds communicate on a level above our understanding such that, perhaps, all bees everywhere are collectively linked. Each individual might even be unaware of the collective mind just as each individual neuron in our minds, as far as we know, is unaware of its own existence, and yet, not only does their collective existence give us a mind capable of incredible thoughts, but as a collective aware of the existence of each individual cell. Quickly the self-referential thoughts become overwhelming to most people and only a very few people have ever really been able to grasp these notions well or make any sense of them.

Here are two books that absolutely everyone should read if you are even borderline interested in any of this line of reasoning and wonder if this might just be the case of a crack-pot shooting odd notions into the air hoping that something might fall from the sky.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter

The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by Fritjof Capra

Finally, ok, so you might be wondering about any more clues…how about the school bus number which comes at the end to pick up Jess. Believe me, I don't think M. Night Shyamalan leaves anything to chance, and maybe nobody noticed this, but the school bus number is 2012 (exactly four years from now—recall Einstein's 4 years and recall that this is the year of the Mayan calendar reset). You be the judge!

Actual Plot Spoiler Points for the Film
• In the morning, on a semi-cloudy day in Central Park, NYC, NY, USA, people suddenly start being unable to think, then the either freeze or go into retrograde motion, and die or kill themselves. At a construction site nearby, workers are falling from above smashing on the ground below to the horror of their colleagues drinking coffee peacefully below.
• Blocks away at a high school, Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) leads his biology class in a discussion of what's happening to the bees. His class is interrupted when the principal (Alan Ruck) dismisses school.
• Shortly after, Elliot, his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), and his friend Julian (John Leguizamo) daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez), depart NYC via train to a relative's house in Pennsylvania they feel will be far from the incidents.
• In a rural town, the train conductor loses contact with the outside world and decides to stop the train. Everyone is left to his or her own devices.
• In the town, the passengers get refuge in a local eatery along with news of The Happening until all power is lost. One man takes leadership and suggests they all need to get as far away as possible. They all run out and jam into getaway cars. Julian heads off in one car to find his wife who was last reported in Princeton leaving Jess in the care of Elliot and Alma. They are accepted by a Nursery Owner (Frank Collison) and his wife (Victoria Clark) who first go the their nursery and home to pick up rations. There, the Nursery Owner explains his hypothesis of what's going on. He believes it to be an attack by the plants adding to Elliot's own suspicions since the things started in parks.
• The speed off on back roads staying away from populated areas where Elliot and the Nursery Owner feel the likelihood of attach is highest.
• Eventually, they reach an intersection with people coming from every direction all fleeing from dead bodies. As they all meet up, they have the same stories. An army Private named Auster (Jeremy Strong) comes one way shouting that all of the people at the base are dead. He takes charge and Elliot gives him his scientific hypothesis as to what they should do. He recommends they split into small groups and fan out. It seems the attacks only happen to people in large groups in concentrated places.
• Elliot's group: his wife, Jess, and two boys Josh (Spencer Breslin) and Jared (Robert Bailey, Jr.) ends up finding a farm house after watching a bunch of larger groups die before their eyes. In the farm house, is a man and maybe his family holed up for the long haul. When Josh goes crazy trying to break down the door to get food for Jess, the owner comes out with a shot gun and kills Josh and Jared.
• Elliot, Alma, and Jess rush off and eventually come across the home of Mrs. Jones (Betty Buckley). A hermit, living off her land, with no contact with the outside world, she feels obligated to offer them some food and eventually a bed for the night. She's odd, abusive, and mean. The next morning, she accuses Elliot of trying to steal from her and wants him out of her house. She goes into the garden and then is victimized. She wanders around the house bashing her head at the windows until she's dead. Elliot cannot find Jess and Alma and fears the worst until he hears their voices. He cannot figure out why they don't hear him. Turns out they are in the little house on the property connected to the main house with a speaking tube through the ground. He goes to it and shouts they should shut the doors and windows since Mrs. Jones has just died / killed herself. They talk through the tube until they eventually cave into feeling that they need to be together. They go outside and find themselves just fine. It seems The Happening was a 24-hour event and is now over.
• Three months later, they've adopted Jess who's living with them. The TV blares a morning news show with a scientist babbling about how the event was probably a toxin released by plants, but the new anchor keeps suggesting it was more likely a rogue chemical weapon released by the government because it's just too coincidental that the event happened in the northeast where all the government research labs are located. Alma takes Jess out to the school bus which is number 2012. Then we shift to Paris. Two friends are talking. One keeps saying he needs to ride his bicycle somewhere. Then he freezes, goes retrograde as to others in the park, and the film ends.


Erinaz said...

As a writer, I thought when they dragged the bees into the setup that it was going to have some sort of Mayan Calendar tie in. The bus number was 2010. I noticed it specifically because I thought it was a missed opportunity.

Awesomely bad movie. If you put Magnolia, Dragonfly and the Mothman Prophecies together, it still couldn't touch the suckage that is The Happening.

Anonymous said...

Never picked up on the bus number. Great review. Pisses me off when people hate on this movie. I have become so interested in the disappearance of honeybees now. Thank you.