I went and saw The Happening tonight. It was okay. There were a few parts where the writing was so bad, I couldn’t help but laugh. Early in the movie, Mark Walberg’s character (a science teacher named Elliot Moore) asks his students why bees are mysteriously disappearing. One student answers that plants are evolving against bees, another answers that climate change is causing it. Finally, another student replies, “it’s an act of nature that we can’t understand”. Surprisingly, the teacher agrees with this answer. It was laughably bad that a science teacher would accept such an anti-science answer. Before doing adequate study, you should just throw up your hands and say, “We can’t know. It’s mysterious, and always will be”?
Later in the movie, plants are giving off a toxin that causes people to kill themselves. Roughly the entire population of the Northeast United States commits suicide. Then we have Elliot Moore (and another science-y talking-head on the news) making the same claim about this bizarre outbreak: “it’s an act of nature that we can’t understand”. That’s right: plants created a toxin that killed some 50 million people, and their response is to throw up their hands with no scientific study whatsoever, and declare that it’s mysterious and always will be. Huh? It’s a response right out of the Dark Ages.
Well, over at io9, there’s a review of the movie that claims The Happening is all about Intelligent Design and religious faith:
Avowed Christian Shyamalan told us that The Happening is really about religious faith, and explained that he chose Mark Wahlberg to play science teacher Elliot Moore because of the actor’s intense belief in Jesus.
Personally, I think the reviewer is running off the deep-end by claiming it has something to do with Intelligent Design. But in an earlier article, Shyamalan explains the religious connection:
Night was inspired by reading Albert Einstein’s biography and discovering Einstein had rejected religion at first, until eventually he saw “the hand of God” in the gaps between scientific explanations. In The Happening, Shyamalan tries to recreate this surrender to faith by saying, sometimes you just can’t explain it when shit happens… Added Shyamalan, “There are limits to rational thought.”
Sorry, but I don’t really see the connection – even after he says it’s there. In fact, if this is a pro-religious faith movie, it fails miserably. Instead, it does the opposite for me: it elucidates the problems of Intelligent Design and religious faith quite well — the main characters were just throwing up their hands, declaring it to be mysterious and unknowable without the least bit of research. Maybe Shyamalan would like to tell everyone that all diseases are mysterious and we can never them figure them out, either. Like I said, it was a response right out of the Dark Ages, and certainly an embarrassing position for any self-respecting science teacher to take.