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Phenomenon is a 1996 drama, romance, and fantasy film written by Gerald Di Pego, directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, and Robert Duvall.

In the film, an amiable, small-town everyman is inexplicably transformed into a genius with telekinetic powers. The original music score is composed by Thomas Newman. However, it included I Have The Touch by Peter Gabriel and Change the World by Eric Clapton and Babyface. It was filmed in Auburnmarker, Colfaxmarker, Davismarker, Sacramentomarker, Santa Rosamarker, Sonoma Countymarker, and Treasure Islandmarker, all in Northern California.

Two years later, Travolta and Duvall were paired up once more as Jan Schlichtman and Jerome Facher in the 1998 film, A Civil Action.

Plot summary

George Malley (John Travolta) is an amiable auto mechanic whose "everyman" life is transformed by a strange flash of light he observes on the evening of his 37th birthday.

Over the course of the following days, George starts to experience an extraordinary form of genius-level intelligence, rapidly absorbing vast amounts of information, formulating new, revolutionary ideas, and even exhibiting telekinetic abilities.

George tries to use his new intelligence for the good of his community. At first local town folks are intrigued and amused by George's new abilities, but as they increase, community members gradually become afraid of him, with the only exceptions being love interest Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick), town physician Doc Brunder (Robert Duvall), and best friend Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker). Matters are complicated further when the government begins to take an interest in his newfound genius.

While participating in a town fair, George wants to publicize his revolutionary findings to the community with the hopes to make people's lives better; instead, the townsfolk are more interested with seeing a display of his telekinesis, and a frenzied press conference ensues, overwhelming George, knocking him down. Soon after, another great flash of light appears to George and he loses consciousness. He awakens in a hospital where Dr. Brunder explains what's been causing his change. He has an astrocytoma brain tumor that has spread out like a hand, with threads of it everywhere. But, instead of destroying brain function, so far it's been stimulating it. Thus, George has more area of active brain use than anybody ever tested because of the tentacles from the tumor.

The tumor is claimed to be what caused the dizziness and illusion of light experienced by George, rather than a mystical or extraterrestrial source, but this is never definitively concluded, and the telekinesis isn't explained either, leaving the viewer to speculate. As a result of the tumor, George doesn't have much time to live. Government-employed doctors propose cutting George's life even shorter by examining his brain before he can die a natural death, and argue that if he objects to their plan, the objection itself would be proof that he is mentally unfit to make such a decision, and that the government would then proceed with the examination anyway. Held against his will—allegedly just for observation, but really until the government can put its plan into action—George eventually escapes, hoping to continue his research. He hopes that seismologist Dr. Ringold (Jeffrey DeMunn) from UC Berkeleymarker might continue his experiments and, ultimately, complete the research he'll never get to finish.

After returning home, George gives Nate notes which basically served as a journal and gives him some other notes to deliver to Doc Brunder. He then retrieves his scientific research and, literally, runs to Lace's house. There, he aims to give his final farewells to Lace and her children, Al and Glory (David Gallagher and Ashley Buccille, respectively). When the children realize that George has basically returned there to die (in peace), they are emotionally overwhelmed by this and run off. George goes to them, and in one scene, comforts them by using an apple as a metaphor: no matter what, an apple will rot and decay if thrown on the ground, but if they were to take a bite out of it, the apple would become a part of them, and they would carry it with them forever. By doing this, he expresses the last wishes of a terminally ill man - that he hopes to leave those around him with some of his love and wisdom, as well as easing their sadness at his inevitable departure.

Later that day, George lays out a blanket in the shade of a tree, where he and Lace then lay down together to share a final emotional bond. Finally, George tells her that his moment of death is imminent. With tears in her eyes, Lace professes her love for him as he quietly dies in her loving embrace.

Dr. Ringold arrives the next morning to speak with George again, but he's too late. Lace then gives him George's incomplete research notebooks, indicating that he hoped Ringold would be able to finish the scientific work which George had started.

The movie ends at George's next birthday party with some of his friends.


Box Office and Reception

Similarities between the words and actions of the character George and those of the Church of Scientology, a group to which John Travolta, who played George, belongs, have been remarked upon in the press. The film was a box office success earning more than $ 16,000,000 on its opening weekend debuting on third position, later climbing up to second. It finally took $ 104,636,382 domestically and $ 47,400,000 worldwide making it to approximately $ 152,000,000 worldwide.

Awards and Nominations

Travolta and Whitaker both won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for their performances in 1997. Moreover Whitaker received an Image Award. In the same year the film was nominated for a Saturn Award. Travolta was nominated for a MTV Movie Award for his performance as well as for Best Kiss with Kyra Sedgwick. Eric Clapton was nominated for his song "Change the World" and won an ASCAP Award and the BMI Film & TV Award. Thomas Newman also received a BMI Film & TV Award for the score.

Phenomenon II

On November 1, 2003 a television movie titled Phenomenon II was broadcast on the ABC Network. It was directed by Ken Olin and starred Terry O'Quinn, Jill Clayburgh and Christopher Shyer as George Malley.

Although it was billed as a sequel to the film, Phenomenon II is actually a partial-remake of the original film, essentially retelling the original story while adding new characters and introducing a sub-plot involving the NSAmarker. The open ending of the telefilm suggests that it may have served as a pilot for a new TV series, though a Phenomenon series has not materialized.


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