Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Turteltaub|
|Produced by||Barbara Boyle
|Written by||Gerald Di Pego|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Cinematography||Phedon Papamichael, Jr.|
|Editing by||Bruce Green|
|Distributed by||Touchstone Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 5, 1996 (USA)|
|Running time||123 minutes|
|Budget||$32,000,000 US (est.)|
|Box office||$152,036,382 US (est.)|
In the film, an amiable, small-town everyman is inexplicably transformed into a genius with telekinetic powers. The original music score was composed by Thomas Newman. It was filmed in Auburn, Colfax, Davis, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, and Treasure Island, all in Northern California.
Plot summary 
George Malley (John Travolta) is an amiable auto mechanic who lives in a small friendly town in northern California. At a party in his local bar for his 37th birthday while standing outside, he sees what appears to be a set of bright white lights moving around in the sky, which eventually makes a loud sound and knocks him off his feet. When he re-enters the bar, nobody heard the sound or saw the light, and his friends playfully suggest he's had too much to drink.
Over the course of the following days, he starts to experience an extraordinary form of genius-level intelligence, easily absorbing vast amounts of information, formulating new, revolutionary ideas, and even exhibiting telekinetic abilities. He cannot sleep and mostly sits up all night reading 2 or 3 books in one day about things he's always wanted to learn about.
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). Things become even more difficult when the FBI arrest him and his friend for apparently decoding a top secret Morse code signal he heard on Nate's shortwave radio which they genuinely believed they were doing just for their own amusement with no malice intended. Nate is released after being briefly questioned however George remains in their custody having tests of his intelligence and code breaking abilities. He is ultimately released when he threatens to tell the press the FBI are holding him with no cause to charge him.
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 in seeing a display of his telekinesis, and a frenzied press conference ensues, overwhelming George and knocking him down. While on the ground, 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 has 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, 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 should thus 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 Berkeley, might continue his experiments and, ultimately, complete the research he will never get to finish.
After returning home, George gives Nate notes which basically served as a journal and gives him other notes to deliver to Doc Brunder. He then retrieves his scientific research and runs to Lace's house. There, he aims to give his final farewells to Lace and her children, Al (David Gallagher) and Glory (Ashley Buccille). When the children realize that George has returned there to die, they are emotionally overwhelmed and the boy runs off across the yard, his younger sister following. George goes to them, and 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 lie down together to make love. Finally, later that same day, George tells her while they're in bed 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 is too late. Lace gives him George's incomplete research notebooks, indicating he'd hoped Ringold would be able to finish the scientific work.
In the next scene we see George's best friend Nate driving through a mass corn field as a result of George's insecticide and pesticide he developed during his peak of intelligence combating claims of Nate earlier in the film that nothing could grow in that field due to the soil being too dry. The movie ends at George's next (posthumous) birthday party with some of his friends.
- John Travolta - George Malley
- Kyra Sedgwick - Lace Pennamin
- Forest Whitaker - Nate Pope
- Robert Duvall - Doc Brunder
- Jeffrey DeMunn - Prof. John Ringold, seismologist
- Richard Kiley - Dr. Wellin, brain specialist
- Brent Spiner - Dr. Bob Niedorf
- Vyto Ruginis - Ted Rhome
- Bruce A. Young - FBI Agent Jack Hatch
- Michael Milhoan - Jimmy
- Sean O'Bryan - Banes
- David Gallagher - Al Pennamin
- Ashley Buccille - Glory Pennamin
- Tony Genaro - Tito
- Troy Evans - Roger
- Ellen Geer - Bonnie
- James Keane - Pete
Similarities between the words and actions of John Travolta's character George and those of the Church of Scientology, a group to which Travolta belongs, have been remarked upon in the press. The film was a box office success, having earned more than $16,000,000 on its opening weekend, debuting on third position and later climbing up to second. It finally took $104,636,382 domestically and $47,400,000 worldwide, making approximately $152,000,000 overall.
A scene in which Malley asks Pennamin, "Hey, would you, uh, love me for the rest of my life?" and she responds, "No, I'm gonna love you for the rest of mine" inspired Trace Adkins' late-1997 single "The Rest of Mine".
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 NSA. 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.
- Rotten Tomatoes entry for Phenomenon.
- Cochran, Jason (August 2, 1996). "Faith, hope, and clarity". Entertainment Weekly (338): 45. ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved February 15, 2009.
- Flippo, Chet (13 September 1997). "Adkins gets 'Big Time' radio rush". Billboard.
- Phenomenon at the Internet Movie Database
- Phenomenon at AllRovi
- Phenomenon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Phenomenon II at the Internet Movie Database (the Made-for-TV remake)
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