(2009) dir. Alex Proyas
Knowing that Knowing was not going to be a very good film, I was still up for it because of my liking for bad Nicolas Cage movies. I’d read in the San Francisco Chronicle, and critic Peter Hartlaub (one of the only Datebook writers that I like at all) noted “If you see only one bad movie this year, definitely make it Knowing.” I think that Peter Hartlaub has a similar appreciation for pop culture as I do, for bad movies as well as good. And maybe that is why I like what he has to say compared to the other reviewers.
Anyhow, Knowing is a super-silly movie with a super-silly premise and super-silly plot twists and ultimate commentary.
Fifty years ago, a girl in a possessed state wrote a series of numbers on a page that was then put into a time capsule. On finding the letter via his son’s school opening the time capsule, Cage, a astrophysicist at MIT (see, I told you it was super-silly) recognizes the pattern as one that has predicted numerous major catastrophes in the past 50 years, with three left to occur. He then tries to avert these catastrophes, until he learns that the final catastrophe is the destruction of all life on Earth.
Let’s just say I’m giving away all the plot here. You kind of know that the lurking people in the shadows are going to turn out to be aliens. And they do. They’ve got a Noah’s Ark plan for Earth, saving two of each species (though not so explicitly every species), and the warnings, encoded in the numbers via some mental telepathy, were meant to weed out the two most apt to keep the species alive.
It’s kind of interesting in a couple of ways. For one thing, for a summer disaster movie, the whole world is ultimately destroyed. Earth is burnt to a crisp. Apocalpse is now. Nobody stops it. Kind of a bummer.
The film has a strong Christian religious theme throughout, about either the random meaninglessness of life or the predetermined Christian belief in something more powerful beyond death. Cage is the site of this conflict, his father a pastor and he the non-believer widower scientist. Faced with the predictions and the tie-in with religious meaning, he accepts a belief in the beyond, where all meet up again. And it’s his son who is delivered to the new sci-fi Eden at the end.
Directed by Alex Proyas, who started his career with The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998) and has additionally directed the Will Smith vehicle, I, Robot (2004), he’s got a lot potentially going on here. But there is a strong center of emotion that he seeks, between Cage and his son, familial ties, reuniting with his father himself. But a lot of that is kind of lost in the chaotic noise of the unfolding of the story. As Hartlaub noted, there are scenes that are quite striking, like the plane crash and scenes that are laughable (super-silly) like the vision of the burning moose. It’s somewhat of a grab bag of themes, ideas, attached to a plot that is pretty hilarious in a lot of ways.
I personally didn’t enjoy it as much as I have some other bad Nicolas Cage movies, such as Next (2007), Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and Ghost Rider (2007). I guess it’s the hamming and yet the commitment to the character that he has. I don’t know. But I’d say this is one of those movies that you should have a good reason for watching. Mine was Nicolas Cage and I was satisfied with the goofy, “End of Days” story, and probably a little more moved than I should have been about his relationship with his son. But Ghost Rider and Next are a lot more fun if you want to go slumming with Cage.