Knowing is NOT half the battle

Knowing is NOT half the battle

In 2009, even Nicolas Cage can’t save the day.

Recently, I’ve been doing film reviews for The Rotten Tomatoes Show on Current TV. Or rather, I’ve been doing pieces of film reviews. Current gets a bunch of bloggers, comedians, and other web-types to weigh in on each movie, and then splices them together into frankenreviews. So here’s 10 seconds of me talking about Knowing.

Of course, I had a little more to say.  (Consider this a blanket Spoiler Alert. If you want to remain fresh for Knowing, go read about porn.)

The movie is directed by Alex Proyas, a guy who built up a nice geek following with The Crow and Dark City (which is like a beta version of The Matrix). Then he squandered it by doing I, Robot. Knowing isn’t likely to do much for Proyas’ reputation. It’s not bad. It’s just kind of by-the-numbers. (Ha ha. That’s a joke. “Numbers,” cryptic hidden messages, get it?)

knowingNicolas Cage plays an MIT professor whose son receives a message out of a time capsule. It’s a string of numbers (see, get it?), that turn out to be the dates and coordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years… and a few that haven’t happened yet.

Here’s something that annoyed me right off the bat. Nicolas Cage spends literally about 30 seconds looking at this page of numbers before he figures out exactly what they mean. (It helps that the very first numbers he happens to notice are “91101.”) I feel like in real life, you could give that list to a team of code-breakers for a month, and they’d still come up empty-handed. But since the movie makes a big deal about destiny and fate, they sort of get a pass on this. Nicolas Cage figures out the list because he was meant to figure out the list. The plot is implausibility-proof.

I thought Knowing started off a little slow. We all know from the trailer that the numbers predict a bunch of disasters. Until Nicolas Cage figures that out, nothing interesting can happen. But once the movie gets up to speed, it did suck me in a little bit. Like in The Ring, the main character tries to defeat the supernatural via some hardcore research. You will see a LOT of Nicolas Cage Googling in this movie.

About halfway through the film, it feels like they’re going to have a Hollywood ending where Nicolas Cage stops the disasters and makes out with the chick from Damages. But I’ll give Knowing credit – it starts dark and just gets darker. You may not like the ending, but you can’t say that the movie chickened out.

knowing-numbersThis was the second consecutive movie I saw (after Watchmen) which was about impotence and futility in the face of preordained disaster. Dr. Manhattan predicted catastrophe in his very first scene. Despite all his powers, he can’t stop it. Nicolas Cage knows the date and location that horrible things are going to happen. In another (probably worse) movie, someone could use that information to STOP the disaster. But it turns out that knowing does you a fat lot of good. (The title of this post isn’t just an allusion for the sake of allusion.)

The Overthinker in me sees some powerful pop psychology at work. We’re all living through a giant economic disaster. Economic Armageddon. And maybe we all saw it coming. Certainly, after reading countless articles about how worthless all these default credit swaps really were, this crash should have surprised no one. There’s something unsettling in watching Nicolas Cage watch the news, waiting for the latest bombshell to hit. I know that feeling.

However, the realist in me knows that Knowing and Watchmen have absolutely zero to do with the economy. Those movies were both in development for years, and they’d wrapped shooting well before the bottom dropped out of the stock market. As much as I’d like to see Knowing as a financial allegory, the timing doesn’t make sense.

I’m certainly not the first person to point out that this feels exactly like something M Night Shamalyan would make. (The only difference is he would have written a big annoying part for himself.) Actually, it feels a lot like something he already DID make. Here’s a handy chart comparing Knowing to Signs.


The main character in both Signs and Knowing is a man devastated by the violent death of his wife. Both are previously religious men who have lost their faith. Both men discuss whether events are random or predetermined. Both men have a cute little boy. Both men are faced with evidence of a possible global catastrophe.

I have no idea where this image came from. But it's creeping me out.

I have no idea where this image came from. But it's creeping me out.

I do, however, have one observation I’m pretty sure no one’s noticed yet. Nicolas Cage is pretty much a Superman fanatic. He collects the comic books, he was once supposed to play Superman in a movie, and he even named one of his sons Kal-El, Superman’s krypton name. Now in knowing, Cage plays a brilliant scientist who becomes convinced his planet is doomed. He can’t convince anyone he’s right, but he’s determined to find a way to save his only son. And I don’t want to give the ending away, but let’s just say the Superman parallels become pretty strong in the final reel.

Aw hell, maybe I will give the ending away. Are you sure you don’t mind spoilers? Last chance.

Okay, tell me I’m crazy about the Superman thing. In the third act, we learn that the world is coming to an end, because the sun is shooting out a “super flare.” (Sun-related planet destruction, sound familiar?) The creepy guys that have been stalking Nicolas Cage’s son turn out to be benevolent aliens. They are going to send a small group of children away to escape Earth’s fate. Cage says a tearful, Jor-El-esque goodbye to his boy, who goes up in a spaceship. The planet is consumed by pretty fire. And the last shot of the movie is the kid, running off to explore his new home planet.

I’m guessing that when Nicolas Cage signed on, the ending slowly got Supermanized. Just a guess.

Anyway, thanks a lot to the people at Current for inviting me to be a part of this project. You can see other snippets of me in their review of Street Fighter and their review of 12, the Russian remake of 12 Angry Men.

By the way – you might not want to make any big plans for October 19, 2009. Just in case Nicolas Cage’s numbers are right.

8 Comments on “Knowing is NOT half the battle”

  1. Wade #

    My parents saw Knowing the day it came out, and immediately called me up and told me to go see it so they could have someone to discuss it with. Two weeks later, they’re still talking about it.

    I’ll admit, I enjoyed the ending more than the rest of the movie (just the sci-fi geek in me, I guess), but your Superman parallel just blew my mind.

    Time to call the folks up and see what they think…


    • 144DECODER #

      The knowing is an encoded movie and the earth people live in a dream. Following their scientists and wise men, if something did happen, they would have no escape rout. As well as christians who think you can survive on a boat called an ark which is code for something else. When the earth is burnt to crisp you can’t.

      It is an encoded movie and bet few noticed the number 72 on the lady’s fence plus heaps of other codes cannot allude to. no 72 is in mona lisa, in koran, in egytpian at gods who caused destruction,72 elohim in bible.. i could go on and on.. seek and find people.

      And all you humans out there, stop following scientists. You are every bit of capable of deciphering information but only a NEO CAN MAKING ALL ONE. NEO IS ONE.. WHICH IS WHY HE IS THE ONE.

      All the myths, all the films, all the things don’t disagree and people fight over nothing. Deep down its all same , if you make it ONE.


      The people of earth think by awakening consciousness they can prevent ancient cycles, only if you are assisted and heed the universal warnings. They will think all is peace, then in a few years after 2021 ww3 will come. Then who remains, will think wow its peace now its over.. think again.. murphy’s law.

      The ancients left books for us, that is right petroglyphs. They left us codes and warnings and ancient knowledge. Consciousness is not all butterflies and dancing as fireflies. Your parents are smart to watch the movie. If they don’t already know the code tell them to seek the no 72.. and did you know that jesus was in tomb 72 hours? That is right! 72 x2 also makes 144 which is the number of revelation and of pyramid and of mayans..

      To ignore this message will one day cost humanity its life, if you are still alive in that future time..which I won’t specify


  2. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Sounds like a less good Childhood’s End.

    On another note, I’ve been in a years’ long argument about whether Nicholas Cage is a good actor. I claim yes, but only in comedies or almost-comedies. Cage is excellent in Moonstruck and pretty damn decent in The Rock and Con Air. I don’t like this newish trend of Nicholas Cage playing the action hero in unironic action movies. He’s too…awkward. It’s like having Charles Brodin play the action hero. Or dare I say Steve Buscemi?

    If you’re curious, here’s the most ridiculous scene I’ve ever witnessed, Nicholas Cage’s character’s intro in Moonstruck:


  3. Isaac #

    Nicolas Cage used to be an awesome actor. If you like him in Moonstruck you owe it to yourself to see Birdy, and especially Vampire’s Kiss. Seriously. In Vampire’s Kiss he hits Crispin-Gloverian heights of weirdness, and sustains them for most of the movie. It’s excellent.


  4. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Isaac: Cool! Thanks for the recs!


  5. Stefano #

    I really like Alex Proyas, and I think that Dark City would deserve a greater reputation. However, Knowing was a really bad film: it was dull, superficial, not-credible, poorly acted and lame. Even the final scenes resulted lame, despite not being a happy ending.
    I agree that Nicholas Cage can be a good actor in comedies, but lately he’s not only a horrible actor with one, uninspiring expression (sad eyes+half-open mouth), he’s a guarantee that the film where he stars will suck! Just look at his last 5-10 films…


  6. Colin Richardson #

    I don’t know where to start with this film, it was to idiotic. Space pedophilles come up with a 50 year plan to steal all of earths children and just for a laugh, they tell a little girl when the earth will end just to mess her head up. Why could no adults go with their children at the end of the movie, what were the aliens doing lurking in the woods and whispering to the children and why could they only fit 2 children on each incredibly massive ship. Really really bad movie and these questions are all retorical, i don’t wish to know the answers thanks.


  7. Tracy #

    So, I’ll admit that for the first half or more of the movie I was somewhat into it. This is probably because I don’t usually go to movies that are remotely scary and therefore I was really freaked out by the creepy people coming out of the woods. No seriously, I inadvertently held the hand of the guy sitting next to me I was so freaked out. I had to ask what his name was after the movie. Luckily he wasn’t there with his girlfriend or anything, or I could have left that movie with a black eye.

    In addition to buying into the suspense, I really liked the point you made about the movie not chickening out. I’m always complaining about the perpetual happy endings in Hollywood. It’s probably morbid, but whenever I watch a romantic comedy where it’s impossible for them to be together or one of them gets deathly ill. I want the movie to end without the miracle marriage or the sick person to die, just to prove someone in Hollywood has the guts to do it. Anyway, I will give that to Knowing. They didn’t shy away from their tragic ending.

    But ALIENS! That’s just lame. Give me some psychotic tribe of magic men, give me a secret government organization, just not aliens. I felt like that was a cop out.
    The bunnies theme was interesting, and slightly disturbing. I’m assuming they were supposed to represent fecundity and the eventual re-population of the other planet. But it’s weird to think of that when you’re looking at a couple of 10-year-olds. And adding the Adam and Even connotations at the end was just a lame attempt at depth.

    That’s all. I didn’t really like the movie. But I did like the comparisons you made to Superman. That was funny. So I guess my watching the movie wasn’t a complete waste. I was able to laugh at the Superman comparison because I saw it.


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