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Knowing

tn_knowingI’m not sure I can say KNOWING is that good of a movie, but I do think it’s kind of crazy and subversive for a PG-13 high concept Nic Cage Hollywood sci-fi thriller. So the more I think about it the more I kind of like it.

Nic Cage plays so-and-so, college professor, scientist, single dad, widower. His son (not one of the better child actors, poor kid) is attending his school’s 50th anniversary celebration when they dig up a time capsule. They pass out the 50 year old childen’s drawings predicting the future and this kid only gets a creepy paper covered in numbers. That night Nic happens to look at it and notices some of the numbers are 9-11-01. He Googles 9-11-01 (I guess he doesn’t know you’re supposed to “never forget”) and finds out the death toll, which is also right there on the paper. Then, in a montage of drunken code-breaking, he stays up all night doing web research and figures out that the entire paper exactly predicts the dates all the biggest disasters of the past 50 years in order and how many people died in each. And there are more numbers that haven’t happened yet. And one’s coming up in a couple days. Oh shit.

mp_knowingSo there’s the concept: he has this paper that tells him when something bad will happen so he tries to figure out how to stop it. Of course, being a scientist, and having suffered a tragedy, and being a character in a Hollywood movie, he only believes in the rational and scientific, he has no religion and does not believe in faith, spirituality or secret codes that predict the future.  We know this because he awkwardly stated as much in an emotional lecture to his class. He believes that “shit happens.” So this preordained-future business challenges his beliefs, as it would any of us who do not believe in magic codes that predict the future.

Isn’t it weird how lectures in movies always tell you either exactly what you need to know about the character or about the threat they are about to face? There’s lots of silly shit like that in the movie, and as good as Nic Cage has been at times he has kind of blown his credibility enough with the NATIONAL TREASUREs and the WICKER MAN (and all those “big” movies that he never could’ve done without Michael Bay plucking him up out of obscurity after he won his Oscar) that just his presence trying to sell a concept like this is kind of funny at times. The poor guy. You just want to laugh.

But then the first big setpiece happens and kicks you pretty hard in the balls. Basically he’s stuck in traffic on the date of the next predicted disaster when he suddenly realizes that the column in the middle of the paper that he hadn’t figured out yet represents the latitude and longitude of each disaster, and that he is exactly at that place. Ha ha, funny, right? Goofy coincidence, now some special effects are gonna happen, should be some laughs. He gets out of his car to ask the police what happened, suddenly the cop he’s talking to gets a terrified look on his face… you think maybe there’s gonna be a pile-up or something but no, a fucking jet is coming down and crashes right nearby.

The scene is all done as one handheld shot (a toast to you, CHILDREN OF MEN) as Nic runs into the wreckage to see if he can help anybody. And sure enough there are some survivors, but they’re running around on fire from jet fuel or something. It’s a total nightmare. Maybe it helps that for years I’ve had dreams about witnessing a plane or a helicopter crashing, but jesus, this is way worse than my dreams, I never had people running around screaming and burning. I watched this movie with a gal who gets a chuckle out of all those Roland Emmerich movies, she likes watching the White House blowup and all that shit, but this was too much for her. Maybe there’s some CGI fire and what not in there but this looks pretty real, this feels pretty real, this is kind of creepy in post 9-11 America, even as we get more and more post 9-11.

Also it brings up another ominous side of the premise: if he saves somebody’s life is it gonna affect the death toll? Or was that already factored in? Also, do the predictions matching up with all the articles he read mean that the official estimates of death tolls are always right, or did the code just not want to confuse things by being picky?

There was one point in that scene that seemed like it was almost gonna go in a WICKER MAN direction, when a guy is running toward him on fire and Nic yells “Hey! HEEEEYYY!!” as the guy runs past him. Like he’s pissed that the guy doesn’t stop to answer his questions. But it was pointed out to me that he was probaly gonna tell the guy to stop drop and roll. Anyway it wasn’t good enough to entirely destroy my ironic distance, but it made a solid attempt. The fucked up scary movie overshadows the dumb one, I think, especially as things progress.

I mean, you get comfortable for a little bit. It kind of turns into a higher budget version of the MIRRORS type of story, where a guy goes around following clues and leads and talking to people to solve the mystery of this ridiculous movie concept. And I give him props for treating it seriously and not joking about it like he does in NATIONAL TREASURE. But the winning blow is the next left turn it takes, when suddenly some weird dudes in a car drive up and give Nic’s son a rock. Then these guys start showing up in the movie every once in a while, standing out in the woods spying on the house and shit, always looking emotionless and not giving a shit if anybody sees them. Are they government agents? Monsters? Robots? Doesn’t matter. Whatever they are they’re some spooky shit that show Alex Proyas still has some of those DARK CITY chops.

What makes the movie memorable, aside from that jet crash scene, is that it really doesn’t go where you expect it to. I won’t say everything but I’m gonna say alot, so if you plan to see it you should stop reading so you won’t end up Knowing. The movie has a nice realistic look to it (apparently shot on digital cameras, the good ones though because it looks great) but there are enough elements to put you in mind of the standard slick Hollywood thriller with this type of premise. He meets a woman who eventually believes in the code and they determine that she is destined to die on a particular day, and what’s worse it turns out a solar flare is gonna destroy the fuckin world.

So you can do the math, you know how this formula works out for the most part. They now know this is destined but they have to figure out the loophole to save the world, and then afterwards Nic will believe in a higher power but also be in control of his own destiny and he, the woman, his son and her daughter will form a new loving family although there may or may not be a hint of future predictions of doom. Right? That’s how it goes.

But Alex Proyas does the math different. In his version there really is no way to stop it. By the ender there are (seriously dude, SPOILER) angel-like aliens and Adam and Eve references on another planet. So I admired the movie for taking me on a crazy ride. I would not have guessed in a million years that this movie would end that way. And I would not have guessed that the hero who lost faith because of the tragic death of his wife would find out that there is a pre-ordained order to the universe… and that there’s nothing you can fucking do about it and you are doomed. That’s not usually the message they go for in these types of movies. Usually it’s “Hey sourpuss, believe in God or spirituality or whatever! Don’t be such a grump!” This one is “you’re wrong, there is a higher power. And it will bite your head off and spit it out. Later dude.”

Also did I mention the fucked up dream sequence where all the animals of the forest are running around on fire? First you see a CGI flaming moose and you might laugh but by the end of the sequence it’s like the hunter not only killed Bambi’s mom, but the entire cast of Bambi. By lighting them on fire.

So in the tradition of I, ROBOT, KNOWING is another not-as-bad-as-it-looked movie from Alex Proyas. One of these days I’d like to see him making truly great movies, but until then I’ll take him as the guy who gets a couple good ones past the suits in mainstream movies.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 12:36 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

65 Responses to “Knowing”

  1. Damn, so far I’ve been avoiding all spoilers to this one and it will take a while till it comes out on DVD over here. That means that because I don’t wanna get spoiled, I won’t be able to read this review for a while, although I never miss anything you write.

  2. sometimes i wish you only reviewed terrible-looking nicolas cage movies vern. unreal

  3. no one else was gonna convince me to check this out.
    now i might just have to. even though i spoiled it for myself (i can never stop reading when you fuckin tell me to, haha).

  4. Well Dark City is pretty good , in my opinion , but I hated “I, ROBOT”. I’m an Asimov fan , not one of the obsessed fans , but I was able to read a couple of his books a while back , especially the Robots Books. My favorite is “The Caves of Steel” , a detective story with a man and a robot trying to understand each other.”The Caves of Steel” is the perfect book to film , but “I, ROBOT” is the most famous one , so they adapted this one. It’s already difficult to adapt a short story collection , but they added the star power of Will Smith to the mix , and the sidekick and humor , making it even harder.So I don’t think Proyas is entirely to blame for the movie…..

    …and if you remember “The Crow” , you KNOW the guy has INCREDIBLE bad luck.

  5. Hey Vern – long time reader, first time poster. Got to agree with you on Knowing. Much better than you’d have thought from the reviews it got when it came out. You’ve got to feel for Cage these days. He’s become kind of a whipping boy – can’t do anything right. And he’s not the best here – the same horsey faced glummo he always plays these days (Bangok Dangerous?) – but I still like him. Still, he could try a bit harder. Keep it up Vern! You are the best

  6. Proyas is one of those great disappointments to me.

    After ‘The Crow’ and especially after ‘Dark City’ I expected to see great things from him.

    Then Fox screwed him on ‘I Robot’ (he almost quite directing after teh experience actually, he was going to write a book about it but has since abandoned it). I didn’t hate ‘Robot’ but I wouldn’t say it was a good movie though, maybe passable. The movie seemed to me that it had a case of the director wanted to make a thought-provoking (or at least thinking-man’s) science fiction movie in a world growing more and more dependent on technology while the studios (and Will Smith who had ‘creative differences’ with Proyas and even did the assholish thing of hiring Akiva Goldsmith to rewrite the script) wanted to make a big event movie where shit blew up and awesome CGI.

    I didn’t like ‘Garage Days’. I expected more from him than yet another melodramatic drama. That’s not any good to boot.

    The only reason I saw ‘The Knowing’ was because of Proyas. Like ‘Robot’ & ‘Garage’ I expected better from the man who made the entertaining ‘The Crow’ (even better with nostalgia glasses!) and the excellent ‘Dark City’ (I’m one of those fans who are able to enjoy this AND ‘The Matrix’ since general internet consensus is that you can only like one or the other). Like ‘Robot’ (and ‘Garage’ for that matter) ‘Knowing’ has a good-to-great premise and only routinely succeeds. No point me going over it as vern already touched base on all of that.

    I’d love to say that his movies are like this now due to typical Hollywood shenanigans but then that doesn’t explain the non-Hollywood ‘Garage Days’.

    That said Proyas is one of those one’s it seems I will continue to seek out and view his movies no matter what in hopes that he makes a film as awesome as ‘Crow’ & ‘Dark City’ again.

    -by-the-way you guys notice how I fucking love using parentheses (I blame my English teachers; I used to be an English major and they allowed it.) I should cut that shit out.

  7. SPOILERY TALK WITHIN

    I saw this one after hearing about the religious slant and kinda dug it, too. I just wish that they had thought their ideas through a little more, cause some of it seems half baked. The disaster scenes were pretty sweet, and this movie definitely had half a thought in its head (as opposed to most movies like this). The angel-aliens were weird and kinda cool, but I also kind of hated the super digital looking New Eden. But hey, this movie could have been a helluva lot worse.

  8. Yeah, I don’t know what to do with this movie. I saw it in the theater hoping to see Nic Cage completely embarrass himself ala “Next”, and he had a couple silly moments, but all-in-all he kept his dignity while not doing anything too interesting either. Then the movie turned out to be better than I expected, but still not great. Proyas is definitely talented, and I think he has a masterpiece in him somewhere, but he really needs to stay away from big Hollywood projects and make something from scratch.

    And that piece where Michael Bay defends the acting in his movies is hilarious. He doesn’t even seem to know what acting is. I also like how he basically shits on the entire cast and crew by saying that he “carried the entire film.” What a self-righteous prick. That said, I’m on pins and needles waiting to see how that “Art film” of his turns out.

  9. Christian Brimo

    July 6th, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Garage Days is pretty bad. I kinda live in that world – inner city Sydney, hang out with lots of local rock bands, etc – and it doesn’t even work on a basic ‘hey, i know these people’ level
    Vern you and Roger Ebert are the only two people who seemed to like this movie. I think thats a good enough recommendation to see it

  10. I saw this movie at a drive in theater and fucking loved it…

    SPOILERY SHIT: The ending struck me as a very clever rip off of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”.

  11. I’ll take ten failed Alex Proyas films over one Michael Bay “film” any day, thank you. And this was NOT a failed Alex Proyas film. Although you’d think the marketers would take the pointless number out of “Know1ng”‘s title; we already have one “Se7en”, people.

    Glad to see you give this a fair shake, Vern. There were quite a few reasons I enjoyed this movie, both serious (the spiritual content) and silly (Nicolas Cage yelling and whacking the shit out of that tree–ah, ACTING!). But a big chunk had to do with, as you said, the look, which I believe had less to do with camera technology and more to do with Authentic Boston Locations. I can vouch for a lot of the outdoor shots in this film (although where is his father living at the end? Beacon Hill? Those streets are so wide), and I think it added a bit more character than your average “disaster pic” these days. How many times does Roland Emmerich want to destroy the White House (now with an aircraft carrier in the 2012 trailer!)? It’s so much more unnerving when the end of the world happens where you live.

    Get used to it, because it’s possible that Boston is going to figure a lot more into movie settings in the very near future. Just to cite one upcoming example with an approved Badass Of Cinema™, Mel Gibson’s next one, “Edge Of Darkness”, was filmed right across from where my girlfriend works. I better get movin’ if I want to start chewing the scenery with the likes of Nic Cage. It’s happening in my back yard!

    Anyway, Alex Proyas should move here and film his masterpiece; I know he has it in him. All he needs is a little distance from the big studio machine. Boston or Seattle, your choice. Hm. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t have given you that choice.

    (Say, what’s the last “big studio” movie you saw that was filmed in Seattle, anyway?)

  12. CrustaceanHate

    July 6th, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I felt sorry for Nic Cage’s character in this film because it seemed like a Boy Who Cried Wolf affair… he was running around doing his bug-eyed over-acting thing and everyone was like “Oh, that’s just Nicolas Cage doing his usual scenery chewing. End of the world? Sure Nic, whatever.” Also it took him WAY too long to figure out that those numbers were lat/long coordinates. I mean, he’s an astrophysicist… I thought that would have been one of the first things he’d try.

    I also like the fact that the ending didn’t puss out. I don’t think it was a sci-fi masterpiece like Ebert, but I didn’t think it was a piece of shit like most other people. It was alright.

  13. I don’t know that it’s necessarily right to sympathize with Nicolas Cage at this point in his career. I refuse to out-and-out dismiss his talent, but he has been on an almost unprecedented streak of bad movies. He maybe needs to relax for a bit and wait for a smaller film to come his way that requires something a little different out of him. He seems to be genuinely weird in a way that I think could translate well on screen, and I would love to seem him play a more interesting character in a smaller movie again. I doubt it will happen, but it would be a better step than doing another “Bangkok Dangerous” or “Next”. And cut the hair Nick.

  14. I prefer Dark City to The Matrix, so every movie he makes that misses that mark bums me out profoundly.

  15. yeah, there’s all kinds of christian imagery/references in this.

    “heaven and earth will pass away, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth”. and the scripture mentions how “wherein dwelleth righteousness”, as if only the righteous (vegetarians, according to Proyas?) will occupy the new heaven/earth….

    Ezekiel talks about cherubim of light, wheels within wheels. ‘Zeke saw lots of cool shit in his prophecies http://www.biblestudy.org/question/ezekiel-and-wheel-inside-wheel-vision.html

    Prophecies regarding the end of the earth talk about how God will not destroy the earth in water (as He did in the floor), but rather with Fire.

    Isa 65:17-FOR, BEHOLD, I CREATE NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH: AND THE FORMER SHALL NOT BE REMEMBERED, NOR COME INTO MIND.
    Rev 21:1-AND I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH: FOR THE FIRST (or old) HEAVEN AND THE FIRST (or old) EARTH WERE PASSED AWAY; AND THERE WAS NO (longer any) MORE SEA.
    2 Pe 3:10-BUT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT; IN THE WHICH THE HEAVENS SHALL PASS AWAY WITH A GREAT NOISE, AND THE ELEMENTS SHALL MELT WITH FERVENT HEAT, THE EARTH ALSO AND THE WORKS THAT ARE THEREIN SHALL BE BURNED UP.

  16. HOLY SHIT! That Michael Bay interview!

    1) I literally carried this movie on my back.

    2) I don’t know who [would] want to take on my shoes with this franchise.

    3) Well, that’s Megan Fox for you. She says some very ridiculous things because she’s 23 years old and she still has a lot of growing to do.

    4) Nick Cage wasn’t a big actor when I cast him, nor was Ben Affleck… Shia LaBeouf wasn’t a big movie star… Not to mention Will Smith and Martin Lawrence….

    5) People have come before from the special effects houses and have not done well. People can come from anywhere—but its really about telling stories. Either you’re born to do this or you’re not.

  17. When I saw this in the theatre, despite its absurdity I’ve got to admit the film had me hook, line and sinker for the first hour and a half or so. But I have to say it started losing me around the time you saw [SPOILERS-ish] a guy open his mouth to reveal a beam of light coming out. By the time the ending came along it had lost me completely. I felt like it was worth my time because I had enjoyed the journey even if the destination was a let down. At the time, I would have rated a 3/5. In retrospect, I would bump it up to a 4/5, because whatever it’s problems, it was a film with a lot to think about which has stayed in my mind. No other films I’ve seen this year have either given me much to think about, nor particularly stayed in my mind, with the exception of “Public Enemy” (and I only saw that two days ago) and, um, “Coraline 3D”. So I would say “Knowing” stands up as a pretty good movie, as silly as it is. Heck, forget the year, how many sci-fi films this fucking DECADE have we seen hit multiplexes that offered any food for thought?

  18. Have you guys seen the crazy trailer for Bad Lieutenant on you tube? Someone please tell me that is a real movie because I have never laughed so hard at a trailer. Anyone? Please ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s043quEQ9FY

    So you watched this movie with a girl huh Vern ? Nice one.

  19. I am talking about Bad Lieutenant with Nice Cage, not the original. Just to avoid confusion.
    I not sure if its a remake because i haven´t seen the original.

  20. It’s a real movie. It’s directed by Werner Herzog and everything. It’s kind of a remake, kind of a sequel, and kind of neither. It’s a very odd project altogether.

  21. Yeah I just looked it up on IMDB. I couldn’t find it earlier for sum reason. This is the best news ever.

    I think Nic Cage writes his own dialogue. How else do we explain the crazy things he gets to say in movies ?

  22. That should be *some reason*.

    Fuckin internet.

  23. I’d agree with this review. It’s similar to I Robot in that it’s better than you expect, but it’s still only worth seeing once.

  24. this is unrelated, but over on aintitcool there’s an article on a trilogy of “blade” prequels (without the blade character). i’d love to hear your thoughts on that one vern…

  25. Danny — I saw that one too, and almost posted about it over there until I realized that someone would probably bring it up here. As far as I’m concerned, though, a “Blade” without Blade would be pretty pointless. There’s a ton of other attempts at that sort of thing (hell, “Underworld” is pretty much the same thing but with no sense of humor whatsoever). The original Blade is pretty nice, but since then there have been so many imitators that I have hardly any desire to the franchise milked more, especially without the characters who made it cool to begin with. I don’t think it could feel like anything other than a shameless cash grab.

  26. pheteesh: Wow , thanks man !! I didn’t knew that a trailer for the Bad Lieutenant – Reloaded was already out. I don’t know what to say , I normally consider remakes pointless , but Cage-Kilmer-Herzog ? Cage can be a good actor ( and is a weirdo ) , I like Val Kilmer in “Kiss Kiss , Bang Bang” and “Tombstone” ( and he’s also kind of a weirdo ) and they’re both in a movie directed by Werner Herzog ? I’m officially interested .

  27. Danny – that sounds like some horse shit, I can’t imagine they would really do that, especially since they’re talking trilogy. If it even ever was a project I can’t imagine it would make it to film. But I do hope Norrington eventually gets another shot at making a movie (last I heard he was remaking The Crow, originally directed by Mr. Proyas here).

  28. CordwainerBirdIII

    July 7th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Vern -Thanks for the mini-review before you announced spoiler territory. I do plan on watching the Blu-Ray, and I did stop reading.

  29. Christian Brimo

    July 7th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    “Anyway, Alex Proyas should move here and film his masterpiece; I know he has it in him. All he needs is a little distance from the big studio machine. Boston or Seattle, your choice. Hm. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t have given you that choice.”

    No way! He’s Sydney’s, dammit.

  30. Christian Brimo

    July 7th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    “Danny — I saw that one too, and almost posted about it over there until I realized that someone would probably bring it up here. As far as I’m concerned, though, a “Blade” without Blade would be pretty pointless. There’s a ton of other attempts at that sort of thing (hell, “Underworld” is pretty much the same thing but with no sense of humor whatsoever). The original Blade is pretty nice, but since then there have been so many imitators that I have hardly any desire to the franchise milked more, especially without the characters who made it cool to begin with. I don’t think it could feel like anything other than a shameless cash grab.”

    If they based it on the original Blaxplotation Blade it could be cool. or the ‘occult superhero team’ he was part of

  31. Yeah, I have a real hard time imagining that any studio executive would greenlight not just one, but three big-budget, effects-driven movies starring Stephen Dorff. Absolutely nothing about that sounds right.

    I would be interested to see what Norrington would do with The Crow, though. I like the Proyas film a lot, but the comic is so much better. There’s a lot of great material there that Proyas didn’t touch on.

  32. Sorry to continue the hijacking (away from Knowing and into Blade) but Christian above just made me realise I would love them to do a movie about Jefferson Twilight. He’s the spoof Blade from the Venture Bros and is both hilarious and Bad Ass. He’s like the Black Dynamite of the action horror genre. He exclusively hunts and kills Blaculas. It would be brilliant bit of fun for Sam Jackson. I’d certainly prefer that to Deacon Frost Rising.

  33. Christian Brimo –“If they based it on the original Blaxplotation Blade it could be cool. or the ‘occult superhero team’ he was part of?”

    Eh, I’m even kind of ambivalent to that idea. Both ideas could be cool in the right hands, but I kind of doubt those hands will be anywhere near the thing. I just kind of doubt they have any good ideas for it. I mean, I’m always game for awesomeness, and awesomeness sometimes blooms in the most unexpected spots (I mean, if you’d asked me what chances I thought “Blade II” had of being better in the original, I would have told you slim to none). But now the terrain of this kind of genre movie has been pretty well mapped. I don’t really care about Deacon Frost or where he came from particularly, so it just seems like a story that doesn’t need to be told in a franchise which doesn’t really need to be extended in a genre that has been piling on the cliches lately. And for fuck’s sake, what, they can’t wait for Snipes to get out of prison? Guy’s definitely gonna need the cash.

  34. Watched this last night so I would could read the review without being spoiled.

    As usual, Vern, I agree with most of what you say, apart from the implied idea that the one cool set piece and the not quite going where you expect it to excuses the general badness of the film. I’m sorry, but this is still a VERY bad film.

    People often use the “classroom scene” as a jump off point for mocking The Happening. Well Knowing give us TWO retarded classrom exposition scenes in literally the first ten minutes.

    Oh and never mind that we get the whole prologue set in the fifties, the ENTIRE content of which is revealed in subsequent exposition. Like they wanted the option of cutting that scene if the film ran over. If they HAD cut it, we might have been more interested in watching the protagonists learn things we had been told at the start of the film.

    And what’s up with Nic Cage’s constantly speaking in a kind of dazed monotone? I’m sure this is a realistic portrayal of how severely traumatised people speak, but it might easily be confused with a failure on Mr Cage’s part to attempt any kind of acting. Maybe he’s like this in all his recent films? The last time I saw one of his films, he was sending up all the dumb Hollywood conventions that Knowing employs in deadly earnest.

    I wasn’t really all the surprised (SPOILERISH) by the “meanness” of the ending. I had heard that this was Christian propaganda disguised as popcorn cinema, and there are a couple of other high profile directors operating in that mode right now. Of the two, a certain Mr Shyalaman has previously made almost the exact same film as Knowing in the form of Signs, albiet with a happy(er) ending.

    The other, a certain Mr Gibson, well he may have made a film or two in which The World is revealed to be a Harsh Place, higher power or no, and where people routinely Suffer for their Faith(s). The old testament is full of people being casually asked by God of they would kindly die, kill their own kids, float off in a boat while veryone else drowns, etc etc.

    The fundamental problem with this film, and its fuzzier sibling Signs, is that they attempt to make an argument for Theism by presenting an ordered world in which there’s undeniable evidence that there’s no such thing as coincidence and things happen because there is A Plan. Unfortunately, the fact that they have to present such a world to us in a WORK OF FICTION only reminds us that there is zero evidence for this in the actual real world. Talk about crucifying yourself in the foot. Sheesh.

  35. Andrew seems to dislike the movie for the same reasons most of the reviewers have been dissing it, because the premise of Christian imagery and symbolism is “ridiculous” bordering on propaganda.

    I think that’s a bad way to review films, to carry your own political bias into it. In Vern’s review, he didn’t judge the worldview contents of the movie, but instead admired it for having the balls to turn your expectations upside-down. “So I admired the movie for taking me on a crazy ride. I would not have guessed in a million years that this movie would end that way.” It had the ability to surprise, and that should give the film merit imo.

    Another way to think of it, is that Proyas is not necessarily espousing Christian beliefs… he is using “controversial” Christian beliefs to shock the audience. Maybe it worked a little too well…

  36. Christian Brimo

    July 8th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Yeah I’m an atheist through and through but I love me some Dante, Milton, Springsteen, whatever… fucked up religion can make good fiction

  37. SPOILERS

    I think some people see Christian propaganda where I don’t. I could be wrong but it definitely doesn’t seem believable to me that this was meant to promote an actual world view. I mean yeah, the fire and brimstone folks are real into apocalypses, but in their version it’s all about you accept Jesus and go to Heaven (or vice versa). This one has a prophesized end to the world but nobody worries about saving anybody’s souls and only aliens try to do anything.

    What I was trying to say about this in the review is that alot of movies (like the theatrical cut of I AM LEGEND for example) use this sort of thing as a symbol for unspecified spirituality. In that case it’s pro-religious although not specifically Christian. KNOWING completely fucks with that formula by showing that everybody is fucking doomed. He doesn’t get enlightened or saved or martyr himself. He just finds out that everybody is fucked and then he dies.

  38. Snotty, I did start off by listing all the purely filmic reasons why Knowing is bad…

    I wasn’t knocking Christianity itself, I was just pointing out that portaying deterministic worlds in fiction is a very stupid way argue in favour of Christianity.

    SPOILER

    Vern – I like the idea that maybe this is just a “gee whiz what if [certain blible ish ideas] were true” adventure movie, but the ending and the overall tone (awkward though said tione is) seem to be telling us Mr Proyas really wants us to THINK about stuff…

    I think those are explicity angels at the end and I think they made them look JUST ENOUGH like aliens so the studio execs wouldnt get uncomfortable about funding a Left Behind movie. Also, the angelaliens told the little girl her mother was “safe now”, and Nic’s last line is something to the effect of “this is not the end” – so I wouldnt call it a bummer ending. It’s a bummer for those who don’t believe in heaven, but luckily every character does by the end of the film.

    It doesnt play out exactly like the Rapture (with all the good folks being taken away, not just 10 of their kids), but I think it’s the same general idea. There’s still an end of the world, and it still very much matters what you believe when that end arrives. I think Proyas’ mesage is something like “sure the bible might not be literally true, but maybe it’s Close Enough…”

    But you know, the film really isn’t good enough to warrant a serious debate about Mr Proyas’ message. Learn how to convey an appropriate tone, how to cast kids and how to direct Oscar winning actors, and then maybe you’ll deserve a big debate about your worldview.

  39. I agree Vern. This has more in common with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End than it does with Left Behind.
    It’s concerned with Christian mythology and imagery but there’s no doctrines or dogma.

    “Look, it’s just like Adam and Eve, see what we did there? Neat huh!”

  40. I don’t agree. I thought they were aliens and never thought angels until I listened to the commentary track where he said that he wanted it to be ambiguous as to whether they were aliens or angels. He made a mix of both so that it would be up to the audience what was going on. Which is the opposite of trying to push a message down our throat.

    I still don’t think the Rapture thing fits at all, since the whole idea of the Rapture is accepting Jesus Christ to be saved. The only person in this movie who accepts Jesus Christ is his father, who horribly burns to death just like everybody else. If there was supposed to be some kind of Christian message wouldn’t his father get to go to Space Eden with the grand kids? Yeah, he wants you to think about things, but he’s not telling you to accept some religion (not that that would be so bad anyway, I don’t really understand why that’s so upsetting to some people).

    In my opinion this is just a movie about animals and people catching on fire and creepy aliens stalking people and giving away free rocks.

  41. What the hell was up with those rocks anyway? Sure they looked cool, but couldn’t they have given them a written address or a link to google maps or something.

  42. Vern, love your reviews but gotta point out – you hate INDEPENDENCE DAY. Okay, sure. Not a big deal although I think it’s not bad. Then I read you semi-like KNOWING and THE UNBORN and I’m like what the hell?

  43. Man, this review pretty much explains my whole whole view on the movie as well. It just went beyond one movie and turned into like 5 different movies that I didn’t expect to have within it. But its kinda why I liked it too. Though the movie didn’t really have a real flow to it, there were just moments in it that stuck out after watching.

    Its funny how both Proyas and Norrington are mentioned here since I can’t help but think that they’re similar somehow. Both can portray pretty gritty atmospheres in their movies when allowed, they have made great movies out of obscure not so known comic books, and they have been constantly fucked over by studios while missing even more opportunities that could’ve furthered their careers. That, and now the crow seems to be their binding link apart from Goyer being a writer on dark city. Proyas seems to be getting by in some respect, though some of his creativity is shown more of a little touches now when compared to a whole movie like Del toro’s. Norrington, I’ve been waiting for him to come back since Freddy vs Jason, and with every project he now may or may not attach himself into has me wondering if its really worth the comeback. But wheter or not these directors ever do make another film, I still feel that they could’ve been great and hope that they still have have it in them to make something amazing due to some of their previous work.

    Heh, and Vern’s “spoilers”! its all part of the fun reading in your reviews. I remember the first review I ever read of yours was the “I’ll always know what you did last summer” dtv and that had the best “Warning/Spoiler” I’ve ever seen in a review! Seriously, if you people haven’t read it go find it! It has some of the funniest shit i’ve seen, even before the april fools joke that came awhile back. Its made me a fan and constant reader since.

  44. what i took from the movie was “Believing in Jesus/Getting Saved” = “becoming a vegetarian/moving to Eden”

    no one left on earth get saved, the only “righteous/pure” people who get “raptured” are the kids, who are vegetarian for some reason?

  45. good point, doodler. this movie is shameless vegetarian propaganda.

    also it seems to be set in some utopian world where there are only 10 vegetarians on earth and they are all kids so no one has to deal with vacant celebrity PETA ads or self righteous hippy roommates

  46. CrustaceanHate

    July 9th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I completely forgot that they were vegetarian. I figured that the rabbits were there for them to eat (after they’ve multiplied for a few generations). What else are they going to do? Walk around randomly sampling alien fruits and vegetables? I mean, the colours of those plants were all fucked up, they can’t be safe for human consumption.

  47. maybe they are supposed to watch the rabbits eat the plants and take note of which ones make them die?

    or alternatively, lacking parents to teach them about the birds and the bees, they are supposed to learn by example from the rabbits…

  48. The rabbits symbolize the need for the kids to start fucking, getting the population back up. Not complicated.

  49. Indeed. To be more specific, they represent the famous quote “go forth and multiply” from that book this movie has nothing to do with.

  50. Nick Merill: Wait a minute – why is INDEPENDENCE DAY the movie to measure all others against? I didn’t know we were at that stage. I thought it was just a terrible movie that was hugely popular for about six months in the mid-90s and now is just funny to watch 5 or 10 minutes of ironically because it’s on cable every fucking day.

    I’ll give you this: I laugh every time I see the dog run away from the explosion. But yes, I stand by KNOWING being a better movie. Less dumb, more original, more subversive, shorter. And there’s nothing in INDEPENDENCE DAY that approaches the plane crash scene. Also come to think of it Roland Emmerich has one of the same problems as Michael Bay: terrible sense of humor, won’t stop making jokes. I like that KNOWING takes itself seriously, even if I’m laughing at it some of the time.

  51. But Vern, INDEPENDENCE DAY didn’t have a Gone-To-Seed, bad hair (hair plugs?) Nic Cage who I was way preoccupied watching cause I remember him in his prime in the 90’s. I think this is a matter of opinion as I usually am not a fan of mainstream but for me, INDEPENDENCE DAY, was more enjoyable and entertaining then KNOWING and UNBORN and MIRRORS. In most new movies, they take a semi-clever concept and never really do anything with it. But what do I know I enjoyed Nic Cage’s mid 90’s run of CON AIR, THE ROCK and LEAVING LAS VEGAS plus when he was a muscle bound, thug in some movie with that CSI MIami guy. He should have been in INDEPENDENCE DAY!

  52. no ones saying that the film doesn’t use religious symbolism, but to me it didn’t feel like a religious film. what was it preaching? the implicit message is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, you are going to die. the film never suggests that there’s an afterlife, or a god. some of the characters believe that, but the text doesn’t support it.

    it may be worth mentioning that this was going to be richard kelly’s second film at one point.

  53. Vern, how does Proyas come across in that commentary? I’ve read like one interview by the guy and he spent the whole thing bitching about Fox (makes sense) and I’m curious what sort of vibe he gives off.

  54. He comes off very serious, some would say pretentious. I don’t remember him joking around at all or being self-deprecating in any way. He just talks very seriously about the meaning of the scenes and how he feels movies should be made. At times he comes across a little silly because he’s talking about the movie like it’s better than it actually is, but that’s okay. I like that he really means it.

  55. Cool. I know I’m the guy who says people shouldn’t let their opinions of directors get in the way of their opinions of the movies themselves, but I’m as guilty as anybody in some cases. With a guy like Richard Kelly I give him some slack because when he talks about his stuff he seems sort of self-deprecating and comes across as having a sense of humor about himself and the way people react to it. Compare that to a guy like Kurt Wimmer or Troy Duffy who think they reinvent cinema every time they make a ilm (once every ten years).

  56. Hey, finally saw this baby… yea, guess I missed the discussion but while its not exactly good it is pretty interesting. Its unusual enough to keep you awake and competent enough not to embarrass itself. Although Nic Cage tries, he’s kind of all wrong for the material… but I like whoever played the daughter of the number lady. Her panic towards the end as all fucking shit is coming down feel more real than the rest of the movie-ish performances here.

  57. Ha! Thanks for the review Vern. I watched it yesterday and yeah the crash scene was a pretty stand out moment. It’s nice to see proyas direct some large crowd scenes that don’t look like 20 people in a studio in front of a blue screen. (absolute lowest point of I robot I think).

    Anyway, the best part of this movie was seeing Ben Mendelson in a semi-serious role. Maybe he’ll actually be cast in something decent soon.

  58. SPOILERY

    Great Review Vern. I was quite surprised by this movie as well and quite enjoyed it. I took my girl friend along to see it and we were both expecting some tame PG-13 watered down sci-fi action thriller in the vein of National Treasure or Next, but it was rather morbid. It was good to see a movie that didn’t play to traditional hollywood cliche’s and end up with a happy ending and a lesson to be learned. The disaster sequences were quite horrific (that fire scene horrified me too), but unfortunately I missed the Train Wreck moment as nature called. Also those Angel Alien guys creeped me out. I don’t normally scare easy with movie monsters and normally able to laugh them away, but there was something unnerving about those guys.
    You know normally with these types of disaster movies there’s always some half-baked hail mary plan the government or some agency/person have up their sleeve to save the world, which has only the slimmest chance of working and ends up miraculously working or partially works to save the world. It was great to finally see a movie where humanity has no plan and is essentially screwed in the face of overwhelming odds. It was a punch in the balls to see an ending like that, but it was refreshing and its because of this movie that got me interested in the aspect of atheism and cosmicism:

    “The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as God, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos, ever susceptible to being wiped from existence at any moment. This also suggested that the majority of undiscerning humanity are creatures with the same significance as insects in a much greater struggle between greater forces which, due to humanity’s small, visionless and unimportant nature, it does not recognize.”

  59. Off-topic, but apparently Nic Cage owes the IRS in back taxes. How much?

    $6 million.

    Considering how many bad/lame movies he’s acted in the last few years, one would think this wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

    http://www.aolcdn.com/tmz_documents/1008_nic_cage_taxes_doc_wm.pdf

  60. Well, boys, I watched this on your say-so, hoping for some of that good ol’ Cage unintentional hilarity. However, maybe it’s because I am currently sitting in the path of a massive hurricane but I didn’t find this movie hilarious at all. I found it deeply unsettling. Okay, maybe I chuckled at Cage hitting the tree with a bat and yelling “You want some of this?” And yeah, those special effects were pretty terrible. The one-shot plane crash was cool but CGI fire never looks like anything but CGI fire. Other than that, I didn’t find it preposterous at all. Like someone else mentioned, I caught the CHILDHOOD’S END vibe early, so the aliens didn’t come out of left field for me. I think what set KNOWING apart from 2012 and other disaster flicks is that the disaster doesn’t happen until the very end. It’s not something you can keep yourself busy running away from. You just have to hang around knowing (see what I did there?) that it’s coming and not being able to do anything about it.

    The part that really disturbed me was when Cage was driving to his folks’ house to prepare for the end. It got me thinking: What would I do? My family lives a couple hundred miles away. I’d never be able to get there. Who would I want to spend my last few hours with? I kind of drew a blank. I got friends, sure, but they’d likely want to be with their loved ones, not some guy they drink and make sarcastic remarks with. I’m a loner by nature, but it seems wrong to watch the apocalypse by yourself. Call me soft, but I think you should be hugging someone when the wall of fire comes.

    So thanks, KNOWING, for teaching me the value of my fellow humans. And for depressing the shit out of me, jeez.

    Maybe I should have watched GHOST RIDER instead.

  61. That’s part of why I really liked this movie, Mr Mr Majestyk. It is a legitimately good movie for a lot of its run and it has a lot of moments that are terrifying and depressing. I also found a lot of moments scattered in between to be hysterical (“THE CAVES WONT SAVE YOU!!” being a line friends and I use a lot).

  62. Also, this is one of those times where I agree with Vern’s review completely. Maybe not completely as I feel that I may like it more than he did, but it’s close!

    It’s weird to read comments from two years ago. Why all the Nic Cage hate? I thought he was great in this! I thought he was clearly playing a depressed alcoholic (he drinks all the time in this movie) he only half believes what is going on and is starting to break down from the loss of his wife, being a single father, being estranged from his father, and knowing bad things are going to happen and that he is powerless to do anything about it. Maybe I’m a weird dude but I imagine myself acting in the same way he acted in this movie. I thought he did a good job. I thought his acting here was on par with something like The Weatherman, which I think is really great.

  63. I did have some beef with Rose Byrne’s behavior at that point. Cage had gotten them that far and all of a sudden she’s like “You’re wrong, scientist guy who knows about science and figured this whole thing out! The caves are made of magic! I will steal your child to put him in the magic cave where there will be enough oxygen and food to last until the ozone grows back in a couple thousand years!” However, Rose Byrne is very pleasant to look at so I forgave her.

    Oh yeah, and the “Hey! HEY!” part with the guy on fire was pretty funny. “I’m talking to you, asshole! Is this the way to the burning wreckage or not?”

  64. And the burning moose. Oh lord, the burning moose.

    You guys are right, there’s some hilarity sprinkled in here. But mostly dread and depressingness. It’s a weird mix. Like that Will Smith movie where he takes a bath with a jellyfish.

  65. Yeah I too thought this one was an exact perfect balance of legitimately good, legitimately crazy, and unintentionally hilarious. Few movies have the balls to go as bugnuts crazy as this one does at the end and still keep an absolutely straight face.

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