A Hopeful Apocalypse

image by Veronica V. Jones

Are You Missing out on Knowing?

Nicolas Cage as Joh Koestler and Rose Byrne as Diana Wayland.
Strange silent men surround the Koestler house.
Chandler Canterbury as Caleb Koestler watches a firestorm approach his window.

Perhaps you were avoiding the Alex Proyas film Knowing because the trailers made it appear to be a generic Hollywood disaster flick, or maybe you were afraid of another bizarre performance from it’s leading man. Whatever the source of your reluctance, I’m here to tell you that this film is anything but generic, and hardly Tinseltown’s normal action-adventure fare.

The film starts out simply enough, with a time capsule containing a young student’s drawings being buried at an elementary school, to be opened and distributed to the students of the same school 50 years later. But when one widower’s son receives a long string of numbers in lieu of a drawing, it’s soon discovered to be a list of fatal disasters, nearly all of which have already occurred since the list was created. The last few, however, will occur within days.

Given the relentlessly-expanding scope of the film’s events, Nicolas Cage — as the widower uncovering a potential prophecy of doom — was given plenty of room to react to extraordinary events that unfolded around his character. The people with whom he interacts provide a ballast that never let him or the film get too quickly out of hand. Even the child actors are calm and reasonable — as they can only be in films — yet still retain enough of their innocence and wonder to weather the increasingly improbable events that occur.

The trend of late is for the marketing teams to underplay or hide altogether the fantastic elements of movies — The Last Mimzy‘s extraterrestrial origin being one such example — and Knowing is the latest victim of this trend. Theists and Humanists alike will be challenged by the events of this film, but its ultimate message is irrefutable: the only certainty we have is that our future rests in the hands of our children.

Written by in May of 2009. Last edited July 2021.

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  • Steve - May 2nd, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Sorry, but I thought Knowing was rubbish! All the conflict of the movie was based on the angel/aliens being too stupid to simply say ‘we’re here to rescue your son’.

    Furthermore, the son isn’t particularly worth rescuing. He’s nice enough, but no substitute for the entire human race being annihilated. Just because this kid has a higher midichlorian count than normal humans doesn’t make him the messiah.

    And these aliens had a fleet of colossal spacecraft, but they could only rescue two kids per ship? They’re obviously not a more intelligent species, or more ethical.

    And giving the children a pet bunny rabbit each is no consolation prize for their families and friends being killed and their being abandoned in an alien wilderness. I suppose the kids are so emotionally retarded that the deaths of the human race had little impact on them.

    Directorially the movie was completely unsatisfying. It was set up as a ‘race against time to save the world’ film in which the protagonists fail to save the world! I have no problem with apocalyptic movies, but this was a blatant bait and switch. In a movie where the world ends Hollywood conventions require that the human race be portrayed as largely unworthy of salvation. This wasn’t the case here, neither were the chosen survivors particularly worthy apart from an arbitrary trait as I’ve said.

    The special effects at the end were great, but as with Deep Impact, they weren’t worth sitting through the whole movie for.

    The Knowing is a waste of time!

  • Jeff - May 3rd, 2009 at 2:38 am

    Steve, the fact that the protagonists failed was why I loved this movie so much! Your points about the strangers (Proyas can’t seem to shake that term) being so selective are valid, but the kids were told their friends and family were “safe”. Depending on your beliefs, that’s either the truth or a comforting lie.

    I understand your anger — and I agree that some of the logic of the film falls down under scrutiny — but for me the message really was “shit happens” and the human race was lucky that a few kids were spared a capricious and meaningless death. Was it fair that the guys with the ships got to pick their passengers? No, but again.. that’s life. : )