Monday, June 13, 2011
Knowing: Terrible Movies #141
Warning: Contains spoilers.
I wanted to like this movie. I didn't. And I wanted to be generous. I can't.
The problem with modern movies is through the use of computers and state-of-the-art cameras and hundreds of millions of dollars, terrible movies can look pretty fantastic. Through dozens of screenwriters and focus groups and test screenings, all the warts and blemishes can be buffed away in a terrible movie, leaving you with a lovely finished product that at first seems to make some semblance of sense. It's not quite like it was in the old days. There are no cardboard sets or visible booms. Computers dermabrade all the imperfections away, and in a world where computers make anything possible in film, modern film-makers feel they have an obligation to show us everything that is possible whether we need to see it or not.
"Knowing" has an intriguing premise, where a young girl scribbles cryptic numbers on a sheet of paper and places it in a time capsule. 50 years later, Nicolas Cage realizes that the numbers signify terrible events that happened in the past, and of course, some that could happen in the future. It's beautifully shot and has some eerie moments. I was fooled for about 30 minutes into believing this movie wasn't awful. I started watching it kind of late in the evening, and I found a pretty good stopping point, and started it over the next day.
It wasn't until the credits started rolling on that second viewing that I started to become very angry. I suddenly realized I was cheated. This is a retelling of the mythological story of Cassandra. Sadly, this ersatz modern Cassandra is a creation of the cynical times we live in. She's an ironic, elitist and detached Cassandra. Aliens (angels?) give a message to one person who goes insane, OD's and dies. The message was buried in the frickin' ground for 50 years. Plus the message is of a cataclysm so immense that there's no escape, even if the message was heard and understood, mankind wouldn't have the capabilities to save the planet. So why give a warning at all? Plus, if the alien/angels are going to follow the families around all the time, and even drive them to the point of departure from the soon-to-be-destroyed planet, why give coordinates, rendering a large chunk of plot moot? And these alien/angels with several gigantic ships are the most elitist kind of "too-little-too-late" saviors. Sorry Earth; we alien/angels are so technologically advanced we only need about 12 of you and a handful of rabbits to rebuild the planet's ecosystem. You all are just going to have to deal with your planet being reduced to charcoal. Oops, we should've brought the minivan 'cause there's just not enough room for ya'll and all these rabbits.
Excpet the aliens never say anything and probably worked for scale.
So, we have Nicolas Cage portraying an absent-minded professor who only teaches one not-very-sciency class who's emotional range varies from blank and lethargic (whenever interacting with his son), to unintentionally and comically bipolar (yanking a dry-erase board off one wall only to lean it against another), to screeching histrionics (asking a convenience store clerk during a riot if he's seen any screaming women). Several other ORLY? moments like that happen, for instance when Cage asks the elderly teacher in the early stages of dementia who offers him tea a few times if she remembers any specifics about stuff she likely wouldn't have been privy to, or when he conveniently stops at the one really, really important car accident while everything's going to hell in a handbasket. This film could be extremely frustrating to people who dislike ham-fisted Biblical allusions or brief moments of suspect science. Features lots of very unnecessary CGI effects of plane crash victims on fire, the entirety of the Earth being destroyed, and commuters being crushed into a paste by subway trains, which comes off as hollow, vapid, and showy. Again, just because the technology exists to allows us to see commuter paste doesn't mean we need to see it, not that the idea isn't sometimes appealing.
I watched this movie on the Movie Channel during one of those free weekend things. Here's a trailer, which is well-edited, brief, and leaves some things to the imagination, which the film-makers should have taken as a hint that sometimes less is more.