Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Alex Proyas' "Knowing" is built, like most other science fiction films, upon an original, high-concept idea, and like most other films of the science fiction genre, the idea is good. However, this is not justification to let everything else (i.e. the structure, technicalities, script, acting) be undernourished. This is the (main) problem with "Knowing." The idea happens to be of a school experiment: each student draws a picture of the future. This elicits typical responses, except from the girl who came up with the experiment herself, Lucinda (Lara Robinson), who writes down a series of seemingly random numbers that have something to do with the voices that she's been hearing.

Flash forward 50 years, where the latter part of the experiment plays out: the current students (3rd graders, that is) get the drawings of their predecessors. Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), a genius kid who watches episodes of the nature channel before he goes to bed (we learn he's "obsessed with extinct animals"), gets Lucinda's, obviously. Caleb's father John Koestler (Nicolas Cage), the atheistic MIT professor that he is, has his class discuss wonder: are the course of events destiny or do they just happen randomly? (Ebert had a field day over this, and also heavily influenced my review; consider the previous sentence an effect) This plays a role in his life, since his wife died in a fire on a business trip, and like Ron Franz when Christopher McCandless passed, stopped believing in God. This is hard, since he's the son of a reverend.

Anyways, I've gotten way off topic. John becomes fascinated with his son's find (which seemed like a "The Number 23" style twist) and for some reason picks up very quickly that these numbers correspond to the dates and casualties and locations of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina (even though this didn't happen on one day or in one particular location) and, obviously, September 11, 2001. There are couple more sets of numbers on the sheet, however, so that means that is more mayhem to come, in all of it's CGI glory. More happens, of course, but I won't reveal it, although I will say it involves religion and the apocalypse. Koestler and his son also meet up with Lucinda's daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby (played by Robinson also). Koestler and Diana are allowed to have one of those nonsexual relationships built on a search that Hollywood is so fond of.

Technically, the film is mediocre as well. The script is abundant with cliches, and leads through to a cluttered and nonsensical ending. The characters are tracing-paper thin. Cage and Byrne are two unstable leads. Cage in particular is good when there's at least a little slack given in the material ("Matchstick Men," or even "The Family Man"), but when depended on to deliver the goods with nothing else, he can't come through. And almost everything else is special effects. Those are a let down. The disaster sequences are constructed purely out of CGI and look unrealistic. Well, "Knowing" has an interesting idea, but furnishes it with too little. With perhaps a little innovation in the style and structure, it could have been much better. With that creative touch it could be close to Alfonso Cuaron's genius, amazingly well-crafted "Children of Men" (which had a much more interesting vision of what the future would be like). This is not at all where "Knowing" decided to go. C

No comments: