I had thought at first that this review would go on my “disaster shows” blog, but “Knowing” has a bit of everything in it. I hate to spoil things, but there is a bit of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, as well as 20-20/History Channel’s scenarios for the end of the world, and a quick rehearsal of most of the major 20th and 21st Century catastrophes. From the upstart company Summit Entertainment (with its trademark of pyramids) this dazzling sci-fi epic comes from Australia, and is just a tad more original than the usual big studio sci-fi morality plays (many scenes are shot in New York and Boston). Egyptian director Alex Proyas has previously given us “The Crow”, “Dark City” (a very interesting premise in a closed world), and “I Robot”. Another comparison would come from Joel Schumacher's New Line film "The Number 23" (2007) with Jim Carrey. Here the plot gimmick is a novel possibly about the central character. The story (of "Knowing") is by Ryne Douglas Pearson.
The philosophy of the movie is what carried me along. This is about “the knowledge of good and evil” all right, and the very last scene (touches of Darren Aronofsky’s “Fountain” and maybe even “Contact”, as well as Shyamalan’s “Signs” and “Happening”), with its beginnings (hint: photosynthesis doesn’t have to yield green) evokes the idea in an ironic way. Imagine that you see something happening that seems supernatural, even threatening, and yet it was mapped out in your own head. (I need to mention that, once again, overseas Hollywood has fun destroying New York – it could have picked on Sydney—the last time this happened was “Cloverfield”.
More specifically, fifth grader Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), at an unveiling of his grade school time capsule planted 50 years ago, opens an envelope with a number theory puzzle inside, and it’s not a Fibonacci sequence. Instead, it has the dates, number dead, and coordinates of every major disaster after 1959. Of course, that begs the question how the girl knew this, and whether people find “knowledge” (Jimmy Wales style) in numbers. His father, an MIT physics professor played by Nicholas Cage, pretty soon figures it out and becomes alarmed, and goes on your typical treasure hunt. In the meantime, Caleb is seeing “The Grays”, well, sort of. The aliens can look like anything they want.
Pretty soon the professor has figured out that the end of the world is nigh. (The plane crash and subway wreck are very well done.) Here I have to add that the aliens, and the UFO itself (built of fractals) are among the very best I’ve ever seen in film. I don’t know whether a solar flare could destroy earth (the idea has been proposed on “Smallville”) – but maybe the Maya were right, that on Dec. 21, 2012 the alignment in the heavens could cause something like this (although the movie is set in 2009). 20-20 has proposed that a gamma ray burst could fry us all, but then the aliens would have to take us thousands of light years, maybe to another galaxy, to start over with Adam and Eve.
The original music score by Marco Beltrami is concert worthy (I hope some symphony orchestras will play it), and the music really soars to a rousing D Major climax (with a theme reminiscent of the Sibelius Second) as the finale results in Genesis. The closing credits repeat the climax. Curiously, the Allegretto of the Beethoven Second occurs in the just-before-apocalypse pandemonium. At the end, this is actually a “feel good” movie.
Regal Cinemas is now providing print-at-home tickets that tell you which auditorium the movie is in (in this case, it was the largest one, about half full on a Friday night early show in Arlington VA).
You might want to check out Roger Ebert's special blog review here. Yes, it has the spoilers, but it's impossible to discuss this movie meaningfully without saying "what happens."
Picture: Olympus Mons, the largest mountain in the solar system, on Mars. No, I didn't go there; it comes from Wikimedia Commons and Nasa (in public domain). You couldn't restart the world there; in any event, if the Sun expands in 5 billion years to become a red giant, Mars may get it too.
Update: April 21
AOL has a story "Huge Solar Storm Could Shut Down U.S.", link here. The original story is on ABC, by Ki Mae Heussner: "
Are We Ready for a Solar Katrina?: Severe Solar Storms Could Harm Power Grid, Navigational Systems and Spacecraft, Scientists Say," link here.