End-of-the-world disaster movies are nothing new, so I was a bit hesitant to go see Knowing, the most recent entry into the genre. Usually these films are based on faulty science to produce the cataclysmic event, and of course most of the time a hero or team of heroes intervenes (in a highly unrealistic way) to save humanity. Think of Armageddon. Deep Impact. The Core. The Last Mimzy. Just to name a few. Would Knowing prove to be any different than these? A bit, but not much.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): John Koestler (played by Nicolas Cage) is an MIT astrophysics professor who tells his classes that he believe everything in the universe is more or less random as opposed to being determined or created by an all-powerful being. His classes view him as rather cynical, but that’s probably because he recently lost his wife and is struggling to keep things together for the sake of his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury).
One day, Caleb’s school holds an event to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Part of the festivities include opening a time capsule that was buried by the very first class of students half a decade ago. The time capsule contains drawings of what the students believed the future would look like. Each new student gets one of these drawings to open — except Caleb, whose paper is not a picture but a seemingly random string of numbers.
John is intrigued by the numbers, so he sets to work trying to figure out what they mean. He eventually comes to realize that the numbers can be broken off into sets that contain three pieces of information: a date, a number of casualties, and a latitudinal and longitudinal position where a disaster occurred. Every major disaster from the last 50 years in locations all around the globe were written on that piece of paper.
There are a few dates remaining on the paper. When the next two events come true, John begins scrambling to see what he can do to prevent the third — until he realizes that the final “number” is not a 33, as he initially thought. Instead, they’re the letters EE, which stands for “everyone else”. Yep, the end is coming.
Through additional events, John comes to realize that his son Caleb and a girl named Abby (Lara Robinson), who happens to be the granddaughter of the schoolgirl that wrote the list of numbers, are actually the “chosen ones”. They, and a handful of other children, will be saved and whisked away to another planet to begin a new civilization. John says his goodbyes to Caleb, and then returns home to his estranged family as a massive solar flare burns up Earth.
My Reaction: I thought Knowing was fairly interesting to a point. When John found out what the numbers meant, I was hoping for a better payoff than a solar flare, but I guess there are only so many ways that the entire planet can be destroyed in one fell swoop.
What I didn’t like about this film were the tenuous connections between the 1959 schoolgirl and John’s son Caleb. Was it ever explained why Caleb was a chosen one? If so, I must have missed it. How did Caleb just happen to end up with the numbers document instead of a drawing? Was that part of the whole preordained plan? If so, why even go through the motions? Caleb would have been the chosen one even if he and his father never saw the numbers at all, right?
Because these things were preordained and would have happened no matter what, the beginning of the film just felt like a big waste of time. The numbers ended up not being all that important, since neither John nor anyone else could stop the disaster. The only thing that came out of the whole numbers nonsense was that John was able to reconcile with his family (sort of) before being burnt to a crisp. Was all that really just for him?
Overall, I’d say Knowing was probably a bit better than the average disaster film. There were definitely some pretty intense scenes along the way and a few truly creepy moments, plus the special effects were rather good. The flaws in this film lie in the plot, and are difficult to overcome. I give this film 3 stars out of 5.