As time marches closer to the Mayan predicted end times, I expect Hollywood to be in overdrive cranking out doom and gloom drama for the occasion. So far, we’ve been treated to 2012, which, as of yet, I have not seen but for the trailer featuring John Cusack driving over collapsing freeways and tectonic plates sliding into the sea that are currently occupied by L.A. If the movie itself is as good as the cgi special effects, then I’m in for a treat, but the reviews I’ve read have not been especially encouraging. So I opted to watch the other applicant in the apocalyptic category.
Released on March 20, 2009, with a worldwide gross totalling $177,590,448 at the box office, and an additional $22,796,741 in DVD sales, the movie Knowing, starring Nick Cage, really should have been subtitled, My Old Testament bible can kick your science textbook’s ass.
Cage plays recently widowed John Koestler. Professor Koestler spends his days teaching astrophysics at MIT and his nights with his 10 y/o (or thereabouts) precocious, extinct animal loving son, Caleb. He also drinks heavily after Caleb goes to bed each night, but somehow manages to wake up the next morning and make it through another day sober long enough to opine to his students that life evolved on the planet via a series of random, complex chemical coincidences, and, that shit just happens. In between, he tries not to think about his dead, now idealized wife, or his Presbyterian minister father with whom he is apparently not on speaking terms with.
Caleb is a student at William Dawes Elementary in Lexington, Massachusetts whose class has just been the recipient of the contents of a time capsule put into the ground in 1959 and containing letters from students who were told to draw how they envisioned the world would look fifty years into the future. Everyone else in the class receives an atypical crayola rendering of space ships and such except Caleb, who arbitrarily receives the page written by the town nutjob, Lucinda Embry.
Lucinda was remembered by her teachers as a bright, but troubled and sad child, and then later, when she was an adult, by both her husband and daughter, as simply insane. She eventually committed suicide and was found dead in a mobile home on the outskirts of town leaving behind a very confused 9 year old.
On the day the rest of her class was drawing light-hearted images of planets and space rockets meant for the capsule, which was her idea, poor nutbag Lucinda scribbled out a series of numerical chains as long as the page. The teacher admonished her for not drawing any pictures and then ripped the page out of her hand before she could finish writing the last segment in the chain. The page is then put into a sealed envelope and deposited into the capsule. Lucinda then later mysteriously disappears during the official time capsule dedication ceremony only to be found later at night in a closet in the school’s basement clawing at the door with bloodied fingertips as if in a trance.
Caleb forgets to give back the page and brings it home with him that night. When Dad spies it sticking out of his backpack at the dinner table, he tells Caleb to remember to return it to school the next morning. Caleb then goes to bed and Prof. Koestler brings out his bottle of Johnny Walker to swig on. While he is in the kitchen helping himself to another glassful of booze, he casually notices that the first few numbers on Lucinda’s page are 0911012996.
In his drunken stupor, he realizes that 091101 seems to coincide with September 11th, 2001. With the help of an Internet connection, he discovers that the 2996 stands for the number of dead, and that each of the remaining sequence of numbers coincides with the date and the death toll of catastrophic events having occurred somewhere on earth.
Koestler then spends the rest of the movie becoming increasingly obsessed with Lucinda’s numbers and wondering what it all means. He makes contact with Lucinda’s daughter, Diana and her daughter Abby, but she initially does not want to hear about it when Koestler tells her that her mother left behind a prediction of the dates of all of the disasters occurring within the past 50 years. Meanwhile, Caleb is being whispered to and watched by spooky ass strangers wearing black overcoats and who drive what looks like a ’78 Buick LeSabre. They also sometimes intermittently appear in his room and stand outside at night watching his house from the distance.
Eventually, after having gone to Lucinda’s deserted trailer and finding what the last two figures on her note stand for -EE- Koestler realizes that the last date on the note is the end of the world because on that date, a freakishly large coronal mass ejection -otherwise known as a solar flare- is going to torch the earth and incremate everything on the planet. NOAA has known about it, but has not yet revealed the news to the public. When they finally do, the mother of all looting riots breaks out.
Koestler takes this time to contact his father to make peace and also to warn him to seek shelter underground, but his father piously informs him that he is not going to hide and will be ready to leave whenever the Good Lord is ready to take him. Koestler and Diana then resolve to take the children to underground caves to hide out from the impending doom.
While driving to their destination, the professor decides to turn around and return to the school and break in to search where Lucinda scratched the final sequence of numbers into the closet door in the basement to see if it will yield any clues as to what he is supposed to do with her predictions. The door has since been painted over, but he scratches off the paint and finds the numbers, which designate the latitude and longitude of the location that would have been written after the last set of numbers on Lucinda’s time capsule page had her teacher not taken it away from her. The coordinates are where Lucinda’s trailer is located.
As he is scraping off the paint, Diana becomes increasingly frantic and irrational and takes off with the children in her car determined to seek shelter with them in the underground caves. While she is standing at the station window paying for gas, two of the creepy aliens hijack her vehicle and drive away with the children, but not before Caleb is able to make a call to his father from a pay phone to tell him where they are.
Diana then steals a parked vehicle and takes off in hot pursuit of the aliens only to be struck broadside by a semi-trailer traveling at a high rate of speed. She is killed instantly and Koestler arrives on the scene moments afterward to find her body in back of an ambulance clutching one of the smooth black stones her mother had in her possession at the trailer.
Koestler then drives to Lucinda’s trailer where he sees Diana’s car with the doors ajar and rushes into the woods with a flashlight and what looked to me like a S&W .357 stainless steel revolver. He finds one of the aliens standing quietly alone in the darkness and half pleads with him for his son’s return.
Caleb and Abby then casually enter the shot each carrying white rabbits and Caleb explains to his father that the aliens won’t hurt him and that they want them to go with them to “start over.” A bright flash of light then illuminates the area immediately overhead, and, Koestler drops to his knees when he sees that the gyroscopic object in the center of the light looks exactly like the one in the image Diana said her mother often stared at.
Caleb rouses the professor from his daze and tells him that they have to go. Koestler reluctantly walks hand-in-hand towards the light with Caleb when the blonde haired, Billy Idol looking alien stops him. The alien then telepathically explains to Caleb that his father cannot go with them because he did not hear the call, but Caleb does not understand.
Koestler then tearfully explains to his son that he was not meant to go with him and that he must make the decision to go voluntarily. When Caleb protests, Koestler tells him that three of them -Koestler, his wife and Caleb- will be together. He then tells Caleb that he must be strong for and go with Abby.
Caleb then walks towards the source of the light with Abby where the aliens have shed their human disguises and now resemble brightly glowing outlines of humanoid figures with wings. The aliens encircle the children and levitate upwards into the light.
As the spacecraft takes off into orbit, Koestler sits down on the smooth black rocky ground and cries himself to sleep. He is awakened later at dawn by a gentle rain. He drives away resignedly towards the city where there is chaos and mayhem in the streets while listening to the Beethoven piece that was played at the beginning of the movie.
He then arrives at the front door of a brownstone and rings the bell where he is met by his sister. Once inside, walks into the living room where his parents are leisurely watching television, and, the four of them stand up to embrace each other as a group while a news reporter’s voice can be heard in the background saying that they will stay on the air as long as possible under the circumstances.
As they are hugging each other, Koestler’s father says, this isn’t the end, and, John manages to mutter the words, I know, before the screen fades to black. Meanwhile the sky is on fire and a searing, red-hot beam tears across the planet incinerating everything in its path.
Caleb and Abby are then deposited on a surreal surface with their rabbits and other alien craft are seen in the sky presumably leaving off others who heard the call, as well as the animals they rescued from earth. Note the telltale tree in the background. We’re looking at a metaphorical Adam & Eve running towards the biblical forbidden tree of knowledge.
All in all, I thought the movie was fairly good. Notwithstanding the overall religious nature, it was well written and directed. The usage of imagery from the Book of Ezekiel to portray the alien spacecraft was a nice touch. I give the movie a solid 4 star rating on a 5 star scale. Certainly, the inclusion of the extraterrestrial element attributed mass appeal to the movie, and, otherwise made it less like the subject matter covered in Jesus Camp, but I’m not sure as to whether I liked it because of, or in spite of the biblical references. Maybe a little of both.
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