This Film is NOT a Future Release.
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January 26th, 2009:
A teacher (Cage) opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions -- some that have already occurred and others that are about to -- that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are about to unfold.What to Expect:
Will the real Nicolas Cage please stand up? It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Cage is a man of many identities. But who is he, really? Is he the romantic leading man of "City of Angels" and "Moonstruck?" Is he the talented, risk-taking actor of "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Adaptation?" Is he the quipping action hero of "The Rock" and "Face/Off?" Is he the goofball comedian of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Raising Arizona?" He isn't the first actor to wear many hats, but what's interesting about his amalgam of a career is that he has both succeeded and failed at almost every genre he's tried. His most financially successful films have been his action films, but there again, he's unusual. A lot of action films are successful because of the enjoyment of the story and the effects, and the actors are pretty much interchangeable. One's as good as another. I don't think that's really the case for Nicolas Cage. It seems to me that many of his action films have been more successful than they might have been because of him. Article continues below
In terms of action heroes, Nicolas Cage
occupies a very specific niche...he plays the Action Nerd. It's a very small talent pool that can pull that off. In fact there's only one other actor I can think of who does that role well, I won't mention his name but his initials are Jeff Goldblum
. Cage has a kind of innocent earnestness in the face of death-defying derring-do that lends some snap and life to what would otherwise have been formulaic and even dull action films. I don't mind admitting that I have a soft spot for "The Rock" and it's largely because of Cage's sarcastic humor in the film. That being said, Cage's choices in films is often...dubious. For every "Adaptation" there's a "Wicker Man," and for every "Face/Off" there's a Ghost Rider" (shudder). By the way, I'm not the only one with a soft spot for "The Rock." Believe it or not, the Criterion Collection released an edition of that film. A list of Criterion titles is a big jarring...it'll be some Kurosawa, a little Bergman, a few Hitchcocks, and then..."The Rock." Go figure.
So will this film be one of the successes, or one of the increasingly common disasters?
The script had been kicked around Hollywood for years, at least ten. Director Alex Proyas
had seen the script way back when and it didn't grab him, but after Columbia purchased the script several directors were attached, including "Commander in Chief" producer Rod Lurie and indie auteur and "Donnie Darko" writer/director Richard Kelly
. The original script was penned by Ryne Douglas Pearson, but it seems like everyone who's been anywhere near the project has had a crack at the script, including Proyas, who ended up with the directing job. Proyas has had what one might call a varied career. He doesn't make a lot of films, but they tend to make an impact. One of his most famous films, "The Crow," is not only a cult film but was notoriously Brandon Lee's last project; he was accidentally killed on the set. After that, he made "Dark City," a commercially unsuccessful sci-fi film that ended up with a significant cult following for its dark, Gilliam-esque atmosphere and creative story. Proyas's next film, "I, Robot," wasn't exactly what he envisioned. Based on a story by Isaac Asimov and starring Will Smith, Proyas has described the shoot as the most difficult relationship he's ever had with a studio, in this case, 20th Century Fox, who he said meddled and interfered with the film to such a degree that it was barely his creation anymore when it was released. He wanted to avoid such a situation again, which may account for his long absence from filmmaking, and the fact that "Knowing" is an independent film.
So, moving on to this film. While the initial concept may not have blown his skirt up, Proyas has taken the original script and reworked it into his own project, and it sounds (on paper, at least) like exactly the kind of film Nicolas Cage has had a lot of success with in the past. The story begins in 1958, when a class of children are drawing pictures and writing notes to put into a time capsule. One of the kids writes out a series of seemingly random numbers. When the capsule is opened in 2008, the sheet of numbers finds its way into the hands of Caleb Myles, who takes it home to his father Ted (Cage), a professor. Ted realizes that the numbers aren't random, but rather a code indicating date and number of fatalities for disasters that occurred between 1958 and the present...and there are more numbers for upcoming disasters, one of which may indicate the end of the world. Naturally, when Ted tries to warn people, no one believes him, and he and his son have to unravel this mystery with the help of the daughter (Rose Byrne
) of the child who wrote the numbers in the first place.
The concept is intriguing, but it's one that could go either way. It could be a dark, atmospheric film with thrills and suspense, or it could be yet another Hollywoodized effects-laden shlockfest. Proyas isn't the kind of director to easily or willingly make the latter, and "Knowing" has a distinct advantage over "I, Robot"...it isn't being made by a major studio. Columbia gave up the rights to independent studio Summit Entertainment, whose varied credits include "Memento," "Once," "Requiem for a Dream" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"...as well as Proyas's "The Crow." The production company, Escape Artists, is a very genre-friendly company and Proyas described his relationship with them in far more complimentary terms than he did his relationship with Fox.
So it's an apocalypse film. Kind of. Ever wish that once, just once, someone would just actually end all of humanity after threatening to for two hours? We've had eight thousand end-of-the-world, destruction-of-all-human-civilization plotlines in films and guess what? Very few (with the possible exception of "Planet of the Apes") actually end with human civilization going up in flames or the world exploding. It's become kind of an empty threat, hasn't it? I sometimes wish they'd mix it up once in awhile. With last December's "The Day the Earth Stood Still
" and this summer's "2012
" (another Roland Emmerich blast-o-rama, this one starring John Cusack) there's been considerable attention paid to the end of the world lately. Even "Wall-E
" was about the doom of Earth, albeit in a cute and cuddly way. Earth is so often doomed, but there's so rarely any follow-through. At one time, I thought that maybe "The Day After Tomorrow" might signal an era of bad things actually happening to the planet, and not just being threatened, but it was not to be, and please stop for a moment and marvel at this once-in-a-lifetime citing of "The Day After Tomorrow" in a positive way (although it does feature Jake Gyllenhaal being wet a lot, so it can't be all bad).
Nicolas Cage and his moppet-like son must save the world. What a drag. Even if we're not exactly on the edge of our seats about the fate of humanity, the film could still be exciting. Proyas has demonstrated some creativity and artistry in his previous films, but it's felt like he's being held back, whether it's by studios or material or just circumstance is hard to say. Here, the planets have aligned in his favor. He's free of a meddlesome studio, he's had ample time to massage the script to his liking, he's got an intriguing concept...and he's got Nicolas Cage.
Wait, is that a good thing or a bad thing? A lot of filmgoers are quite down on Mr. Cage these days. Personally, I still have faith. I'll just pretend that whole Ghost Rider thing didn't happen. I like a man who isn't afraid to make a complete ass of himself on a giant movie screen for the world to see. He's had a string of not-so-successful films, and his hair is definitely engaged in some kind of unauthorized activity that needs to stop immediately, but I refuse to lose faith completely. I remember "Moonstruck," Nicolas! You won an Oscar, man! All is not lost. It's never too late. That's been the pattern of Cage's career. A string of flops, then a moment of ecstatic redemption where we all remember why we love him and why we keep coming back.
The problem with "Knowing" is that it seems so familiar. It sounds like a plot that Shyamalan would make, and frankly, sounds a lot like something Richard Kelly would really dig. The parallels to "Darko" are there...the future predictions, the end of the world, the lone figure struggling against the inevitability of his demise. The plot is also unfortunately reminiscent of Cage's recent flop "Next," in which he played a magician who could see a few minutes into the future. That film sank so quickly and with such completeness that I'd completely forgotten its existence and had to look it up again to even remember what it was about. The numerology overtones have reminded some film fans of Jim Carrey's failed drama/thriller "The Number 23
," which I tried to watch and had to shut off after half an hour due to acute, incapacitating boredom. "Knowing"'s poster
has even induced some deja vu...it bears a not-insignificant resemblance to one of the "War of the Worlds" posters. Many things about the film have led filmgoers to wonder if they haven't seen all this before, in some combination or permutation.
I still have hope. My interest is piqued by the concept. But I don't have very high hopes for the film's success, even if it's fantastically brilliant (which it very well could be, but I wouldn't bet the farm). The March doldrums, post-Oscar season and pre-summer-blockbuster are a traditional dumping ground for films that the studio doesn't want to shell out money for promotion and publicity to support. It's often the graveyard of films in which the studio has little confidence; I doubt that's the case here, given that this film was made by an independent studio. It's more likely that they're hoping to avoid a lot of high-powered competition and want to give the film as open a playing field as possible to increase its chances of being seen. It might work. Spring is becoming a more popular release season for quirky, indie fare.In Conclusion:
The patchwork quilt that is Nicolas Cage's career gets another jaggedy scrap sewn in with this latest Proyas film. The director has some cred left, but if this film fails artistically or commercially, he'll have exhausted the goodwill he earned with "The Crow" and "Dark City." An interesting premise doesn't guarantee success, and this film has a miasma of been-there, done-that hanging around it, perhaps karmic payback for its ten-plus years in turnaround. It'll be very easy for this film to get lost in the shuffle unless the studio promotes the hell out of it, and without big studio bucks that's unlikely to happen.Similar Titles: War of the Worlds
, The Crow