My name is Ed and I dug up a time capsule and found instructions telling me to play the lottery using numbers from each and every film starring Nicolas Cage. If I do this, I will save the world, and hopefully win the lottery.
There’s a thing you get with high concept Hollywood science fiction movies that I call The Twilight Zone Problem: your whizz-bang clever premise is only enough to sustain an episode of The Twilight Zone (i.e. 50 minutes maximum), so to get it up to the length of a Hollywood movie you have to fill it with loads of extraneous shit.
Perhaps the best example of this is The Box, directed by Richard Kelly, of having failed to capitalise on Donnie Darko because he didn’t understand what anyone else liked about it ‘fame’. The Box was, in fact, adapted from a 20-minute episode of The Twilight Zone: the episode is about a couple who have to decide whether to press a button that will kill someone they don’t know in return for $200,000. To bulk this up to 2 hours Kelly added an interminable plot about aliens using the titular box to test the worthiness of the human race and gave Cameron Diaz a prosthetically deformed foot.
I mention this is as a) Kelly was at one point attached to direct Knowing, b) Knowing suffers heavily from The Twilight Zone Problem.
The basic gist of Knowing is a list of numbers is found inside a time capsule. Astrophysics professor Nicolas Cage deduces that the numbers are a list of disasters from the last 50 years — e.g. part of the sequences is 911012996, correctly indicating that 2996 people would be killed on September 11th, 2001. Can Nicolas Cage stop the remaining disasters? No, not even slightly.
Knowing is an extremely tedious exercise in Nicolas Cage getting aggravated because no-one believes a thing they have no possible reason to believe and that he has absolutely no evidence for. Even writing that it that way makes it sound more interesting than it is — the film doesn’t dwell on the concept that one could know about terrible things happening but be unable to prevent, operating mostly as a schlocky thriller with Cage trying to work out what’s really going on. If ever a film needed a Cage freak out, this was it.
Even with the best reveal in the world, you need a decent journey through the mystery to get there: Knowing gives us some rote crap about creepy kids and men in black, before farting and guiltily holding up a sign saying ‘it’s aliens LOL’.
You could get a decent TV episode out of the time capsule premise — you could start by losing the entire last half hour of the film entirely — but this has so much bogging it down that it sinks. There’s a scene early on where for no obvious reason astrophysics professor Nicolas Cage is lecturing about free will and determinism which might as well have a flashing ‘IT’S THE THEME OF THE MOVIE’ caption. The son of astrophysics professor Nicolas Cage has hearing problems, presumably just to eat up some time by having them do sign language at each other while looking soppy. Rose Byrne’s character is in the film.
Knowing ends with the entire surface of the Earth being consumed in fire and as a whole works as a propaganda piece to comfort viewers into think that might not be such a bad thing after all. Not because aliens might rescue a few kids, but because the universe would be saved from anyone else having to watch this load of old crap ever again.
Amazingly, M Night Shyamalan had nothing to do with this film.
4 — There are 4 million worlds in the galaxy mature enough for life to have evolved, according to astrophysics professor Nicolas Cage. HONK HONK he’s doing exposition.
6 — The teacher of the kid who wrote down the numbers in the first place lives in apartment number 6.
12 — Astrophysics professor Nicolas Cage’s vicar dad always used to preach something from 1 Corinthians 12.
50 — The time capsule is dug up on the 50th anniversary of its burial, which is how time capsules work. Blue Peter was always banging on about time capsules when I was a kid and they never stopped 9/11 so I guess Knowing was right.
51 — One of the predictions involves 51 people dying in a plane crash. 51 people die in a plane crash. Brutal.
59 — The time capsule was originally buried in 1959. They filled it with drawings and letters from school kids, one of whom just filled a sheet of paper with numbers beamed into their head from space and everyone was like ‘yeah whatever just stick that in’. Makes sense.
One number doesn’t help. ONE NUMBER DOESN’T HELP.
I hope the stupid world does all burn up in a fire.
NEXT TIME ON NICOLAS CAGE:
G-Force. It’s about guinea pigs. That sounds good.
Apparently Medium makes it quite hard to find previous instalments of this so I have made a sort of index thing, here.
Do not spend your money on lottery tickets because you think watching Nicolas Cage films will enable you to win the lottery. The only real winner in the lottery is the lottery, bad artists, and people who actually win the lottery.