Friday, April 10, 2009

E.T.'s Ark

Knowing is a movie that John Calvin might have enjoyed. However, I'm not sure if Calvin would have been a Nick Cage fan. As for me, I like him. My first film memory of Nicholas Cage is H.I. in Raising Arizona - one of my favorite movies. I usually like Cage in most of his movies, even the crappy, crappy ones. He has an innate quirky humor that carries his "I'm not supposed to be saving everyone's life" bravura, and it helps us believe that he could actually pull off landing that Con Air jet in downtown Vegas or Manhattan or wherever it was to deliver that oily bunny to his daughter.

Knowing, Cage's most recent and best film in years, is a difficult movie to explain but I'll give it a go in layman's terms. (layman=lazy)

Knowing begins back in the 1950s with an elementary school classroom burying a time capsule. The time capsule looks pretty amazing for any school to own. It looked like some cryogenic thingy that should be on the set of Jurassic Park VI, but whatever, its the movies.

So the kids are all supposed to bury a picture of what they think the future will look like. I'm very surprised that a school would think that their school would last that long. Especially an elementary school. Very few elementary schools last that long. Because of city growth and ever-changing zoning laws, elementary schools can change every 10-20 years, depending on the city and economic climate. Plus school buildings aren't built for longevity. But again, its the movies.

Every kid draws a cute little picture of the future with the usual stuff: spaceships, rockets, bombs. Everyone except the weird little girl that can't stop writing numbers. The teacher stops her before she is able to write the last few numbers, which I think is pretty lame. First off, if I had a little girl in my class that looked like she had wandered off the latest Night of the Living Dead set -all pale and weird and quiet- and this little girl was writing a billion numbers for her cryogenic assignment, I would have given her 10 extra seconds to finish off the last 10 numbers. But again, its the movies.

So they bury it. Flash forward 50 years. Enter Nick Cage, a MIT astrophysicist who teaches a class on chaos vs. predeterminism. A pretty cool class if it actually existed. We find out quickly that he lost his wife years ago and Nick has come to believe that life is a series of meaningless events, all given an extra bolt of kinetic angst by the fact that he is also... wait for it... A PREACHER'S SON. Big Surprise.

So Nick's son, a good little actor, is of course the one who gets the little zombie-girls cryogenic note from the past and he is suddenly hearing voices and is showing urges to write down a bunch of numbers himself. Of course the movie wouldn't be scary if it didn't have a weird looking albino man always lurking in the distance or showing up to give the little boy apocalyptic visions or little black stones for some reason.

But before the visions and numbers and whisper-voices start for the son, Nick takes the note one night during a drinking binge and discovers that the numbers are a series of events that have predicted every major disaster in the past 50 years, including the death of his wife, and also the events of next 10 days or so which also happens to be the end of the world.

So, Nick discovers that the show is fixed. The world's days are numbered, and there is NOTHING he can do about it. But that doesn't stop him from trying. Nick quickly locates the daughter of the weirdo little girl from the 50s and tries to find out what he can. The woman has a little girl and like Nick's son, she is hearing whispers as well. This of course leads them all to some scary place in the woods where sits an old abandoned trailer. And yes, like all sane parents, they leave the kids alone in the scary woods inside the truck for the Albino men to kidnap. And that's as far as I'll go.

Look to the title and use your imagination, or go see the flick, to imagine the ending.

What I liked about the movie:

First off, I loved the notion that man does not control the future. He doesn't. Maybe a little here or there, but for the most part, the sun will either rise, or it will burn out. Not a thing we can do about it. Someday an asteroid WILL smash into the earth and there will most likely be NOTHING anyone can do about it. There isn't an oil-digger on the planet that could land on the durn thing and plant a nuke in its belly to save us. The sky is a big, big place and by the time we see the earth-killer, there won't be NEARLY enough time to do anything about it. But we don't like that kind of talk. Lately, a team of scientists have been urging Obama to send a bunch of pollutants into the atmosphere to slow global warming. Not going to happen. Neither can we control the Earth's magnetosphere. Scientists have been waring of the approaching solstice and the potential plasma storm that cold pretty much cook us all, but the gov. would like to think that they can manufacture a volcano to stop the sun instead.

Remember when I said that I wished that the film Armageddon had ended with the asteroid hitting earth and the credits rolling to the backdrop of a red and fiery earth? Well...

So, I liked this movie for that purpose. It was also filled with a bunch of cool action sequences and cliffhanging suspense. Yadda yadda. All that stuff, though vital to the life and believability of the film, isn't as important as the philosophical question the film poses. And because all the action and the special effects and suspense served as a platform for the question, it was a success.

What I didn't like:

Color. I wish directors would stop jacking around with film saturation. The whole film was sorta ugly. Is anyone going to get tired of this technique??? What is so wrong with the color scheme the good Lord gave us? Why does everything have to have a shade of green? You'd think the sun was a the big lime in the sky. I've only seen on movie where I liked it (and I think that I would have liked it had it been done naturally as well) was O Brother Where Art Thou?

New York destruction: Before I lived here, I didn't mind this so much. But the scene with the subway crashing and scraping squishing every soul on the platform just made me squirm, and not in a good way. Every soul in the theater wanted to say, "Come on, dude. Pick on London, or Paris. Subways are scary enough and this is all our worst nightmare. Thanks for giving us a glimpse. Preciate it."

Aliens. Why does it always have to be aliens? Now, I will say that this film blurs the lines between alien and angel quite well, but I would have just preferred the spiritual route. After all, if our days are predetermined, they ain't predetermined by the Borg or the Klingons. That's pretty much a job for the the Almighty.

Other than these criticisms, I enjoyed it. It was depressing, and didn't catch me at the best time. Especially considering all the stuff happening in the world and that Times Square Church pastor predicting fire engulfing our cities and 2012 approaching and all, and that recent article about the sun shooting us with a plasma storm when our magnetosphere is at a weird angle in 2012... the year the Mayans predicted to be the end of the world.

That's about all the energy I have for this review. I'd recommend it, but only if you are feeling especially over-optimistic about the future of our world.

As a final note, I'd like to add this: I do wish that these big hollywood stars would stop with the hair plugs. Just go the Bruce Willis route. And that goes for you too, Tom Hanks.

Grade: B+


Fork said...

I don't think they said 2012 would be the *end of the world* exactly. As I understand it, it was more like,

"And how's 2013 shaping up, calendar boys?"

"Umm...boss...we got nothin."

"How's that?"

"There just...isn't anything after 2012. We got nothin."

"Oh. Hmm. Well, we'll all be dead way before then anyway. Carry on."

zwcephas said...

Pardon my bumbling...I feel far more like one of the Stooges than Cage...but I left the following as a reply to the next post. Anyway...
If you read N.T. Wright - which on another post where I left a comment you indicated you did (N.T. Wright: My New BFF) - then how can Cage get you down? Or one of his depressing flicks. Regardless of the philosophy/theology involved (predestination) or the ending (I am going to have to see the film), in fact N.T. Wright offers a very positive view of our involvement in present shaping the future from a Calvinistic perpsective. Calvin may have appreciated the movie (I'll have to see the film to see if I agree), but he might not appreciate N.T. Wright's redo of his (Calvin's) take on predestination vis a vis the widely misunderstood doctrine of justification. Wright thinks the correct view calls for our involvement in the present so as to be a vital part of the outcome - i.e., the future - according to God's plan - no fatalism here; rather a mix of time and eternity which from our perspective in time makes invovlement in what God is doing exciting, never depressing. Give N.T. Wright another go - and see if the film is nothing more than a lark. Again, I'll have to see the film...

Seth Ward said...

Great stuff to think about Cephas... You sound familiar... do I know you?

Anyways, welcome to the blog. All comments are appreciated.

However, I can't tell if you are pro-N.T. Wright or not... care to expand?