Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Knowing

posted by Nell Minow
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language
Profanity:A few bad words
Nudity/Sex:One brief crude reference
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, including drinking to deal with stress
Violence/Scariness:Very intense and graphic violence including disturbing images of catastrophic natural and other disasters
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:March 20, 2009
DVD Release Date:July 7, 2009

When MIT astrophysics professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage in one-note mournful mode) looks distracted and thoughtful as he invites his class to debate randomness vs. determinism, you don’t have to be much of a determinist to figure out that as inevitably as night follows day, John is about to be hit with some Evidence of a Greater Plan. This isn’t determinism, the idea that events that may seem random are a part of some greater pattern. This is just predictable hogwash, and it gets even hogwashier until it arrives at an ending that manages to be inevitable, uninspired, and preposterous.

John’s son Caleb (a sincere Chandler Canterbury) attends a school that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The ceremony involves opening a time capsule filled with drawings from children on its opening day. But the envelope Caleb is given to open does not have a drawing of spaceships. It has an apparently random string of numbers. John notices that one string is 09/11/2001 and the number killed that day. A night-long Google search later, he has assigned many of the numbers to known disasters — and figured out that the final three dates are still in the future.

And then this becomes just another big, dumb, loud, effects-driven movie. Forget determinism; if one character behaved in a rational manner, the movie would be 20 minutes long. Three dates in the future? That of course means that the first one is there to prove the theory. Next, John figures out that the next one will happen in NY. Instead of staying in Cambridge, he heads for the location so that he — and the audience — can be in the middle of a technically impressive but narratively brutal catastrophe. And then we are all headed for the big finish (and I mean FINISH), but first there is a lot of completely pointless racing around in a fruitless attempt to build some tension.

The movie sinks from dumb to offensive first when it devotes so much loving detail to the graphic, even clinical depiction of pointless calamity and second when it ultimately and cynically appropriates signifiers of religious import in an attempt to justify itself. Professor Koestler, in a world of rational determinism, this movie would never have gotten the green light. Case closed.



  • Marianne

    On my way to work this morning I heard about the “Gothika Rule”. What a great idea. My husband and I rarely go to movies any more. They just don’t make them like they used to, entertaining, amusing, romantic, and most of all suitable for families with small children. What really gets to me is all the money these people make no matter how rotten they are. As a graphic artist I have to do a good job or I’m out the door! :D

  • Tina

    SCIENTOLOGY THEME TO THIS MOVIE, that is not mentioned in the discription, and the trailer makes the movie look like it would be good, but it is far from what small amount you see in a trailer.
    HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE MOVIE!!!! DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE, ESPECIALLY DO NOT TAKE CHILDREN (EVEN TEENAGERS TO THIS MOVIE). I am so angry that I took my two teen age sons to watch this movie today. It is spring break here, and there has not been any movies to go see all week, and we thought this would be a good show to go to today. WRONG WRONG!!! This is a terrible movie and should be rated R not PG13. This is a disturbing movie that I will refuse to watch anything Nicholas Cage does in the future.

  • michael johnson

    Probably the best movie i’ve seen in the last 5 years.
    This is not the kind of movie that the american idol or jerry springer crowd will like.
    This is a movie of big ideas. It requires you to think. Yeah the special effects are astounding, but the story is simply one of the best.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Michael, I am always glad when someone sees more in a movie than I do and I am glad it made you think. I had to edit your comment for violation of the rules of the site, but welcome your critiques and rebuttals any time as long as they relate to the topic and refrain from personal attacks.

  • Your Name

    I was very very disturbed by the references to the Bible in this movie. It makes me sad that anyone would group God and his great plan with aliens. The movie takes some biblical references and twists them. My question when this movie was over was is Nicholas Cage a scientologist? I think I have seen my last Cage movie.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you very much for this comment. I share your concern, which is one reason that I gave the movie such a poor rating. I felt the Biblical references were superficial and theologically suspect. But two of my colleagues who are very religious felt otherwise and one church group I know of who went to see it was very inspired by it. It is good to know that you felt the way I did.

  • dq1

    I saw this Knowing the other night. Can’t say it was the best movie I ever saw but certanily not the worst. Definitely not a “feel good” movie. I don’t want to elaborate too much so as to not spoil it for others. There were certainly some religious undertones (Angels???). It seemed to contain multiple themes. Determinism -vs- Randomness, coming to grips with personal disaster, letting go of anger. The final scene with Cage together with his Mom, Dad and Sister was touching (if not a little late).
    I am a little confused by the stones. Although they were used like calling cards, I didn’t see what the point was. The stones looked like polished obsidian (which is actually glass and not mineral) and is created by intense heat such as from volcanoes. There he is standing in the middle of a field of these stones. What’s the point?

  • Marianne

    I’m not going to see this but am curious what the ending is. Can you tell me? thx

  • Joy

    My 16-year-old daughter and I both were so looking forward to this movie. We thoroughly enjoyed it at first: The plot and character development were terrific. But in the last 15 minutes, we both started looking at each other asking, “This isn’t going to turn out to be one of THOSE movies, is it?” The final plot twist and developments at the end were a gigantic flop and it just seemed like a desperate attempt to wrap everything up while using as many spiffy effects as possible. They didn’t even correctly assimilate any religious contexts to the ending. We hoped for some sort of redemption — like a reunion of some sort — but that didn’t happen. So we left feeling very frustrated and disappointed.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Joy! You expressed my own concerns about the movie very well. I know others have responded differently, but I found the ending unsatisfying in terms of plot and at best weak in terms of theology. I am sorry you were disappointed; so was I.

  • Gio

    SPOILER ALERT
    The movie was fine..at first i thought it was an alien and a UFO at the ending..and i watch it again..and pause the scene where the aliens are flying together with the kids..and there i saw it was an angel, with wings on it.
    About the stones,my brother told me it has the meaning of Jesus(the cornerstone,some kind like that,meaning you must trust) when the mom died she took it..there are this stones,the angels give because they always land on those stony land…………….and about the kids the angels only saved them, in the bible said,you cannot enter in heaven unless you pray like a child.i dont really know the exact sentence on the bible,but its like that.(when the disciples of Jesus shooo the kids)
    and there it goes the tree of life..
    this movie is a modern explanation of heaven and hell, sinners and good..
    im sorry for spoiling..in addition the meaning of the bunny they save is playboy..

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    SPOILER ALERT
    Thanks for a great comment, Gio. I’ve added “Spoiler Alert” at the beginning to protect people who have not seen the movie. I know that some viewers have been touched by the religious implications of the film’s conclusion but I found it both theologically and narratively unsatisfying. Why would angels permit the annihilation of believers as well as skeptics? Why would only two white, English-speaking children be saved (though there may be a hint that other children were saved but sent to different places). Why would they not save some of Earth’s accomplishments — some music, antibiotics, a Bible? Why send the message in that way? In the Bible, angels are not shy about delivering messages directly. What is the point? Why let it happen, other than the superficial movie-going pleasure of seeing a lot of stuff blow up? Isn’t the think spiritual overlay just there to make use feel better about seeing such mindless destruction so vividly depicted?
    I guess the movie has some merit if it causes us to think about these questions.

  • Texas Mom

    My family just returned from this movie and we ALL disliked it. It was very intense and the repeated disaster scenes were disturbing. We thought we were going to see a whole different movie – YUCK!!!

  • kathryn irizarry

    The person who was talking about the symbolism I agree with him. I would like to futher research those elements, the stones, the sun, the fire, why children?, the bible in Lucinda’s room, the question of creation. from the very beginning there is symbolism though they dont ever really explain that in the movie. I left the theater asking okay and what were they trying to say?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Kathryn! You might be interested in this interview with the author of the book and this review from Christianity Today.
    I would be interested in exploring that particular method of communication — through the one girl’s list of numbers — as well as the meaning of the characters’ names. Koestler, for example, is the name of a famous author who described Communism as “the God that failed” and who was an atheist from a Jewish family. Caleb is a Biblical character who believed in the promised land when other scouts were afraid.
    I am glad to hear that the movie raised some important questions for you and I hope your thinking about the possible answers is productive.

  • Your Name

    The movie “Knowing” was not made for people who have a deep faith in Jesus Christ; it was made for an audience who are skeptical about God, Heaven, Hell, and the end of life on our planet. This movie, very delicately, gave these doubters and non-believers a glimpse into a real, possible, alternative outcome to their lives other than the one they think will happen for them when they die. A lot of people think as long as they are fairly good, they will go to some heavenly place regardless of whether they believe in a God or not. Others think there is nothing after they die. Hopefully, this movie will open their eyes and they will seek more meaning answers about God. They will seek answers to what may happen to them after they die and in seeking those answers they will find The Answer – Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this movie to all. Yes, there are some violent scenes and yes, it is not doctrinally sound from a Christian point of view but it is a good introduction to those doubters and non-believers. God bless and thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you so much for this very insightful response to the film. I like the way you acknowledge that it departs from doctrine but may still provide some provocative ideas to make both believers and non-believers think more deeply about some of life’s biggest questions. Your comment will be of enormous help to those who are thinking about whether the movie is right for their families and those who have seen it and are exploring its meaning.

  • http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com Jon Corbridge

    SPOILER ALERT
    The catastrophic scenes were well done, albeit pretty blunt. They showed violence and accidents as just simply horrifying, and that’s more honest than the ending. I liked Nicholas Cage and the other actors were good too. I found the continual christian references/imagery to be nauseating. Whether it was the Eden tree or the mormonesque idea of people joining the gods on distant planets, it just got tiring. I kept waiting for someone to start passing the wafers and the grape juice. If wish they’d spent more time on the science, than setting up Cage’s character to accept god before they all fry (literally). I went to see science fiction, not a ‘Left Behind’ knock-off.

  • Chuck

    You can tell this was critiqued by a chick!

  • Margi

    SPOILER ALERT
    I watched this movie and got a much different message than most. I didn’t go in with any expectations other than to be entertained and the movie does do that. Yes, it does show man’s doubt in God and many things are far from Biblical, but I got a very distinct message from it.
    The character played by Nicholas Cage was the son of a minister, but had lost his faith. His son however was believing and he told him it was ok to do so if that is what he wanted (believing mother was in heaven).
    It was the children that believed that escaped the end of the world.
    The spacemen bore a resemblence to “angels” (notice the wings). Cage was not allowed to go with them (non-believer).
    Cage went to join his parents and sister. The father said “this is not the end” and Cage answers “I know”. This could be liked to those that were not taken from the earth, but were tested and in the end believed.
    I am reminded of the scripture “unless you become as a little child you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven”.
    The very end shows a “golden” field of wheat and a tree. Revelations
    promises a new heaven and a new earth. The tree was the “Tree of Life”. Did no one else notice the word JESUS in the rootwork at the base of the tree?
    Certainly not a scriptural movie, but I think it had the basic
    Christian message.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I’m not sure what your point is, Chuck. What exactly does a “chick critique” look like? And is there something wrong with that?
    Obviously, anyone who write as “the Movie Mom” is female, though I am not sure I still qualify as a “chick.” Is there some reason that only people with XY chromosomes should be movie critics?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    SPOILER ALERT
    Thanks, Margi! I think your interpretation is fascinating. But what about all of the believers — including children — who were destroyed? All the believers who were “left behind?”
    I had a problem with what I will call the improvisational elements of the story, which seemed to me to be inconsistent with any theology I know of.

  • http://www.delusionresistance.org The Resistor

    Well, I can see that this movie achieved its goal judging by the reponses that I have read so far. This movie was by far a New Age attempt to meld watered down Christian dogma with New Age theosophy, and so far none of you has picked that up.
    Nordic looking angels with dark sinister eyes doesn’t equate to heavenly angels, but to fallen angels. The aliens taking the kids to a new world and leaving them there suggests the New Age notion that aliens created life on earth. Doesn’t anyone here remember Paul telling us that Satan and his minions can transform themselves into angels of light?
    The movie was rife with New Age concepts such as automatic writing, telepathy (the whispers) and scenes of earth calamities. Nobody here saw the perversion of Ezekiel’s Wheel and and the New Age notion that Ezekiel’s visitation was actually an alien visitation whereas Ezekiel clearly states that HE SAW GOD ON THE THRONE. Didn’t anyone here see the wheel within a wheel at the end, just like Ezekiel described; again the movie perverting scripture.
    What is really bothersome is that some have said that the movie had Christian overtones. If anything the movie showed believers in Jesus Christ to be impotent and old school, and deserving of judgment by God Almighty, whose own scripture says that God does not appoint unto his followers His wrath. Sounds like many of you bought the lie and it is sad that you don’t know scripture well enough to discern the real article from a counterfeit. Yes, judging by your own words, the New Age producers of “KNOWING” have achieved their goal. My goodness, wake up people before it is too late.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Resistor. Your take on the film was similar to mine. I was also very bothered by what I saw as a very superficial appropriation of some profound symbols.

  • Your Name

    I really enjoyed this movie because I couldn’t predict the ending and found it intriguing. Evaluating the plot’s meaning is part of the entertainment and I think the writer used creativity right up to the end. I liked identifying the religious overtones and am glad to know I really did see wings on the “alien angels” at the end. I think it’s great that people are talking and clarifying their own beliefs. That’s what America is all about.

  • Daniel

    HELLO? this movie kicked butt! it was scary at parts, but man was it insanley creepy and fantastic!

  • Your Name

    Dear Nell:
    “…is just predictable hogwash, and it gets even hogwashier until it arrives at an ending that manages to be inevitable, uninspired, and preposterous.” Yep, though it has lots of good parts, elements and sets etc, sadly ya kinda right story, themes, faux “meaning” and layer wise.
    I spent over a week as an an extra and possibly um, a featured extra. But like many a pathetic hopeful, died the natural death of a thousand edit cuts! Though there I am in the train scene next to Nic Cage…for three seconds! Heehee.
    I must get a still from the vid & make it look almost like something, which it ain’t. It was fun though and the photography was wonderful.
    Odd that they picked some featured extras that had a little trouble with the accent and um, some of the more concentrated acting.
    Here’s my pointless take on another week in my imaginary acting career.
    http://colonelrobertneville.blogspot.com/2009/02/i-like-nic-cage-that-is.html
    Colonel Neville.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    What fun to hear an insider’s perspective! I will look for you when the movie comes on cable.
    Please come back often to tell us what you think about the movies you are in and the ones you see.

  • atomaneve

    The Resistor is right on about this film. This movie is just another tactic to water down the the true word of Jesus and bible prophecy. The shiny ones are nothing more than demons.
    How can someone even believe that God’s angels are so dark and unemotional as these light beings were when they were dressed in black and in human form. The movie has new age agenda written all over it. I have no doubt that this world will witness the shiny ones in its future, and they will be here to decieve just as this movie has.
    We tend to believe that angels are light and demons are evil looking creatures. Remember that the demons were once angels under God and 1/3 of them followed satan under his rulership. 2 Corinthians 11:13 and satan himself transformed into an angel of light. What we need to be knowing is who our true savior is!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Atomaneve. I am glad the film sparked this discussion.

  • http://godonline.newsvine.com James Davis

    What struck me about the movie was its patchwork nature. The numeric puzzle seemed to echo both “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown and “The Bible Code” by Michael Drosnin.
    And the aliens, with their wispy aurae suggesting wings — and their landing craft with its wheels-within-wheels — were a clear throwback to “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich Von Daniken.
    The special effects of the movie were, superb. The writing, more like cut & paste.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I agree, James!
    I was impressed, though, that the screenwriter sent me a very nice email about my review. He said he wished I had liked the movie but was grateful for my respectful engagement with it. Very classy!

  • Janet Hull

    I have an innate ability to suspend disbelief when I see a movie, which generally enhances my ability to enjoy it. This film however had several moments which caused my precariously suspended disbelief to thump back to reality with a jarring crash. *SPOILER ALERT!*
    Several times during the film Caleb and Abby (sp?) are threatened by strange men whenever they are left alone – yet how many times do their parents leave them alone?! Not only alone, but in unattended vehicles with the keys in the ignition and the engines running? When John drives into New York City in order to try and avert the next catastrophe…he simply pulls into an empty parking space. How many times have YOU been able to simply “pull into an empty parking space” in NYC? Lastly, on the scale of human misfortune an airplane crash which claims several dozen lives is peanuts compared to earthquakes or floods which takes thousands. I find it hard to believe that it would rate a 50 year heralding.
    *END SPOILERS*
    I agree the special effects were stunning,but they aren’t enough to carry a movie without an adequate storyline – which this movie really doesn’t have.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I agree, Janet! That took me out of the movie completely. Thanks so much for a great comment!

  • Your Name

    I have to strongly disagree with Tina, you are ONLY making a parents view on this movie. I am a teen and I really enjoyed this movie. you only talked about how disturbing it was, from what i understand you just WATCHED this movie without THINKING about it. theres much more to the movie than just whats on the surface. some people say the whisper people are aliens or angels but i think they are the same, aliens means not from here so if they are “angels” they are “alien” as in not from earth. at the beginning when cage talks about how the earth is the perfect distance from the sun for life to exist, well we know the sun is growing bigger, so at one time a long time ago mercury was that perfect distance which would mean humans could have once lived there, then next would be venus. so at the end of the movie when the children reach the other planet my guess would be that its mars, now that it is the “perfect distance for life to exist. the children will repopulate- and the cycle will continue, even the sequence of numbers because if you remember Caleb starts writing numbers too. well thats my opinion, i just had to write this becuase of how many people hated it but didnt actually think about it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    A great comment, thanks! I believe you understood what the screenwriter was hoping to achieve, though I am not as persuaded as you that he achieved it. The main thing is that it was provocative enough to inspire both of us to consider its meaning carefully. I am so glad you wrote and hope you will return often to let me know what you think of the movies you see.

  • Gary Ridenour

    Religion is confusing enough without this movie trying to help out.
    It was so bad, my clothes stank. For a little while I though this was going to end up the delusions of an alcoholic professor.
    If the aliens were so concerned, why did they let six billion people fry?
    If they had the technology to see the future and travel from galaxy to galaxy, why didn’t they just shield the Earth? Better yet, stop the solar flare, but NOOOOO, they have to hand out black rocks, stalk children, and stand in the woods. Were these aliens any relatives to Larry the Cable Guy?
    Thank God the aliens did take the child actors out of the movie and leave Cage behind. How did Ezekiel get pulled into this mess?
    Ed Wood, where are you?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Very funny, Gary! SPOILER ALERT It really bugged me that the aliens/angels would leave all of human civilization behind and bet the continuation of the future on two (white) children. What if one of them got sick? You’re going to leave behind all of those people and penicillin and Shakespeare and the Bible and da Vinci and Mozart?

  • Matt

    I just watched this movie with a friend. First thought of the movie… Awesome. Obviously I signed online to see if others were somewhat as confused as I am/was. My friend thinks the figures were angels, because they had what appeared to be wings… I disagree completely regardless whether or not they were wings or just the ora of the figure, I came to the conclusion they were aliens. For a few reasons. 1. They opened the sky with a huge space ship, and later showed multiple space ships dropping kids off all over the “new world” 2. It is because of my religion I cannot accept the fact that the only people to be spared would be the children, it is all believers.
    Maybe it is because of this reason they created the movie this way to get people talking and have somewhat controversy over it.
    It is my opinion that people are upset, including myself because of the hints of religion throughout the movie only to find out that it was aliens.
    Ironically enough though before the movie started my friend and I were talking about how we never saw a movie where the earth actually ends, so I thought that was pretty cool.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Matt — I love your take on the film and hope you will come back and let me know what you think about the other movies you see.

  • phil

    Good movie, are the aliens called the Davidians? Christians or Scientologists, i cannot remember.

  • Dread

    Man I was really dissapointed I really want nicolis cage to survive and where the lil black kid at u can’t just make a new world full of white people and what about indian and chinesse and would there kid have to have sex with each other to repopulate

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I had all of the same concerns, Dread! Thanks for writing.

  • Rich Santos

    I’m a little late on this post, but I figured I contribute my ‘two-cents’ since I saw the film again on blue-ray recently and thought it was not only an entertaining movie, but a haunting & thought-provoking one, as well. People who did not enjoy this film have every right not to like it, but the whole film is actually a “What If?” which at least tries to mix science & religion in a respectful (albeit improbable) way. It gives credence and validity to both sides of the argument and actually comes to a conclusion tha maybe the truth of human existence lies somewhere between religion & science.
    I am a man of faith, and no film will ever change my mind as to what the truth is about mankind’s purpose on this world and God’s ultimate plan for humanity, but I am also a free-thinker and have no problem entertainng different ideas about faith and prophesies as long as they are respectfully interpreted. “Knowing” does that & basically follows the notion that the writers of the Holy Bible didn’t understand who the ‘supernatural’ visitors were and therefore describe superior beings as angels w/ wings, and ships as spinning wheels. Those ideas are not new (“Chariots of the Gods”, “Babylon 5″, etc.), but the film tries to put it all into perspective. Despite the fact they look alien-like, we can’t be sure who they were exactly. For example, in one scene towards the end of the film, the child tells viewers that the visitors said the dead mother of the girl was “safe now” can be interpreted that her soul/lifeforce/energy continued despite her passing. Also, Nicolas Cage reaffirms to his son that he knows they will see each other again. The film’s ending basically says anything is possible, and doesn’t deny there is a higher power behind it all.
    When the film came out, I heard a lot of negativity about the disaster’s depicted; that they were too graphic. That is the point; if we cringe at so-called “small disasters”, imagine confrontating the end of the world. Most people in the theater who saw the film were in contemplative silence when the film ended, the majority applauded and only two ‘brain-dead’ teenagers though the film was ‘stupid’. I personally like films that challenge me to think, and “Knowing” did just that. I think the ending when Nicolas Cage’s family embraced said a lot about how we shouldn’t take things for granted. We should not have to wait for the end of the world to tell our families we love them and embrace them.
    “Knowing” is by no means a perfect movie and it is not an advertisment for or against religion or science, but it will get you to think about many things, including what is important in life and how should or could use our time on planet Earth and value what is most important; our faith in the Lord and family.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Mr. Santos, for this very thoughtful assessment, which will be a great help to those who want to think more deeply about this film. Much appreciated.

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