Friday, April 17, 2009
"Knowing" Starring Nicolas Cage: A Loud, Bloody, Violent, Creepy Rapture Fantasy for Extremists (Rated PG-13)
***WARNING: spoiler alert if you plan on seeing this awful movie***
My apologies, this is going to be off-topic. Last night I finished all my obligations to Yosan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As soon as grades are submitted I should have my diploma in hand. So, how did we celebrate? Quietly, with dinner at home and then a movie of my choosing. I didn't want to see another quirky comedy, so I chose what I had heard was a sort of escapist action fantasy with possible involvement of aliens: "Knowing" (Had I done my research I probably would have discovered the truth about this movie before going to see it, but I was in a hurry, between work, school, walking the dog, making dinner and cleaning the kitchen, like most busy people I just wanted to squeeze in some big-screen entertainment without thinking about it too much.)
"Knowing" is not a sci-fi action thriller about the end of the world. It's a thinly disguised Rapture story where secular humanists are punished with fiery death on a massive scale and the chosen ones get whisked away to heaven. Besides the dishonesty with which it's presented, it's incredibly, graphically violent, bloody and traumatizing in purposely post-9/11 kind of way.
For those unfamiliar with the Rapture, let me explain. According to extreme Christianists, when "the Rapture" comes, all the people who are truly Christian, saved, however they want to call it, will be magically transported up to Heaven without going through the intermediate step of actually dying. They will be taken suddenly, with no warning. Is the pilot of your plane one of the saved ones? He'll disappear in midflight, and down goes the plane. What about those who aren't saved? They stay on earth for, oh, about seven years of awfulness. You know, one-world government, rape, torture, famine, plagues, general mayhem. That's your punishment for not being a believer. Suppose you convert after the rapture? Because, you know, you've seen the evidence? Too late. THEEEN Christ comes back and show's over, it's the end of days.
This is a very narrow, ugly, twisted interpretation of the teachings of Christ. It emphasizes the wrath of God and speaks not to our hearts or anything good within us but only our basest fears. A series of books called Left Behind that presents a fictionalized Rapture story started in 1995 has been wildly popular, selling millions of copies and spawning spinoffs such as movies, video games, graphic novels and albums.
In Knowing, Nicolas Cage plays an MIT professor who lost his wife last year in a hotel fire. He's depressed, drinks a lot, and lives in a creepy old house with his young son. His wife's death has further reinforced for him that there is no God, no final plan for the universe. He's estranged from his pastor father and is a miserable asshole to his sister, who drops by every now and then to see how he's doing. (Remind you of anything? In Signs, Mel Gibson plays a Catholic priest who loses his wife in a terrible accident, loses his faith, and then is led back to it by aliens.)
I won't bore you with the details of the plot, but I want to warn you against seeing this movie for the pointless violence. There are two horrendous accidents that are filmed in excruciating detail. One is a plane crash that happens a few feet from Nicolas Cage, who runs toward the wreckage and tries to help people who are screaming in horror because their faces are on fire and they have no legs. This goes on for minutes and minutes. Later there's a subway accident in New York City, where a subway car careens onto a packed rush-hour platform and kills hundreds of people. This is also filmed in excruciatingly graphic detail, but the end of the scene sickened me the most. Nicolas Cage and others wander dazed out of the subway station, covered in white dust. This is an extremely low cheap shot at the emotions of any American who saw these pictures like these of real people who survived the attacks on 9/11. The music plays a part as well - every moment is played up to super intense levels, with the strings and bass drums signifying that something awful is about to happen - and then it does! Over and over and over again! I had to do some purposeful "shaking off" after that movie to prevent that violence from sticking.
And what's the purpose of all this death and destruction? In the end, Nicolas Cage's kid and some other creepy little kid are taken off to outer space by aliens who dress like the Columbine killers, who deposit them on another world along with (implied) various other boy-girl couples who will rebuild humanity. In a scene near the end, Nicolas Cage and his kid are walking towards the alien ship, and then Nicolas Cage is stopped. Sorry, his kid explains, the "whisper-people" say that "only those who heard the call" can come. Wow. So he stays on earth as it's destroyed by a massive solar flare that burns everything.
Oh, and here's one more cheap shot against NYC: the final scene shows Manhattan literally being obliterated by a wave of radiation and fire, which is odd because the main character lives in Boston, and that's where most of the action takes place. New York City is a convenient stand-in for Sodom and Gomorrah in the minds of some, and they delight in seeing it destroyed.
The teachings of Christ are revolutionary in their emphasis on love, kindness towards others and direct knowledge of God unmediated by church or guru. Don't be distracted by messages of fear and hate, that's not where you'll find truth.