I discussed Push a couple weeks back, commenting that "it's one of the most ambitious complete failures I've seen in years." But it seems that I spoke two weeks too soon, for the new Nicolas Cage sci-fi thriller Knowing has trumped it on both counts, attempting to ruminate on heady science fiction ideas and falling spectacularly on its face unlike anything I've seen in ages. There's nothing sadder than a profoundly bad movie that wants to be a masterpiece, it's like a four hundred pound woman wearing the latest designer fashions.
If you've seen the trailer you know the basic premise; Nicolas Cage's son gets a sheet of numbers from a time capsule that perfectly predicts every disaster with a body count between 1959 and 2009. The way Cage figures this out strains even my very liberal suspension of disbelief, but I accept that it's necessary for the movie to exist, so so be it. Cage then attempts to thwart fate and halt the remaining disasters (which leads to a few generic but acceptable disaster movie sequences, you know, crashing planes and derailing subway cars, whatever).
At this point, about two-thirds of the way in, the movie is mediocre but not awful, and it does seem to be trying to raise some questions about predestination and the nature of the universe, determinism versus chaos theory. The giant disaster scenes feel very studio-mandated, sure, but the film doesn't feel like a cash-in and it seems like the director is trying to explore something. I was willing to accept that it was heading towards an interesting ending that would justify the film's existence. If only I knew the horrors that awaited.
It's difficult to explain how much I hated this movie's climax and ending (and I'll have to with spoilers beyond a warning because this warrants further detail), but it's about as shockingly bizarre, random, and incongruous with everything that's led up to it as if Se7en had ended with Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey growing gigantic ala Power Rangers and doing battle with flaming broadswords. Watching the final act of Knowing I was trapped halfway between choking back laughter and cringing in embarrassment; it's quite possibly the worst ending of the decade.
A good plot twist should do two things: be unexpected and enrich the experience that leads up to it. The revelation that Darth Vader is Luke's father is unexpected and enriches The Empire Strikes Back, the revelation that Bruce Willis is dead is unexpected and enriches is The Sixth Sense. The revelation that Knowing is a literal goddamn alien conspiracy is a shocking swerve, sure, but in the same way as a heart attack. Rather than enriching the two hours leading up to it it renders them moot; why did we need to watch Nicolas Cage try to save eighty people on a plane crash and a hundred people on a subway crash if six and a half billion people were just going to die two days later anyway? What was the goddamn point?
Beyond that, the movie has some awkward acting (especially from the kids) and wonky CGI, but those gripes are small fries compared to how grotesquely awful the third act is. This is definitely an early contender for my bottom ten movies of 2009, but although a barrage of shittiness at year's end may allow it to wriggle free, the ending is an absolute lock for my worst cinematic moments of 2009. Garbage movie. Skip it please.
1 Star out of 5