92) Knowing (2009) Dir: Alex Proyas Date Released: March 2009 Date Seen: March 29th, 2009 Rating: 2.25/5
Until I saw Alex Proyas’ Knowing (2009), the director’s long-awaited return to science fiction after cult favorite Dark City (1998), I couldn’t tell what was missing from a Michael Bay film. Bay’s films offer totally carefree destruction porn: loud, gorgeous explosions and other random acts of flashy violence. They’re satisfying but only to a point. There’s no meaning to the tableaux of spectacular violence in Transformers (2007), or more accurately, no real emotional investment from the filmmaker. Knowing is another story because here, when the world blows up, it’s because The Rapture is upon us, or at least, The Rapture according to Alex Proyas.
Don’t get me wrong, Proyas’ screenwriters (Ryne Douglas Pearson, Juliet Snowden and Ryan Stiles) use Christianity like Passion of the Christ’s (2004) scribes use Judaism. Though they rely heavily on images like the Tree of Life, angels and belief as a means to ascend to Heaven, the Hacks Three makes sure to use scrubbed-down, hollowed-out representatives of the religion they swipe so much from. While Knowing’s Christian symbols are not innocuous enough to be as inoffensive as its writers might like to believe, they are sanitized enough to make the scenes of brash carnage fittingly portentous. The actions scenes are subsequently frenzied enough for you to feel insulted by their insistent, shrill message and hence ominous enough to be a rubber-necker’s delight.
Like John Koestler’s (Nicolas Cage) quest to find answers, Knowing is so blind in its single-minded quest for a revelatory conclusion that it creates some very intriguing casualties in the process. The scene set near Lafayette and Worth Street reveals that any resemblance to reality the film may have is pure coincidence, one fashioned by an all-knowing intelligence that is holding all of its answers very to its chest. The layperson won’t know that the African Burial Ground is right near the fictitious train station Koestler visits when he’s still interested in saving the world from God’s wrath. They will know that 9/11 did not happen because of an insane pattern predicted by a grade-schooler, but that’s beside the point. Proyas wants to transform fact into something more, in this case propagandistic fiction and from that into fanatic destruction porn, the destruction porn to end them all.
I’m in awe of Proyas because the prevailing feeling of dread that he’s infected Knowing with is apparent even in the most ill-conceived scenes. While “the chosen” get beamed up to heaven in a holy spaceship that looks like a gerbil’s exercise ball by angels that look like pasty Nordic vampires that hide holy laser beams in their mouths, genuine panic is on full display. I’m not claiming I understand what’s going on in the film or why Koestler, who in the end essentially converts from atheism, does not get “saved” but that’s what religion and sequels are for.