It isn’t much of a secret that Nicolas Cage has earned a reputation of doing pretty darned crappy movies — movies which may have an interesting concept going for them, but are utterly wonky in their execution. Not sure if that’s a fault of Cage’s acting, insane scripts, direction, or something else entirely, but I’m hard pressed to think of a Cage movie that I could wholeheartedly recommend.
The only one that comes to mind is National Treasure, which admittedly was a very enjoyable movie, for my part anyway.
Unfortunately, not much has changed with Cage’s latest theatrical release, Knowing.
Cage plays John Koestler (pronounced “KES-ler”), a professor of astrophysics and widower whose son brings home a piece of paper retrieved from a time capsule unearthed as part of his school’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. From that moment forward, John’s life is turned upside down as he races to uncover the mystery of the numbers covering the paper.
What transpires is a sometimes suspenseful, sometimes look-what-we-can-do-with-special-effects race to the finish line that rarely slows down to let you think about how ridiculous or absurd the situation may be.
The acting was good overall, but I had trouble buying the relationship between Koestler and his son. I can’t fault Nicolas Cage for that, though, as it was the acting of Chandler Canterbury — Caleb Koestler in the movie — that left a lot to be desired. Imagine a child Keanu Reeves, and you’d probably be close to Canterbury, who for most of the movie expressed no emotion whatsoever. On the rare occasions where he did, it seemed overwhelmingly forced, which distracted too much from what otherwise could have been very well done scenes.
I do have some positive things to say about the movie, though. Perhaps the best part of the movie would be the soundtrack. There were times in the film where the orchestration was so powerful that I found myself lost not in the plot, but within the violin melodies. I’m sure it could be argued that a soundtrack which distracts from the movie is a bad thing, but in this case I think the quality of the soundtrack is one of the few redeeming qualities of the film.
In addition to the music, I applaud the movie’s concept: What would you do if you knew when a disaster would happen? What would you do if you knew when and where people would die? Given prophecies that specific, how would your life be impacted? Unfortunately, given the weak plot of the movie, I don’t feel as though this concept was treated as best as it could have been.
Do I recommend this movie? Unless you are like me and are convinced that a good special effects movie should be seen on the big screen, then you’ll want to go see this movie. Otherwise, you’ll want to rent this one for a decent attempt at suspense and a few twists and turns which you might not expect.
Unfortunately, though, a concept and some fun music aren’t enough to give a movie a passing grade, and I’m going to give Knowing a 5.5 out of 10 as well as an admonishment to Nicolas Cage to start reading scripts before accepting parts! He has something like seven — seven! — movies planned for the next two years; I’m not holding my breath for any masterpieces to be a part of that group.
Warning: Here be spoilers.
For nearly half of the movie, Knowing is a typical disaster movie, complete with all of the ultra convenient plot points required to keep the main character involved in the big stuff. A plane falls from the sky, two subway trains collide… The special effects are well done, bodies are strewn about… And all the while we’re left not knowing the reason why someone fifty years earlier could have predicted so very many disasters with uncanny precision.
Our curiosity is assuaged when it is revealed that the prophetess from fifty years earlier was fixated upon Christian symbology. A well-worn Bible sat next to what was once her bed, and her daughter reveals that she was practically obsessed with an image of the prophet Ezekiel and the vision of cherubim and the throne of God.
By the end of the movie, we are led to believe that we are witnessing events of biblical proportions (“Dogs and cats living together… Mass hysteria!” — Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters).
Throughout the movie, four men — one more prevalently than the others — are revealed to be the source of the prophecies, communicating seemingly telepathically with the children. At one point in the movie, the foremost of these men gives a vision to young Caleb Koestler of the world around him being destroyed by fire.
Yet we are given no reason to trust these men, and for most of the movie they reside in shadow. They never speak a word, never smile, and always appear angry. Perhaps they want people to fear them, perhaps the director couldn’t figure out if they were good guys or bad guys…
During the climax of the movie, these men are revealed to be angels of some sort — perhaps even cherubim, given the connection to the Ezekiel vision. Angels are usually always met with fear by humans in the Scriptures; perhaps making them out to be as creepy as possible was the only way the director could think of to make angels which struck fear into the hearts of man?
Whatever the case, it is revealed that these four angels were meant to rescue certain children to start over; Earth was to be destroyed by fire — a result of a giant solar flare — while the children and, presumably, two of every creature (at least two rabbits) were transported by giant
wicked awesome 3D screensavers ships (presumably the “wheels within wheels” from Ezekiel’s vision) to a new world.
Now, to shift gears a little bit, let’s throw some historical context behind what the movie portrayed. Did Ezekiel envision the end of the world by solar flare? Did he envision extraterrestrial ships piloted by ethereal beings? And what will happen at the end of the world?
I won’t deny that Ezekiel’s vision is pretty incredible, but unsurprisingly the entire point of it is missed in Knowing: Ezekiel wasn’t burdened with a warning that a super solar flair would cook the earth. Rather, Ezekiel declares that “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1).
Read the vision for yourself, and you’ll see where Knowing‘s conclusion largely came from:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. 12And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. 13As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. 16As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. 18And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. 19And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. 20Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. 23And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. 24And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 25And there came a void from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.
26And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. The Book of Ezekiel 1:4–28
That’s a lot to read — and even more to digest — I admin, but I hope you did read it. (For good measure, reread it again, and again… Well, you get the picture. It’s Scripture; it’s important!)
You’ll no doubt notice quite a few points of similarity with the endgame creatures from Knowing. But in all the places that Knowing succeeds in illustrating biblical prophecy, it is by no means an accurate portrayal — nor does it pretend to try to. Still, because the truth is so much more important than fiction, here are some brief points to consider:
In Knowing, only the chosen ones were rescued from certain destruction. In real life, only the chosen are rescued from condemnation. Unlike in real life, though, in Knowing, Nicolas Cage’s character asks and desires to go with the cherubim. In real life, there are none who seek God unless He first seeks (chooses) them.
In Knowing, the cherubim had two wings, and only dimly so. In real life, cherubim have four. Likewise, in Knowing the cherubim had a single face — or two, if you count their human and celestial forms separately. In real life, cherubim have four faces.
In Knowing, cherubim can kidnap kids right out from under their parents’ noses; in real life, kidnapping is a sin for which death is the prescribed sentence.
In Knowing, the world ended in fire and flames for no apparent reason. In real life, the world will end in fire for a reason: to purge sin once and for all.
In Knowing, a new world was given to presumed innocents: children and animals. In real life, the New Earth will be inherited by those who have been adopted into God’s family.
In Knowing, Ezekiel’s vision is taken as a warning concerning the end of the world at the hand of the sun, so to speak. In real life, Ezekiel’s vision continues past the first chapter and reveals the wonderful glory of God. Knowing barely mentions God, yet in real life, to those whose eyes have been opened, God is center stage.
Ezekiel’s vision is an exciting portion of Scripture — one of many — and if Knowing leaves you just a tiny bit curious as to what it’s all about, then I am thankful. May your curiosity inevitably lead you to the glory of God, and may you find Him as un-ignorable as I do.