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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Knowing (review)

Numbers Up

I almost want to tell you, “Don’t miss Knowing,” because it’s so ridiculous — and so ridiculous in such an original way — that you kinda have to see it to believe that anyone actually conceived this idea, and then that anyone actually tried to pull it off. It’s like this: Imagine that the nitwits who wrote those preposterous Left Behind apocalyptic end-times fantasies decided to try their pens at something X-Files-y… or what they thought would be X-Files-y. It might look a lot like this alternately dull and unintentionally hilarious blend of self-important tripe: half science fiction as people who don’t understand science fiction see it, and half pseudo-religious nonsense that thinks it’s comforting and doesn’t realize how downright creepy it is.
Not creepy in a good way, of course: accidentally and inadvertently creepy by way of people who think the ideas that We Are Being Watched Over and Everything Happens For A Reason are reassuring and soothing. It’s not the viewpoint per se that’s the problem here — that would be a whole ’nother debate — but how it’s presented, as overblown and portentous as those cell-phone TV ads about “dead zones” that send up the clichés of suspense movies, even when the way the story is told would seem to be interfering with what the movie hopes to leave you with by the time it’s over.

Knowing ain’t a joke, though: it’s solemn-serious. The world is about to end, you know. Or maybe just sumthin’ bad for Nic Cage, Astrophysicist!, who trains up his college students in Quantum Philosophy 101 by telling them “I think shit just happens.” This is quite clearly countered by the fact that it took five people — Ryne Pearson, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Stuart Hazeldine, and director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Garage Days) — presumably working with intent and deliberation, to come up with all this. This shit did not “just happen,” though much of it feels so random that, again — as with its inability to decide where it should be going all-horror-movie on us — Knowing works to undermine itself. The one line of dialogue that infuriated me the most — “My scientific mind is telling me to have nothing more to do with this,” a scientist pal tells Cage’s astrophysicist, “and yours should too” — I can almost forgive, because clearly Knowing is not aimed at anyone with even a slightly scientific bent of mind, who would laugh at the upside-downness of such a suggestion, that a scientific mind would balk at a mystery instead of being intrigued by it. But I can’t forgive that same friend telling Cage (Bangkok Dangerous, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) that he “sounds pretty crazy, even for you.” What is the Cage character’s history of craziness? There isn’t one. It’s a line that sounds good in a trailer but makes no sense whatsoever within context.

The mystery, and what non-crazy Cage sounds crazy about, even for him, is this: He and his young son (played by the cute as a button and impressive monikered Chandler Canterbury: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) stumble across a numerological prophecy in a time capsule at the kid’s school. Cage figures out that the numbers scrawled across a couple of pieces of paper by a kid 50 years earlier in fact refer to every major disaster for the coming half century to follow. Which, plausibility about predicting the future aside, shouldn’t work for the plot: Cage confirms his suspicions by comparing the 50-year-old numbers on the paper to the news reports he finds on the Internet. That assumes that we always know the precise body count of a major disaster — which we don’t. So even if the predictions are entirely accurate, Cage shouldn’t be able to lock down every one of them as accurate. (This glop also assumes that one could list details of every incident for half a century in which as few as 48 people are killed on only two pieces of paper, which seems ridiculous, too.)

The problems with this aren’t just about nitpicking details: it connects to the film’s entire philosophy. The numerological predictions reach the present day before the numbers run out, which means that a few Something Bads are still to come, and soon. As Cage runs around trying to stop the upcoming disasters, he (and his son) are dogged by weird spectral blond men-in-black angel types who drive old sedans — this is one of the funniest of the not-supposed-to-be-funny bits — and by the end of the film, there is the implication that much of what has occurred has been directed, and all of it has been foreseen by some very powerful entities. (That’s not really much of a spoiler — the entire premise is based on the time-capsule predictions being accurate, after all.) And if that is the case, and if Knowing is, in the end, meant to be, in one regard, comforting and reassuring, then why does the movie ignore many obvious questions about the motives of these supposedly beneficent entities, like: Why did they arrange things as they did, instead of in ways that would have been infinitely more beneficent?

If I thought this was a deliberate goal of Knowing — to ask provocative and sinister questions about some cherished religious notions — I’d applaud the movie. But this is clearly not the case. The planned point of Knowing, it seems, is twofold: To allow Proyas a few deeply disturbing opportunities to indulge in disaster porn; man, does he love him some planes exploding and people — and animals! — on fire. (It’s equally disturbing to know that the MPAA has concluded, by giving this flick a PG-13 rating, that people burning or exploding into clouds of blood and flesh is more suitable for children than one too many utterances of the work fuck, which is always enough to earn an otherwise innocuous movie an R.) And to indulge in an ending that is quite literally pulled out of the thinnest of air.

I have a clever turn of phrase to describe that ending, except it really would be a spoiler to reveal it now. (I’ll post it soon.) But that ending is very, very funny, and so unique — if ludicrous — that only a newly invented phrase can encapsulate it. If you are tempted to Knowing, and are them tempted to walk out halfway through the overly long runtime, don’t: You’ll appreciate the laugh at the finale.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Kenny

    Haha… I thought it looked like shit. Glad to see I’m not to be disappointed.

  • Barb

    Not surprising. Nic Cage really hasn’t turned out a decent movie in a long time.

  • An excellent review, and one that is reflective of the other reviews I’ve read…with one big exception: Roger Ebert gives this 4 stars. I have to say, the ads and the story line make this sound as ludicrous as MaryAnn describes it. So I realize this is off-topic, and maybe it’s not cool to talk about one reviewer on another reviewer’s site, but what has happened to Ebert?

    Or can this movie be viewed as a Dark City-type of masterpiece if you look at it just right? Were you convinced right away, MaryAnn, that this was a stinker, or did you have some hope for it at the beginning, and ultimately you turned right while Roger turned left in your opinions?

  • David

    [From the preview] Why do they assume something Really Bad ™ is going to happen when the numbers run out, doesn’t that just mean that there are no more disasters or deaths to be had?

    Anyway, great review. I will probably see it anyway because I am a glutton for this kind of terrible.

  • Mike Corbett

    I saw this movie tonight. It was amazing. Excellent acting, wonderful effects. A thriller in the truest sense. Sorry MaryAnn, but your profile says you “think(s) way too much about such inconsequences as movies, TV, books, and the meaning of life.” I think you should watch again and perhaps re-review it. This film has a great story and is movie making at its finest. You like to ponder the meaning of life? This film should be right up your alley.

    Sometimes we like to see an actor rise or fall. Kick them when they are down, or build them up and rave about their successes. Regardless of what you think of him in past films, I can’t see anyone watching this movie and not agreeing that Nicolas Cage owned this part.

  • Myke

    I saw the movie tonight…LOVED IT…will probably see it a few more times. Acting was okay, story was AWESOME, ending was rushed, ending before the ending was SO COOL, visuals were AMAZINV, and at the end of the night, we were totally uncomfortable in the car, because it was all just super creepy, in a deliciously wonderful way.

    They made a choice that I have wanted MANY apacolyptic movies to make and I applaud them for it. Yeah, it’s a creepy choice, but the most plausible one in my book. I’m 28 old, have a production company, and yes, this is my legitimate opinion and personal view of the film.

    Loved it, and would/will wholeheartedly recommend a watch to my friends…

  • Aw! I had heard that maybe this was gonna be a good one. I’ll wait for it to be on NetFlix I guess. Thanks for the warning, MaryAnn.

  • Dan

    Saw it last night. 9/10. I found the film to be pretty amazing myself so I’m on the Roger Ebert side. Definitely don’t go see this if you want to avoid a depressing disaster flick.

    But if you want to get a glimpse into how the world will end in 2012, you should check this out. I’m glad MaryAnn gets a good laugh at seeing death and destruction. You are a twisted sicko.

  • Accounting Ninja

    But if you want to get a glimpse into how the world will end in 2012, you should check this out. I’m glad MaryAnn gets a good laugh at seeing death and destruction. You are a twisted sicko.

    Yeah, Mary Ann! How dare you make light of the Totally Real Future this turd represents!

    Are you serious, guy? You actually think the world will end by the movies’ mechanics in 2012. Here’s a concept that even my 4 year old son understands: movie aren’t real life.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m glad MaryAnn gets a good laugh at seeing death and destruction. You are a twisted sicko.

    I continue to be astonished at the utter lack of reading comprehension among much of the general public.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Looks like you’ve been invaded by PRbots. My scientific mind is goig to go see how many other commenting systems have been invaded.

  • Shane

    I promise you I’m not a PRbot, but I really liked it too. I also understand why you wouldn’t. If you don’t buy into its world, you will think it’s the dumbest thing ever. But for me, Alex Proyas, particularly in Dark City, has a way of drawing you in to his bizarre worlds if you’re willing to take the leap. Dunno. But anyway, I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Maura

    Are you serious, guy? You actually think the world will end by the movies’ mechanics in 2012. Here’s a concept that even my 4 year old son understands: movie aren’t real life.

    A lot of (incorrect) people believe the world will end, or there will be some kind of global cataclysm, in 2012 (which is I think when the Mayan calendar runs out of days), which is where I assume the movie got the idea. The previous poster may be unbelievably wrong, but I don’t think they got the idea from this movie.

  • MaryAnn

    The movie has nothing to do with the world ending in 2012.

    If you don’t buy into its world, you will think it’s the dumbest thing ever.

    The problem isn’t so much about buying into this world, it’s about the film being illogical and pulling shit out of a hat when it needs it.

  • thatguy

    “the nitwits who wrote those preposterous Left Behind apocalyptic end-times fantasies”

    how can you say thats a fantasy? You have no clue wether or not that WILL happen in the future. There are many things happening NOW that will prove Revelations propechies.

    and anyways… the religious factors in the movie or not what christians believe. Or at least not me. They confused angels with aliens. what a dumb movie.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Yeah, thatguy, the plotlines of the Left Behind novels are just so plausible that they could happen at any time. The Antichrist takes control of the UN and demands one world government, universal currency and one world language, and everyone complies because the UN is too powerful to resist? That totally could happen!… in a shit science fiction novel. In the real world, not so much.

  • MaSch

    Yeah, who can say for sure that these things from the movie or from Left Behind won’t ever happen? Remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future.

  • Muzz

    and that is where we will spend the rest of our lives!
    …in the future

  • MaSch

    Yeah, that’s why we are so interested in the future.

  • mortadella

    Seriously, they cross “angels” with MIB’s in the film?
    Wow.
    I mean, like, wow man.
    It sounds like science fiction as told by someone who couldn’t understand why “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” was funny.

  • ann

    The very fact that this movie pissed you off so much is crazy to me. Its a movie do somthing meaningful with your life you non contributing zero, and maybe you should ask yourself why you hate christanity so much. It is really unbecoming.

  • MaryAnn

    Ann, please explain how this movie is trying to implore us to do something meaningful with our lives. (If that is what you’re trying to say.)

  • ann

    Oh no I am not trying to say that at all it is just confusing to me that she seems to be so angry over a two hour peice of fiction is all.

  • Brandon

    Well, being a film critic, if a movie is bad, she will say that it is bad in a review.

    When a mechanic works on your car, do you walk into the garage and harass them saying “Why are you spending an hour working on a silly automobile? Look at you! You’re all sweaty! Do something real with your life! You’re going to all this effort for a machine!”

    As for Christianity, that’s an entirely different discussion. There are plenty of reasons to dislike or disapprove of organized religion, but this review doesn’t really touch on that, understandably.

    What it DOES touch on is a piece of fiction that has a resemblance to Knowing. That piece of fiction is silly, poorly plotted, and made all the more laughable because there are groups of Christians who actually think it will happen.

    What’s really unbecoming is your persecution complex.

  • Kevin Keene

    MaryAnn: As usual, I read your review of this movie before I went to go see it. I have said before, you and I share similar viewpoints, but I wanted to see it anyway.

    Well, it is my opinion that the movie makers did not pull imagery out of their asses for this flick. I think, because the point of view is Nicholas Cage’s character, the imagery was as his mind had to interpret it to feel like he was understanding it as he saw it. He aknowledges his lack of “salvation” from a biblical standpoint in the movie, so he doesn’t believe in angels or whatever. His scientific education skewing his interpretation of events causes the “watchers” to be MIB or something else around which he could wrap his mind, and the imagery in the final scenes of the movie were nothing more than his interpretation of the events that were transpiring before him. Taking it from this point of view made the imagery for me (with a Christian background) easier to handle.

    If you remember the picture he found in Lucinda’s house while he was looking for reasons behind her death, there was a twisting set of rings below the figure seated on a chair in the clouds. Because he saw that, it affected his interpretation of the final events. His son said the “watchers” were there for people that heard the call, not just him and not just children.

    Anyway, I have a few other reasons to explain my perspective, and I am not expecting to change yours. I just wanted to provide a different point of view. Thanks for reading!

  • Ryan

    maybe you should ask yourself why you hate christanity so much. It is really unbecoming.

    There are many reasons to question the worth of Organized Religion to society. What is ‘unbecoming’ is people who refuse to engage on any sort of intellectual level, and instead hurl ad-hominem insults.

  • Antonio

    Kevin K., that is an interesting perspective and would go hand in hand with the “seeing what you want in the numbers” thing. However the movie makes it quite clear that the numbers are not interpretations but real messages, without a single deviation! What’s more is that not only Cage, but all the other characters, see the “Watchers” in the same way.

    This movie borrows heavily from New Age themes- which often try to reinvent Christianity for those who start to peel away from mainstream doctrine but can’t quite let go of the fuzzy feeling with which Jesus’ salvation leaves you.

    Just to make sure you got the message, we see the kids (omg! the NEW Adam and Eve hahahha) dropped off in a veritable Garden of Eden with, what else, but a giant golden tree, that looks almost identical to classical depictions of the Tree of Life, and just in case you don’t get the hint, we are treated to a prolonged triumphant display of this scenery replete with a painfully long pan-out and the most exagerated music possible.

    In the final scenes there is no Nicholas Cage, no interpretation, nothing but the sweet comforting image of angelic alien spaceships and an Earth-like planet with two moons (and NO PREDATORS IN SIGHT!) to console you from the fact that advanced beings just left trillions of biomass to be incinerated by the sun.

    Also, will the kids fornicate to repopulate the earth or will they spawn offspring asexually, as I imagine Christians do?

    It’s said this premise was hijacked by the faith bandwagon, as most disaster movies are. As human beings we ALWAYS seem to need a god damn reason for everything. I’m just sick of this message. “God loves some of us, but the rest he wants to erradicate with vengeful, Holy flame from the core of the sun.” OK! If that is the “God” that I have to accept, and that this film wants to slam in my face, then really, he can just burn me up because that is not a god I want to follow.

    Blind faith is stupid. Really, you can believe what you want but you can’t get away from that premise. Unfortunately this film did not.

  • Antonio

    Correction: Sorry it’s late: The second to last paragraph should start “It’s SAD..”

    Thanks.

  • I actually quite enjoyed this flick, silly as it was. Part of this could have been cos it was filmed in my old high school.

    So, a question to the Americans reading this – and especially New Yorkers – is it completely distracting to see another city (in this case Melbourne) stand in for NY? Or were they clever enough that anyone over there was fooled?

  • Kevin Keene

    Antonio:

    Yeah, I remember the imagery of the “Garden of Eden” with the “Tree of Life” in the back. I disregarded this part as more of what Cage’s mind would have done with the situation. He had a religious upbringing and knows (whether or not he believes) of the garden, and the new bodies after the rapture and whatever. Yeah, you’re right about everyone seeing the “watchers” as the same MIB-style person, but I just disregarded this part as what he would think if someone told him what was going on while he wasn’t present (for example, the part where the kids were taken at the gas station, but he wasn’t there to see it).

    As for your paragraph about the movie’s premise, I am not going to get into a debate about how religion should be, I was merely trying to give a different viewpoint for the average viewer who may be fooled into thinking this movie is nothing but botched religion thrown at them from all sides. I have studied Christianity enough to know what you are saying about a loving yet vengeful God is true, but it all depends on what angle you look at it. In the end, I enjoyed this movie very much and recommended it to my friends (with the caveat of not taking the imagery literally).

    Thank you for responding! I hope MaryAnn does, too, but I am not holding my breath. She has better things, and better movies, to do.

  • Bobby Bowman

    C’mon people! Everything in this movie is about Scientology, not Christianity. Somewhere, Tom Cruise is smiling right now.

  • Oy

    So tired of the bashing of organized religion. Maybe one day people will realize that it takes action to turn an idea into evil. That action requires human beings.

    The problem is not religion. The problem is not government. The problem is not guns. The problem is not drugs. The problem is people. The infinite falibility of the human mind…

    …as evidenced by bad films, war crimes, hate crimes, bigotry, politics, and general bold-faced hatred by certain authors of certain movie review web sites.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt the movie is bad. Just curious why it requires such vitriol to explain why this particular sci-fi movie isn’t good.

    I’m not sure why I’m even posting this. Maybe to make myself feel better? The possiblity of this actually causing some kind of self-reflection or interospection is virtually non-existent. I must just like to feel like I tried.

  • amanohyo

    Oy, some ideas are evil in and of themselves. There is an objective, utilitarian, universal human system of morality that exists independent of any one organized religion or specific culture. Very generally, all rational humans agree on the following moral rules:

    1) do not kill
    2) do not cause pain
    3) do not disable
    4) do not deprive of freedom

    These rules developed because we are social animals, not because they were carved into a stone tablet or telepathically communicated to a man in a cave. If you need convincing that this is not merely fighting dogma with dogma, try to imagine a stable society that does not follow these rules. There are of course, countless situations in which it is morally acceptable to break these rules (killing in self-defence, sadomasochism, causing pain to cure or prevent disease, etc.), but all rational humans, religious or not, would like other people to follow these rules with respect to themselves.

    The idea that there are certain, “sacred” things or ideas that are above any criticism is an evil idea. In fact, the whole concept of blasphemy is evil. It deprives others of their freedom of speech. The idea that women and/or homosexuals do not have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual men is evil. Frightening good people with fears about being punished for eternity after they die is an evil practice. Most importantly, disabling a child’s ability to think rationally and critically about the physical universe and other humans is evil.

    I personally don’t hate organized religions in an abstract sense. I can imagine perfectly benign religions existing in theory. However, in practice, all major organized religions contain evil teachings (and some good ones too, to be fair). This wouldn’t be a big issue if religions were self-critical and willing to adapt and shed their evil teachings while holding on to the good (somewhat similar to the scientific process), but I have yet to see an organized religion that is free from dogma. Religions do reluctantly adapt to society, but as Galileo found out, the process is a tad slow. By definition, a “successful” organized religion is one that survives and grows because it is rigidly dogmatic.

    Of course there are evil religious people and good religious people, but when people criticize organized religion, they are criticizing the evil ideas that are codified in the religions themselves, not just the evil people that use those ready-made systems of prejudice, arrogance, and closed-mindedness to promote ignorance, death, and suffering. I don’t question the fact that religions contain some good teachings and encourage many good deeds, but as millions of nonreligious volunteers and philanthropists have shown, these same teachings and deeds exist independent of organized religions. It won’t be easy or quick, but we can throw out the holywater and keep the baby.

  • Accounting Ninja

    And I’m really tired of religion being some sacred cow that no one can dare speak against. As a non-believer, I am respectful of individuals’ beliefs, even if I disagreee with them, but I don’t find the same respect from believers towards me, as a general rule. Well, I’m tired of being polite. To quote Mark Twain, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

  • MaryAnn

    So, a question to the Americans reading this – and especially New Yorkers – is it completely distracting to see another city (in this case Melbourne) stand in for NY? Or were they clever enough that anyone over there was fooled?

    Yes to the first question. No to the second. (I wrote about this earlier this week in more detail.)

    Regarding religion and evil, I read this this week: Good people will do good. Evil people will do evil. To get good people to do evil, you need religion.

  • raichan

    I just saw Knowing. The sfx were totally amazing especially that train station and the airplane crash scene. For the first few minutes I thought this was a horror flick because I didn’t see the the previews. It was okay all in all; and the ending, although it was fairly predictable that the world really is going to an end, I never expected that they would go for it (I was kind of thinking it would be like Armageddon or Deep Impact). Anyway there were a lot of loop holes and unexplained questions. I also didn’t like that they added aliens to their twisted plot because the story sort of became ET-meet-X-Files.

    I recommend you watch this if you have free time and few money to spare but if there are other movies available or you have other things to do, attend to that first.

  • Saladinho

    When I first read this review, I enjoyed it, and found it very witty, and I guess I still do, but I just saw the film myself and pretty much disagree with it completely. In particular, the best bit of criticism of the review was the line: “My scientific mind blah blah blah…” and how that goes against everything a scientist should stand for. Then, I see the film, and learn that the “scientific mind” bit is part of an inside joke, that was set up between Cage and his pal earlier. So, when the guy says the line, he’s actually being ironic. He’s just scared of what the numbers mean. And also, I never saw the aliens as being especially beneficent at all. They were just like, hey, this is going to happen. Want to come with us, or stay there and burn? Those who got the message went, those didn’t got left behind. The aliens never said they were there for everyone.

  • Kyle1722

    The people I saw this movie with didn’t like it, and I can see why. But I myself enjoyed it, and thinking about it later, I can find certain meanings in it that I didn’t understand immediately, with a little help from these posts.

    The concept of synchronicity, which was mentioned in the movie, fascinates me I think it was a major theme. The list of numbers was written specifically for Cage and to guide him. The death tolls matched what he saw online, because those numbers were there specifically to creep him out to the point of making a believer out of him.

    The reason his son started scratching into the desk was so Cage would realize to go to the school to find the missing numbers, and know where to go for the send off.

    Also that other lady was meant to die because she was going to interfere.

    The whole point was so that Cage could say goodbye to his son and make peace with his family before he died.

  • Saladinho

    Kyle 1722: you hit on some points that I was thinking when I felt that people misunderstood the aliens’ purpose in the film.

    I think alot of people thought the aliens were there to warn or save all of humanity, but really, they weren’t. They took who they took, who understood and accepted their “call,” and that was it.

    Lucinda came up with the time capsule idea independent of the aliens. But when the day arrived for her to put a drawing in along with the class, she got the numbers message and started furiously writing them down to get them out of her head. So, the teacher put that in along with the other kids drawings. Since Lucinda had been interrupted, she put the rest of the numbers on the door in the school.

    Which of course, eventually led to Cage’s character to discover them and so on and so forth…

  • MaryAnn

    SPOILERS!

    So the aliens’ purpose is to be as obscure as possible, to ensure they can save only a handful of people?

    Why do the aliens care if Nic Cage says goodbye to his son or makes peace with anything before he dies?

    What was the aliens’ “call,” and why should anyone accept it?

    (See my other long post about the movie and the ending — especially my comment about how you swap out “aliens” for “God” when you talk about this movie.)

    And nope, sorry, but the “scientific mind” thing doesn’t play as a joke. It plays as a logic copout that ostensibly allows the rest of the movie to unfold.

  • Saladinho

    The first time they say “scientific mind” it’s a joke. Like saying “Spidey Sense.” It’s definitely a thing between them. It’s the scene right after Cage so elegantly postulates that “shit happens,” while he and his pal are walking on campus. I’m not saying his friend wasn’t serious about him not looking into it, he definitely didn’t want him to look into it, I’m just saying when he said “scientific mind” he didn’t mean, “because I’m a scientist, I say you should reject this.”

    The aliens “Call” was “Hey, Earth is toast. You want to get on the ship or what? We’ll stop by and pick a few of you up if you want, and we’ll even lease you some land to start over.”

    I think some people for whatever reason picked up the message, and those who didn’t the aliens were clearly like, that’s your problem. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal that most of humanity bit it. It wasn’t like this was the feel good hit of ’09.

    I don’t think the aliens did care if Nic Cage said goodbye to his son, I think that’s how it worked out for him, and that’s what he had to get out of it.

    I just think overall, the movie was just showing how sci fi and religious imagery could look like one and the same thing. The aliens could be viewed as angels, they way the messages were sent into the kids brains could be the voice of god. The wheels of fire seen by Ezekiel could be spaceships…I don’t know. It reminds me of the line the Doctor says to Ace about super advanced technology and magic being the same thing.

  • Kyle1722

    I think the scientific mind comment was actually a jab at science, suggesting that science is just like any other religion, in that it is a way for people to interpret their world in such a way that is comfortable for them, and gives them closure. Science is not as objective as it claims. In many cases it is just a vehicle for people to believe what they want to believe. For Cage’s friend, the best thing to do for his own peace of mind was pretend the list of numbers never existed.

    Just like whenever something happens that can’t be explained by science, like paranormal experiences, scientists try to use their own “theology”, i.e. science, to undermine any possible connection to spirituality, in order to give themselves more closure.

  • MaryAnn

    Science is not as objective as it claims. In many cases it is just a vehicle for people to believe what they want to believe.

    That’s so true! I find that when I decide I don’t want to believe in gravity, it goes away. It’s awesome!

    For Cage’s friend, the best thing to do for his own peace of mind was pretend the list of numbers never existed.

    Yeah, and how did that work out for him?

  • JoshB

    Science is not as objective as it claims. In many cases it is just a vehicle for people to believe what they want to believe

    LOL! In what cases, specifically? Cause buddy, science is all about objectivity. Did you not pay attention when your teachers were telling you about gathering data and establishing control groups and all that jazz?

    And the best part is, the evidence is right in front of you as you read this! Read up about transistors, boolean logic, and photolithography (the technologies that allow you to post your drivel on teh intarwebs). Then come back and explain what your particular brand of hocus pocus has done for you lately.

  • bitchen frizzy

    The argument that “scientists are objective because they’re scientists” is sophomoric and circular.

    The scientific establishment does not like its cherished and entrenched views challenged any more than religious authority or anyone else. Human nature is no different in scientists than in anyone else.

    History is replete with examples. Einstein’s theory of relativity and his quantum theory were initially rejected out of hand. He was derided as a crackpot and a young fool by the older and more established scientists in his field, and it took years for his theories to gain acceptance. That’s because he was challenging the established explanation for how the universe worked, which in turn undermined the education and published works of the establishment.

  • JoshB

    @bitchen frizzy

    Bzzt. Wrong.

    The scientific “establishment” loves to have its ideas challenged. It’s how scientific progress is made.

    The community did not “reject” Einstein’s theory of relativity, they tested it. Of course they didn’t just up and accept a radical new hypothesis. He had to prove it, and when he did the theory was accepted as all good theories are. That’s how it works.

    But then later, after Einstein had become famous, he rejected much of the new work in quantum mechanics. Google “spooky action at a distance.” And it turned out the Einstein, top dog in physics, was wrong, and the community knew it and proceeded with that knowledge. Because that’s how it works.

    I could go on and on with examples of “cherished and entrenched views” in science that were challenged and discarded, because, say it with me now, “that’s how it works.”

  • MaryAnn

    All true, bitchen frizzy. But facts remain facts, no matter how people try to spin them. Throwing Galileo in jail didn’t change the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. Religion doesn’t work if you don’t believe in it — science does.

    Science is *not* just like religion, as Kyle1722 tried to insist. I think he’s right, though, that this stupid movie was trying to say that they are the same.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I know how it works, and you’re missing my point. Scientists, as individuals, do not like to be proven wrong, any more than anyone else does.

    They resist new ideas for the same petty reasons that anyone would. It’s not all about the scientific method. It’s about being discredited. It’s about tenure and promotions. It’s about grant money. It’s about being right and being superior. “How it works” is much more messy than your simplistic explanation.

    You’ve got a notion in your head that scientists are more honorable and noble than most people, and that scientific debate is always calm and rational and honest. That’s hopelessly naive.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“But facts remain facts, no matter how people try to spin them. Throwing Galileo in jail didn’t change the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun.”

    No, facts do not necessarily remain facts, because facts can be wrong. Ask any lawyer. That’s how they make their living.

    Galileo’s problem was that he was up against the established fact that the Earth was the center of the universe, and it wasn’t just the religion of the day, but the scientists as well, who held that to be true. Aristotle was a revered scientist, after all, not a theologian.

    Science equates what it believes to be true with what is true. An established fact (right or wrong) becomes regarded as Truth, for all practical purposes. It has to be that way, of course, or progress is impossible. But then the Truth has to be defended, or else someone will have to admit they’re wrong.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Just to clarify, the first of the two posts above was a reply to JoshB.

    To put everything above another way, I think Kyle has a valid point about science not always being objective, at least at the individual level, and sometimes on the whole if a new idea threatens to change everything.

    “Creation Scientists” are living proof, are they not? They have the same education as their peers, they aren’t insane by any clinical measure, yet they hold to an irrational position they manage to support by appeal to their own fields of endeavor. “PhD” after a person’s name is no guarantee of rationality or objectivity.

    Science as a whole may muddle through to the truth, but it’s often a messy process, and completely false positions may be defended dogmatically along the way.

  • JoshB

    You’ve got a notion in your head that scientists are more honorable and noble than most people, and that scientific debate is always calm and rational and honest. That’s hopelessly naive.

    And you’ve got it in your head that what a single scientist has to say is somehow equivalent to what the community as a whole has to say. That’s hopelessly ignorant.

    Sure, a single scientist might have fiscal or ego-driven reasons to reject new ideas, but a single scientist still has to make their case before a community of thousands and millions who care only about the facts.

    The case I noted above with Einstein proclaiming quantum entanglement to be spooky action at a distance is a perfect example. Einstein remains the most famous scientist in the world, yet he could stamp his feet all he wanted and the community still accepted entanglement, because the evidence says Einstein was wrong.

    There is nothing sacred in science. There is no capital T Truth. Any scientist will tell you this. Even the most respected theory is only as good as the next piece of data that could prove it wrong. This is the most fundamental rule of the scientific process.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“And you’ve got it in your head that what a single scientist has to say is somehow equivalent to what the community as a whole has to say. That’s hopelessly ignorant.”

    No, I didn’t say that, at all. I said that what a single scientist has to say may be what the entire community is saying tomorrow. Then again, he may be a lunatic. He’ll likely be regarded as a lunatic by his peers until he proves otherwise. And his lunatic idea may be perceived as a threat, not a welcome new perspective. The previous sentence is what you refuse to concede may be true, despite historical evidence to the contrary, though I think you know better.

    –“There is nothing sacred in science. There is no capital T Truth. Any scientist will tell you this.”

    Ah, yes. Straight from the 100-level textbooks, almost analogous to declared dogma. You bolded “fundamental” in your post while telling me that there’s nothing fundamental – nice touch. Yet it’s not really how science works, is it? It can’t be, or we could never get anywhere with science or technology. 2+2=4 is Truth. We have to act on the assumption that it is True, or we couldn’t trust our calculations. We can’t wait for the Creation Scientists to be completely beaten down before publishing science textbooks that present evolution as established fact. That’s a good one, there. It’s the Creationists who argue, with your very same argument, that evolution can never be capital T truth. Do you agree with them? Should we stop the presses on the high school textbooks pending resolution?

  • JoshB

    Whew, we are so wildly off-topic here. I expect MAJ’s gavel to fall at any time now :P

    That’s a good one, there. It’s the Creationists who argue, with your very same argument, that evolution can never be capital T truth. Do you agree with them? Should we stop the presses on the high school textbooks pending resolution?

    Argh. Yes, in fact, on the point of evolution never being 100% provable, I do agree with them. They just don’t understand that evolution has been 99.99% proven, and that their own silliness has been 99.999999% disproven.

    If you had read the 100 level textbooks you would know how to deal with “Creation Science.” Any theory is exactly as good as the data that supports it. If creation scientists present actual evidence then that evidence will be evaluated fairly. Witness the treatment of the Intelligent Design idea of irreducible complexity. It is an actual hypothesis with the potential to disprove the Theory of Evolution. It was proposed to the scientific community, and the community treated it like any other hypothesis. It was disproved of course, but with honest scientific reasoning.

    I’ll quote myself:

    Even the most respected theory is only as good as the next piece of data that could prove it wrong

    Creation Science never bothers to produce that data.

    The reason Creation Science gets no respect from the “establishment” is not, as you suppose, that it’s a crazy notion that flies in the face of doctrine, but because it produces no evidence. It’s not radical science, or even bad science. It’s not science at all. Therein lies the reasoning for ignoring Creation Science. It’s not a matter of decision. It’s a matter of what is possible. It is impossible to scientifically evaluate a “theory” that produces nothing to evaluate.

  • Accounting Ninja

    A fact is a fact. Any “scientist” who clings to “Truth” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is nothing more than a Dogmatist in Scientist’s Labcoats. Just because the people in Galileo’s time believed something to be true does not make it a truth, nor a fact, and that they resorted to violence and oppression illustrates the very thing that true science seeks to obliterate: fear and ignorance that leads to barbarism.

    Are there corrupt scientists? Sure, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because a particularly stubborn scientist may not let go of his pet theory despite contradictory evidence says more about him as a person (and a scientist) than it does about science. This could even be taken as a cautionary tale against letting Theory become Dogmatism. Dogmatism insists it has the answers, and they will not be questioned. Theories start from the point of view that we do not know everything, so every bit of knowledge should be welcomed. Science says, question everything.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“Any “scientist” who clings to “Truth” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is nothing more than a Dogmatist in Scientist’s Labcoats.”

    Damn straight. And they do exist. And not just in the Creationism debate. Scientists are only human, after all. And, if I am to believe JoshB, most or all scientific “facts” are that which is believed to be true. Evolution is fact, though not provable with absolute certainty. I didn’t say it, Josh did, though I agree. If you declare it to be True beyond all question, then you are the one declaring Dogma. That’s the definition of dogma. I’ve been lectured here that science doesn’t do that.

    “True science.” Is that like “true faith”?

    –“This could even be taken as a cautionary tale against letting Theory become Dogmatism.”

    Absolutely. Preach it.

    –“Science says, question everything.”

    Again, not really. Not in practice. Nothing would ever get done if science actually lived by that credo.

  • JoshB

    Again, not really. Not in practice. Nothing would ever get done if science actually lived by that credo.

    Yes really. What you’re referring to is a postulate, an assumption made for the purposes of further study, and science does do this.

    What science does not do is say that questioning the postulate is forbidden. Questioning the postulate is encouraged, so long as you can demonstrate a better reason for doing so than “the Bible says so.”

  • bitchen frizzy

    No, I’m not referring to a postulate. You’re on an academic ideals arc, I’m on a pragmatic arc. Call it the engineer in me.

    High ideals of science as expounded by you real world in which scientists actually work and publish surrender to chaos. Reality is in the middle.

    Students need textbooks, like, right now. Can’t wait for the Creationists to die out. Not going to “compromise” by presenting creationism alongside evolution in the text. Gotta publish. Pick evolution and go with it, as the sole explanation. Write as though its Truth, without waiting for the T to be solemly capitalized. No postulates there. Science meets politics.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Board software inexplicably deleted my punctuation from the second paragraph.

    Should say, the real world of science is between the high ideals you expound and the chaos of subjectivism and competing dogma.

  • Accounting Ninja

    JoshB: I agree with you when you say this: “What science does not do is say that questioning the postulate is forbidden.” True science, in its pure form, would never lynch anyone who discovered a new idea that ran contrary to popular belief. Though I think evolution is true, based on the preponderance of evidence, if something suddenly came along to upend everything we thought we knew about it (with plenty of evidence, of course), I would be open to change, and any real scientist would be. Anyone who isn’t is clinging to dogma.
    (Science shouldn’t do this, anyway. That some people do is a separate problem.)

    But bitchen, I agree with you here: “Scientists are only human, after all.” But this is why people like you and me and Josh are so important. We think, we question, we demand sufficient evidence. We debate without fear. I won’t argue that there are some very unscientific scientists out there, and having a degree or an office in a prestigious college doesn’t necessarily make you a good scientist. Science pursues the truth. Not the Truth, to be exhalted and worshipped and never questioned. But simply the truth, which is constantly changing based on advances we make as a species. And after we gather enough evidence and come up with a way to test our theories that satisfies all opposition, we can safely categorize it as truth (like how the Earth revolves around the sun, for example. Though, in Galileo’s time, the technology was such that proving it beyond any doubt was probably very difficult.)

    This is why critical thinking skills are so very important in a modern society. So few people know how to stift through the bunk and manipulation that floats around our society.

  • TrojanDawg

    So I just saw the movied and I enjoyed it. If any of you had seen the History channel’s program “Ancient Aliens” you’d have a better understading of the whole aliens as Gods thing. Heck if you’d read “Chairots of the Gods” you could relate more. Yes there were holes in the plot but I easily over looked them because of the foundation I had from viewing “Ancient Aliens”. It was quite predicitable in fact. I dare all you who disliked it to view the film again after seeing “Ancient Aliens”

  • MaryAnn

    Okay, enough with the debate over science/truth unless you can relate it to the film.

    And TrojanDawg: I have read *Chariots of the Gods.* I was obsessed with stuff like that when I was a kid. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand the “whole aliens as Gods thing.” It’s that it doesn’t work here. This movie isn’t about “aliens as gods.” It’s about appropriating the trappings of science fiction to tell a story that’s right out of fundamentalist Christian apocalyptic endtimes nonsense. That’s what I’m objecting to.

    A good story about “aliens as gods”? The whole *Stargate* TV series (the original). This one? Bah.

  • TrojanDawg

    Point taken. Thanks for the response.

  • To get good people to do evil, you need religion.

    Actually the recent history of the Soviet Union and Southeast Asia would seem to argue otherwise.

    But it’s nice that you think so.

    My thoughts:

    My favorite response to this movie came from an anonymous movie-goer here in Dallas who said, “Jesus, please don’t send your crazy alien angels to save us.”

    Personally, I liked this story better when it was titled “The Boy Who Could Predict Earthquakes.”

    As for the religious angle, I’m surprised a person of Scandinavian descent didn’t even try to equate the “Adam and Eve” figures at the end with the Norse entities Lif and Lifthrasir. Come to think of it, those pagans used to come up with nasty theories about how the world would end with little if any input from the Left Behind set. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

  • For that matter, I couldn’t help viewing the ending without thinking of the old Neil Young song “After the Gold Rush.”

    Which probably wasn’t the writers’ intention…

  • Oy

    To get good people to do evil, you need religion.

    That line would sound good in a trailer.

  • Gadfly

    I’ve just found the “Knowing” story in a collection of Heinlein shorts called “The Meanace From Earth.”

    Heinlein’s version is called “The Year of the Jackpot”, contains no angels, no children, and takes place near Los Angeles circa 1958 with all that means for the “public threat” concept (think Russian nukes instead of subway bombs).

    Nevertheless, the essential story of a mathematically talented man who stumbles on a statistical way to see bad things coming, the correlation with ancient prophecy, the 20-something woman who’s swept up by those things and in way over her head, the violent road trip against hopeless odds, and the last-day revelation that the sun is about to blow… it’s the same story folks.

    Of course, in the world I’ve come to know, some stories wind up being repeated by totally independent sources without any theft or copyright infringement whatsoever. (For a prime example of this pattern, I recommend the SF story “Tiger Burning” by Alastair Reynolds.)

    So, expressed in simple terms the question is this: did Alex Proyas get his idea from Heinlein, or from a metaphysical source? If the latter, is this simply “how writing works”, or were both he and Heinlein onto something worth paying attention to?

  • Gadfly

    In any case, I still like the film well enough that I’ve just bought it.

  • Plastiquehomme

    Science is not as objective as it claims. In many cases it is just a vehicle for people to believe what they want to believe.

    That’s so true! I find that when I decide I don’t want to believe in gravity, it goes away. It’s awesome!

    I’m way late to this so commenting might be pointless. But I think your response here is a little bit overly glib, Maryann. The scientific method is relatively new; different things have been considered “scientific fact” over time, and it is likely that things we consider to be scientifically factual now will be revised or disproven. Further, even leaving out issues around methodology, the directions that science pursues is very much determined by the ideology present in the society. So while scientists may believe themselves to be acting objectively, they are members of a society which forms a context and framework in which they can act. This is not to say that science is a waste of time, or should be disregarded; that would be blatantly stupid. However, presenting science as this objective, neutral force that stands outside of social context is also somewhat ridiculous.

    Regarding the film, I can see your criticisms, but I don’t think I agree with some of them.

    I don’t think the disaster sequences where supposed to be enjoyable (or even somewhat fetishistic) which unless I misread you, you seem to suggest. I think they were supposed to be horrific, and in no way exciting or enjoyable. I read you as lumping them in with the likes of Hostel or Saw. I took them as almost meaning to be the antithesis of those, but I could be wrong.

    I don’t think it was supposed to be comforting that we are being watched over. I think it was meant to be frustrating and arbitrary. The (aliens?) grabbed some random kids to, I guess, repopulate. Why them? Who knows. But they sure as shit didn’t care about the human race as a whole, and I thought it was interesting that they didn’t have the typical Hollywood film “change of heart” and decide humans weren’t so bad after all (a la The Day The Earth Stood Still). It almost felt existentialist in the sense that the universe was completely uninterested in the fate of individuals (by and large).

    It seems the religious overtones bothered you? I didn’t really see that they were there until you pointed them out. I thought the aliens were just aliens, and the sun destorying the planet was just the sun destroying the planet. I don’t know I think my brain is so used to ignoring religion that I tend to miss its symbolism; I am one of the few people (amongst my friends) who I know who loved the Narnia Books as a kid, and isn’t bothered by the fact that they’re effectively dogma. I think my mind just filters it out, which is handy.

    More than anything I very much admired the fact that the film followed its (in my opinion somewhat flawed, but interesting) presmise to the logical conclusion: the world ends. The world is determined. This code describes certain events in the determined continuum. One such event is the end of the world. The world ends. No deus ex machina, no last minute reprieve, no lifeboat (for 99.9999% of the population). Not too chirpy, but consistent. I could have done without the final, lame Adam and Eve, Tree of Life last scene, but no matter. It made me (inexplicably) think of the Final Episode of BSG, which is a good thing to think of.

    Anyway, I guess I was surprised you didn’t like it and I generally agree with your take on things. But disagreement is fun :)

  • Heinlein’s version is called “The Year of the Jackpot”, contains no angels, no children, and takes place near Los Angeles circa 1958 with all that means for the “public threat” concept (think Russian nukes instead of subway bombs).

    Nevertheless, the essential story of a mathematically talented man who stumbles on a statistical way to see bad things coming, the correlation with ancient prophecy, the 20-something woman who’s swept up by those things and in way over her head, the violent road trip against hopeless odds, and the last-day revelation that the sun is about to blow… it’s the same story folks.

    I actually read that story as a teenager and I still didn’t make the connection.

    Perhaps because Heinlein and Proyas had different attitudes towards the material. Heinlein treats the whole end of the world thing as sort of a surprise ending while Proyas dwells on it and dwells on it. Plus there was a certain matter-of-fact tone to Heinlein’s story that this movie could have used in place of its more melodramatic attitude.

    However, to each his own.

  • epcpdude

    What were YOU looking at, ma’am? I liked this movie. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, & I respect it. However, (no disrespect) I hope no one just takes your word for it, b/c they’d miss out on a pretty good movie, in my humble opinion. Btw, I didn’t think that the Left Behind series was preposterous, nor do I think anyone with that kind of imagination should be called nitwits! You don’t like it (don’t worry, I’ve identified the Atheistic slant in your reviews), fine. I would say to get over some of that stuff, if not ALL of it, & acquire a few more tastes, so to speak. Just a suggestion. As an actor & a writer, I have learned to appreciate most all works of art, including the cinematic arts. Maybe I should start doing reviews. lol

  • joe

    this review is extremely cynical, to the point of being obnoxious. perhaps it is my ability to turn off my analytical thoughts or perhaps the reviewers’ inability to turn them off, but I thought this movie was quite worth it. there are simply way too many ‘c’mons, would that really happen?!’, or ‘that is preposterous!’ critiques in this review. I believe that the only circumstances that this would be appropriate would be if this film were depicting and modeling an event that has already happened. In the case that this movie is built upon wonderment and hypothesis allows it to create it’s own direction. the story flows and everything makes sense to the point of allowing the movie to sustain viewers. I’m not saying this is the movie of the year or even month, but simply turn off the old ‘must find something wrong in everything’ compartment in the brain and enjoy a pretty entertaining and creative movie.

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