Director Alex Proyas might be best known for the Will Smith vehicle I, Robot, but it’s his fan-favorite Dark City that earns massive respect in my book. While Knowing is designed to appeal to wider audiences than Dark City, it takes several risks that make it stand out from similar pictures. And it looks really, really fantastic on Blu-ray.
Like a good episode of the Twilight Zone, the sci-fi “what if” premise of is Knowing is instantly intriguing. A time capsule is buried in 1959 containing drawing by elementary school students. Fifty years later the time capsule is exhumed and a very special document is found inside, a series of numbers written out by a student named Lucinda (young actress Lara Robinson). The numbers just happen to contain exact information about every major world disaster since 1959. The most intriguing part of all, several dates remain. Nicolas Cage does well as John, a professor whose son attends the elemntray school at the center of the story, and discovers Lucinda’s code. John becomes obsessed with the Lucinda’s document very quickly when he notices numbers surrounding the September 11th tragedy, and things escalate quickly from there.
Those concerned with spoilers should skip to the next paragraph. One of the things that really made Knowing work for me is that it succeeds in delivering on its larger concepts. Knowing doesn’t just talk about the end of the world, Knowing shows you the end of the world and lets you experience it with characters you care about. In the second act a whole new mystery builds that, I thought, could not be paid off in an interesting way. I’m pleased to have been wrong. The story pays off in a very big way that will be off-putting for anyone not willing to suspend their disbelief and just let themselves have a good time. I will touch on this in the ‘Light’ portion of this review as well, but the last several minutes of the film produce some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray, or in a science fiction film.
The performances can seem a little forced at times, especially any scene involving John’s son being a little smart ass. Also troubling is how convenient many of the plot devices are. There was at least one scene that took me out of the movie for its duration while I pondered how ridiculous it was. Knowing is a very strong and confident sci-fi tale that could have been even stronger if the writers had worked a little harder to make the characters a tad more likable and believable. Regardless, you will find Knowing very watchable compared to similar Hollywood sci-fi attempts.
I’m a sucker for high def demo material, and the Knowing disc contains some really great stuff. Shot using the digital RED camera system, a camera I’m a big fan of and have had the pleasure of working with, just about every scene is a beauty to behold. Sharp, clean, and with stunning detail, Knowing includes imagery that is among the best on Blu-ray. While the CGI found at the end of the film is flawless, the subway sequence in the second act leaves a lot to be desired. Had all the CGI lived up to that in the flick’s last several minutes, I would declare Knowing a visually perfect film. As it is, Knowing has a visually perfect Blu-ray encode and several sequences that you will never forget.
A very active DTS HD mix accompanies the nearly perfect image. There are many sequences here that are among the most intense available. Instances of heavy bass workouts and dynamic rear channel usage that will have you whipping your head around to see what just happened behind you. But for every intense spectacle there are a handful of standard dialogue driven scenes which also do a good job of balancing subtle rear and front channel atmospheric audio. The DTS HD soundtrack seals the deal on Knowing’s status of being an official demo-worthy disc.
Pressed on a 50GB disc, Knowing is relatively short on bonus features. An interview-style audio commentary with director Alex Proyas proves very informative, delving further into the film’s themes and offering plenty of insight into the film’s production. A short featurette called Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller consists of short interview snippets a footage, while Visions of the Apocalypse rounds things out with a mish-mash of opinions and insights by “representatives” of science and psychology on the topic of man’s need to make up end-scenario prophecies. All of this is contained in a snap case devoid of internal artwork, disc art, chapter list or booklet, but does include a shiny slip cover with extruding details.
I was deterred from watching Knowing in theaters due to the mostly negative reviews it received. I had no pressing plans to catch it on Blu-ray either until I popped it in for this review. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience that followed. Dark City is one of the most powerful sci-fi experiences I’ve ever had, and Knowing does not live up to its incredibly high level of awesomeness. Nor did I expect it to. As an Alex Proyas admirer I can say that this latest film does not disappoint, and I actually love parts of it, but I believe his best film is already behind him. Knowing is a proud addition to any sci-fi collection, and an excellent demo disc for those wanting to show off a killer HD setup.
Verdict: 4/5 – “BUY”