FILM FAVE/FAIL OF THE WEEK: J.J. Abrams/Knowing

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

In previous articles, I have confessed my love for Star Trek. I admittedly have not always been a Star Trek fan, however. This is a recent development. As soon as I heard the Star Trek franchise would be reborn under the direction of J.J. Abrams, I became an immediate fan, knowing the Lost creator brings originality to everything he does.

J.J. Abrams has directed only two feature films: the first being Mission: Impossible III, a film I believe saved that franchise by returning to its roots. Rumor has it that Tom Cruise was a big fan of Lost and, therefore, asked that Abrams take the helm for the third picture. The studio recently announced a fourth installment of the popular series.

Abrams roles as producer and writer have been much more extensive than as director. He has written and produced several popular television programs (including Alias, Lost and Fringe), and has also written films, such as Forever Young and Armageddon. (It may surprise you to know that he is also a composer. He composed the main theme music for Felicity, Alias and Fringe, and also composed a few songs for Mission: Impossible III.)

He also produced Cloverfield, which was an experimental film for Abrams. If you remember back in 2007, before the film’s January 2008 release, Cloverfield got a lot of hype because of the decision to withhold the title until just before the release. Rumors started buzzing all over the internet and there was much speculation as to the title and premise of the film. Cloverfield went on to gross over $170 million worldwide and was hailed by some as one of the top five movies of 2008.

You may not like some of the films or TV shows that Abrams has written, produced or directed, but you have to admit: the guy’s got style.

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This week’s Film Fail is Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage. I again bring myself to this place: nominating a seemingly popular film as a failure.

I generally don’t find myself all that intrigued when Cage is on-screen. I like him well enough, but his films normally require little or no thinking and I think he fits well into that niche.

That being said, I was very surprised to find myself deeply interested in the story. I was happy to see that I could only predict most of the movie and not all of it, so naturally, I was intrigued. With the continual introduction of new elements and key plot points, I was very excited to see the culmination of everything in the final minutes of the film.

It was in the final minutes of the film, however, that I got frustrated. It appeared as though the audience was supposed to understand several things without any real explanation, just cool special effects. I literally started laughing out loud when the “thing” came out of the clouds to take the “people.” (My cryptic air quotes are present to prevent spoilers.) After that, the flow of the film was broken and I found it impossible to take anything seriously, thus undermining any efforts made in the previous 70 minutes to make it a legitimate story. Perhaps it wasn’t the concept itself, but the portrayal of said concept that transformed this dramatic film into a complete joke for me.

Many filmmakers and writers try to throw off their audiences by adding an unexpected twist at the end of a movie. In fact, everyone except “chick flick” writers must do that to keep their audiences satisfied, but there is definitely a correct way and an utterly ridiculous way of going about it. The “twist,” if slightly hinted at throughout the film, must make sense when we actually see it take place. Everything that happened leading up to that moment must be able to be seen and understood in retrospect, every point explained. Otherwise, it turns into a desperate attempt to save the story and/or the main characters.

And so, in order to avoid a tangent, I will sum this up quickly: Knowing was mostly convincing, but didn’t provide sufficient answers for the intriguing questions it raised. 3 out of 5 stars.

Mckay Stevens is a film correspondent for Rhombus. Follow him on Twitter @S_Mckay.

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