Knowing and the end of the world

Harold Camping is a religious scholar who predicted that Judgment Day would arrive some time in 1994. That didn’t happen. He claims he made an error in his calculation, and now, he is ever-so-certain that he has the correct date: May 21st, 2011. This Saturday.

The gist of his calculation is that in May of 4990 B.C. God gave the warning that in seven days, he would bring forth his great flood and abolish all the sinners, saving the chosen few true believers. In the Bible we are told “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” So 7 days would equal 7,000 years.

4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000 (subtracting 1 because there is no year 0)

Time’s up.

You can read this flawed theory more thoroughly here if you like.

Analysts have estimated that the folks at Family Radio have spent over 3 million dollars on their billboard campaign spreading the word. That sounds like a lot but when you think about it, it costs more to produce and promote and episode of Family Guy. If you wish to make a donation to Camping’s cause, you can do so here.

Anywho, all this got me to thinking about the 2009 film KNOWING, starring Nicolas Cage. It also has a good deal of calculations and omens, all that ominously lead to mankind’s final days. A very underrated movie in my opinion. I decided to watch it tonight and had some thoughts. Spoilers ahead.

The story begins in 1959 when a troubled girl who hears mysterious voices writes down a series of seemingly random numbers on an assignment paper for a school time capsule, the students were instructed to write/draw what they think the future would be like. It was kept underground in the capsule for 50 years. Flash forward to 2009, when Nicolas Cage’s character’s son receives this paper with all the numbers when the school opens up the capsule and lets all the kids take a look and what their predecessors thought life would be like 5 decades prior. Nicolas Cage acquires this sheet and discovers the numbers translate to dates and numbers of deaths for major global disasters. Some have past, and some have yet to come.

It sounds like your pretty standard Nick Cage thriller, with plenty of room for Nicolas Cage to run around and try to prevent these disasters, and blah blah blah. And part of it feels exactly like that. But this time around it’s quite different. It’s actually unbelievably incredible how the movie unfolds and unfolds, shit gets pretty crazy. It defies all expectations and formulas for this kind of movie.

Cage goes around trying to prevent all these disasters (unsuccessfully) until he stumbles upon the final prediction: the end of everything.

So naturally you think he’s going to figure out some kind of way to stop mankind’s doom in some exciting final sequence, but, nope. He comes to the realization that whether he likes it or not, the world is going to end and there is nothing he can do about it. And then there’s aliens or something.

It isn’t your typical thriller. It treats the audience like they actually might have brains, it asks questions, it has intriguing ideas. There’s themes of science vs religion, random events vs predetermination, aliens vs angels. You could make a strong argument for either case and you’d probably be right. It treats both sides with respect. And I’m hesitant to listen to the director commentary. I wouldn’t want to ruin its ambiguity.

But even if you don’t feel like buying into its provocative themes, just think about how much balls this movie has to end the fucking world. No exciting heroics. No last minute save. The world ends. How many big budget blockbusters like this can you name that have actually done that?? And it truly is alarming just how fast it’s all over. The whole destruction scene is probably under a minute. There’s no amazing CGI shots that linger on all the destruction and mayhem to be seen, it’s over in a quick flash.

And when all is said in done, when his son is brought to start over to a new world by the aliens or angels or supernatural beings or whatever, there’s nothing much else the Cage character can do but find his way home to his father, mother, and sister and say his last goodbyes. The family embraces and then the solar flare hits the earth. The movie has enough taste to not show their gruesome evaporation, but that last image of them all is burned in my mind. It’s a sad and beautiful movie.

But anyway, sometimes you just can’t help but fear the end of the world. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Rapture this Saturday. May 21st will come and go like any other day. But warnings like this always make me a little nervous. We’re all fascinated and terrified by our own destruction. I’ll be anxiously tugging my collar before Saturday, and even every day before December 21st, 2012 (what is it with the 21st?). The end will come eventually, that’s just a fact. Whether or not it will happen in our lifetime, I do not know. And will it be a random occurrence, like a solar flare or asteroid or something? Or is there a grand purpose behind it all, and that every event since the beginning of mankind has been leading up to it? I don’t know. Sometimes shit happens.