Alex Proyas’s derivative sci-fi movie is a close encounter of the nerd kind, mixing Spielbergian child-like wonder, disaster movie spectacle and the cod-religious silliness of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’. The premise is compelling, but the execution is over-cooked.
A string of numbers scribbled by an obsessive schoolgirl back in 1959 is given to the son of MIT astrophysicist Nicolas Cage, when a time capsule buried fifty years before is disinterred. Although Cage’s father is a pastor, since the death of his wife he has believed that life is just a random string of accidents. Then he finds patterns in the numbers that seem to correspond to the dates of disasters, and starts to wonder if our fates really are predetermined.
Unfortunately, consideration of these weighty issues soon gives way to what feels like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ on steroids. There is hard scientific talk about unusual solar flare activity, and intimations of a global ecological disaster. But then the pale-faced ‘Whispering People’ start handing out smooth black stones, and rationality gives way to portentous religious talk about God’s prophet Ezekiel. By the time single mother Rose Byrne, daughter of the now-dead 50s schoolgirl, takes Cage and his young son to the crazy lady’s abandoned mobile home in the woods, it’s easy to predict where this is headed.
The apocalyptic images are impressive, but what do they all add up to? You may end up asking yourself, in the spirit of Erich Von Däniken, ‘Was God An Astronaut?”