By Clint Morris
â€œOh, câ€™mon! What the hell is going on here!?â€ â€“ itâ€™s a line Nicolas Cage delivers early on in this, the latest the-forecast-says-storms thriller, but the voice in my head agreed totally with the sentiment.
Itâ€™s not that the over-ambitious plot of Alex â€˜Dark Cityâ€™ Proyasâ€™s latest film is a taxing puzzle that only the likes of a Harvard Professor can put together â€“ in fact, if youâ€™ve seen â€œThe Number 23â€, â€œThe Happeningâ€ or even a few episodes of Tvs â€Lostâ€ – you should be able to piece together most of it; the rest of it nobody will be able to work out, itâ€™s messier than a fourteen-year-oldâ€™s bedroom â€“ but more that â€œKnowingâ€ seems to have no purpose, drive, or, predominantly, juice in itâ€™s rusty engine. Running near two hours long, and without anything particularly interesting to grease its wheels, the sluggish over-the-top disaster movie stalls in the first act. Yeah, Okay, so it stops and starts here and there â€“ thereâ€™s a couple of spectacular computer-generated accidents, one being a plane crash, that are very well done, and reignite viewer interest â€“ but for the most part, the thing never cranks over.
The local elementary school has unearthed a time capsule buried by students fifty years before. Each current student gets an envelope containing â€˜somethingâ€™ â€“ be it a picture, or a note â€“ from the child that originally put it into the capsule. Recently widowed university teacher John (Nicolas Cage) is intrigued by what his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) receives.
Calebâ€™s got a piece of paper thatâ€™s full of numbers â€“ written by a kooky girl at the time â€“ that his father quickly concludes predicts future disasters. And heâ€™s right. Of course.
John starts to believe his family â€“ as well as the daughter (Rose Byrne) of the woman who originally wrote the letter – plays a vital part in events that are about to unfold. Heâ€™s just not sure of the howâ€™s, whyâ€™s or whatâ€™s.
There should be a photo of Nicolas Cage hanging in the security office of Tullamarine Airport. And underneath it, the type â€˜Donâ€™t let this man back into the countryâ€™. We know what heâ€™s here for â€“ heâ€™s here to make another U.S-funded flick thatâ€™ll embarrass the city, not to mention the many local actors that appear in it, just as he did three years ago when he played Spencer Street-cruising superhero-biker â€œGhost Riderâ€. Melbourne and Cage just donâ€™t mix. Once upon a time, when the actor chose good roles over money, he might have been able to make it work. Not now. Not now that heâ€™s this larger-than-life cartoon character thatâ€™s seemed to have lost his way some time between â€œZandaleeâ€ and â€œNational Treasureâ€. The man doesnâ€™t even seem to want to try anymore. He just turns up. Does his thing. Leaves behind a mass of destruction. Heâ€™s a twister of shit.
And not just that â€“ is anyone else sick of Melbourne playing stand-in for a U.S city, in this case, Massachusetts? Canâ€™t it wear itâ€™s own name? Itâ€™s a kick in the teeth to our beautiful city â€“ the movie is good enough to film there, but it ainâ€™t good enough to be set there? Wonâ€™t audiences care if itâ€™s Melbournians under threat from a looming disaster!? What, Americans â€“ in this case, Nicolas Cage â€“ is more important?
Maybe if Proyasâ€™s film hadnâ€™t been such an out-of-control bore one could forgive it for making our acting greats (Mendelsohn, mainly) spurt stupid lines (the dialogue is absolutely terrible!) as yanks (not that they were very convincing Yanks), and have us believe the Geelong Bypass is a major road in the states. Itâ€™s not that the premise isnâ€™t interesting (even if it is a little bit been there-done that), itâ€™s that it hasnâ€™t been executed well enough. We donâ€™t feel for the characters (if you can call these people characters. Rose Byrne, for instance, seems to be a hot prop and nothing more), thereâ€™s way too much dead air between the irregular action sequences, and, most annoyingly, the finaleâ€™s as desperate and irritating as an incestual aunt. Okay, itâ€™s not a total disaster â€“ but thatâ€™s not to say itâ€™ll only take a band-aid to fix it up either. This thingâ€™s in worse shape than Nicolas Cageâ€™s hair.
â€œIs this the end!?â€ a character asks towards the filmâ€™s end (but not close enough towards the films end). You can only hope, pal.
Bonuses include an informative commentary (not surprisingly, his always are) from director Alex Proyas.