Hollywood must read the Turkey City Lexicon


I’m about to give away the ending of Knowing, the new Nicholas Cage vehicle from director Alex Proyas (who over a decade ago brought us the much superior Dark City). So, if you don’t want to know the entirely predictable end of a film that could have been so much more, look away now.

OK, if you are still here, I’m gonna give it to you straight. At the end of Knowing, the two child leads are deposited on a wheat covered alien world, complete with Tree of Knowledge, as the new Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. Christ…has no-one involved with the production of this movie read the Turkey City Lexicon?

Adam and Eve Story
Nauseatingly common subset of the “Shaggy God Story” in which a terrible apocalypse, spaceship crash, etc., leaves two survivors, man and woman, who turn out to be Adam and Eve, parents of the human race!!

As if this were not bad enough, the film then goes on to commit one of the worst You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit moments in screen history when the love interest, having been aware of the date of her own death for her entire life and being only 48 hours away from the big day questions why she has never done anything about it.

These are symptomatic  of the basic problem with Knowing. It’s a film fifty years too late, that has much of the atmosphere of an original Twilight Zone episode from an era when many of the ideas the film contains might have seemed orignal. Ironically the film begins with the planting of a time capsule in 1959 and the script may as well have been planted at the same time. Either Proyas was engaging in nostalgia for the golden era of sci-fi (in which case he should have done more than just reheat its left overs and stick them on a plate) or he is simply ignorant of what has gone before. Knowing will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to plough through a slush pile of science fiction stories, the kind of cliched claptrap that people write when they have not bothered to read anything more than decades old Asimov and Clarke.

That said, the detailed CGI of the US of A being blown to smithereens by solar flares was entertaining, even if we had seen it all before. Why are Americans so intent on visualising the incineration of Time Square? I welcome suggestions.

All of this is a shame, because beneath the sci-fi cliches and tedious CGI there were hints of real story.But as all too often, it seems to have been obliterated by too many re-writes and the committe of the lowest common denominator. My sincere advice is to save the price of admission and go and buy a real science fiction novel  instead. (I can highly recommend Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts… the USSR meets alien invasion. Yes!)


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

8 thoughts on “Hollywood must read the Turkey City Lexicon

  1. As Americans, we like seeing things blow up, but it’s hard to get satisfaction from an explosion when we didn’t know what it looked like before. Sadly, for maximum satisfaction we have to be intimately familiar with the thing destroyed, which is why we adore watching our own stuff get blown up. But only if we can cloak it in science fiction.

    Yes, we’re all fucking crazy.


  2. I have to admit to an odd, movie-going crush on Nicholas Cage. For some reason, I’m convinced that his movies will be enjoyable, no matter how off-putting they look in previews or how crushed they get in reviews. It’s like he exists behind rose-colored glasses, and no amount of National Treasure, Part Infinitely Unnecessary will teach me otherwise.


  3. Yes. Why is this the case with Nicholas Cage. He has spent a decade turning out ever more shody Hollywood fare, and yet we forgive him everytime. Perhaps his occaisional appearance in gems like Adaptation give him a pass?


  4. We forgive him because he’s a fucking Coppola! Oh, but we don’t easily forgive Sofia Coppola for “The Godfather Part III,” so that can’t be the reason in toto…

    Did the dying woman cough? If she did, that might elevate the movie from just plain bad to awesomely bad. I’m guessing no.


  5. I’m sorry, Megan – I truly didn’t mean to piss on your Nic Cage crush. I like him in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and love him in Moonstruck. It’s the mass Coppola worship that brings me down. You know?


  6. “Why are Americans so intent on visualising the incineration of Time Square?”

    Culture-wide persecution complex; compare with Cosy-Catastrophe era Brit sf. Something to do with realising your empire is all over bar the shouting.

    And every writer everywhere should read the Turkey City Lexicon. Preferably once a year.


    1. SF has always given cultures a chance to blow themselves up I guess. Japan has Godzilla. Britain has Dr Who. But the Americans seem absolutely obsessed with these days.



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