Knowing is a portentous numerological global-warming-to-the-nth-power thriller, in which Nicolas Cage plays an MIT professor who figures out that The End is near. If you want to know how inept the movie is...well, it's so inept that you may wish you were watching an M. Night Shyamalan version of the very same premise. At least Shyamalan, in his dud The Happening, is a compulsive audience-gooser, whereas Alex Proyas (The Crow), the director of Knowing, has no idea what to do between calamitous set pieces. There's one terrifying moment (it's featured in the television promos), where a jetliner comes hurtling out of a stormy sky with a nightmare suddenness that is up close and vivid. But Cage, gaunt and haunted (or maybe just vacant), spends far too much time doing his antsy-perturbed thing as he tries to decipher a sheet of numerals dug up from a time capsule a code that foretells every global disaster of the past 50 years, as well as a few that have yet to happen.
As he ponders and marinates, we have time to consider questions like: Why, in the midst of this vaguely millennial muddle, does Cage's prof live in a mansion that's lit like the setting for a Disney ghost story? And what are those nicely attired blond alien attachés, who could be refugees from a Depeche Mode video, up to? You may also wonder what Cage, at this point in his career, does to psych himself up for a scene in which he's driving and screaming lines like, ''We have to go where the numbers want us to go!'' Knowing is a trash-compactor hodgepodge of Deep Impact, The Number 23, Close Encounters, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Too often, though, it's the movie that stands still, as it counts down to one of those ''mind-blowing'' digital cataclysms that dissipates the moment you walk up the aisle. D+