Nic Cage Appreciation Month: Next (2007)

Although Next's opening credits claimed that the story was based on a Philip K. Dick story, a tiny bit of digging around on Wikipedia revealed that, er, well, that's not really true. The only bit taken from a Philip K. Dick story is the idea of seeing into the future just far enough to see the consequences of any one single action. Next resembles, more than anything else, a computer game - actually, it's more reminiscent of a computer game than most computer game adaptations.

Nic Cage plays a man called Cris Johnson. Cris has the power to see into the future, but only for about two minutes, and only events which are directly related to himself. So, for example, he might forsee that, when he changes the channel on his TV, there'll be a movie on that he wants to see, but if it started more than two minutes ago, he has no way of switching over quickly enough to catch the beginning. He also wouldn't be able to forsee any kind of natural disaster happening on the other side of the world, since he wouldn't be directly involved, and let's face it, with only a two minute headstart, he'd be pretty useless at avoiding a catastrophe anyway. There's only one exception to this two minute rule: he has a recurring vision of meeting the woman of his dreams in a diner. He looks at his watch, and it's 8:09, but he doesn't know the date or even whether it's a.m. or p.m. All he knows is that he'll meet this woman one day, and it'll be just gone 8 o'clock when it happens. Unfortunately, while he's arsing about drinking martinis in a diner, his future-seeing antics have been spotted by an FBI agent who wants to capture Cris and use his abilities to predict when a terrorist group will use a nuclear bomb they've stolen to blow up Los Angeles. (This is in spite of the fact that she knows he's limited to two minutes and that he can only see things that concern him; she's just wacky like that.)

The film sort of wants to concern itself with issues of free will and predestination, but given that Cris can avoid any unwanted consequences of his actions (and does so, frequently) that's sort of moot. Or paradoxical, I guess. Not that it really matters, because Next is a brain-meltingly stupid film. The plot makes no sense, whatsoever - the terrorist plot doesn't actually hold water, the FBI randomly resort to illegal acts and arsing around with psychics rather than actually doing their jobs, and Cage... well, he's actually kind of subdued, by his standards, though he's by far the star of the show because no-one else is even bothering to phone in a performace. It's more like they've texted it in. Julianne Moore seems to be under the impression that she's supposed to be playing Jodie Foster circa Silence of the Lambs, Jessica Biel is pretty but totally pointless, and, um, was there even anyone else in this movie?

The only thing that makes Next worth watching is the final third, where everything goes utterly batshit. In order to visually depict Cris's foretelling of the different outcomes of his actions, you get multiple Nic Cages onscreen at the same time, and there's one bit where he sort of becomes a CGI Cage blur as Cris figures out exactly how to duck in order to avoid getting hit by a bullet. It's beautiful, but completely insane. But my favourite bit, which surpasses bullet-time Cage and the Clockwork Orange homage, is the moment when Cris realises that he's made a wrong move somewhere along the line, and rewinds half the movie, as if he were a character in a computer game returning to the last save point before everything went wrong. I've long said that I'm desperate to see a computer game movie that uses that device - a character getting something wrong and dying only to restart again from the last checkpoint - so seeing it here was an unexpected but delightful surprise.

Sadly, there's very little shouting and no whole arm pointing whatsoever in this film, so it never quite matches the dizzying brilliance of Ghost Rider. It's still good clean Cage fun, though.

IMDB link


twosheds said...

I love NC and LOOOVVE PKD. But this film sucks lemons in hell.

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