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A futuristic vision reduced to simple, terrorist-themed action
Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel Star in the Sci-Fi/Thriller "Next".
OPENING WEEKEND: $20,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $65,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 1st, 2007: Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) was born with an incredible, if somewhat limited, superpower that has tormented him for years, namely, the ability to see two minutes into the future. For years, he has been able to keep a low profile, even while utilizing his unique ability to make a living as a Las Vegas showroom magician and small-time gambler. He is unaware that he has caught the attention of FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who is constantly searching for any new tools that may help her prevent future terrorist attacks on the country. When a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles, Ferris tries to seek out Cris for help. Having undergone numerous uncomfortable examinations as a child, Cris wants nothing to do with the government. Instead, he hopes to make a life with Liz (Jessica Biel), a woman that he sees as the love of his life and his destiny. Together, the two go on the run, but sooner or later, they will have to yield to the endless pursuit and Cris will be faced with a difficult ultimatum.

What to Expect: Normally, I try not to get into gossip in my previews, but in this case I simply cannot resist. With Next, director Lee Tamahori will be hoping to cover up a rather embarrassing recent run-in with the law. In January of 2006, Tamahori, allegedly dressed in drag, was arrested in Hollywood after approaching an undercover officer and offering to perform a sex act for money. The prostitution charges against him were dropped after he pleaded no contest, but he has reportedly been placed on 3 years probation, will have to attend an AIDS education course, and has committed to 15 days of community service. Personally, I’m more concerned with his track record as a director than with his extra-curricular activities, but hopefully he’ll be able to stay out of trouble in the future.

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Speaking of his track record, it has not been particularly great. Before taking on a multitude of mediocre Hollywood projects, Tamohori directed Once Were Warriors, an intense, captivating, and powerful depiction of a family struggling to stay together and to keep each other from disintegrating during a profoundly harsh period filled with alcoholism and abuse. Sadly, two years later, Tamahori followed his magical debut with the dull and forgettable Mulholland Falls. Unremarkable genre thrillers like The Edge and Along Came a Spider, not without their merits, followed. After directing the amusing, but almost shamefully silly 20th James Bond adventure, Die Another Day, Tamahori made his latest, and possibly worst action picture to date, xXx: State of the Union. It’s a shame that Tamahori has not been able to fulfill the promise of his first feature, but that’s what Hollywood can do to even the most gifted filmmakers. Then again, Once Were Warriors may have just been a fluke and Tamahori’s real interest has perhaps always been to plague the world with average action flicks.

On the other hand, it appears that some of Hollywood’s top actors have not been scared away from working with Tamahori. In fact, starting with Nicolas Cage, the film is loaded with enough big names to garner loads of attention. Cage, who has always had a thing for Elvis and the city of Las Vegas (he starred in Leaving Las Vegas, Honeymoon in Vegas, and Con Air, all of which took place in the Sin City at some point), is actually producing Next with his company, Saturn Films. Regardless of the tone this movie will have, he still appears to be approaching his role fairly methodically. Apparently, he’s been making a lot of additions to the screenplay during the shoot. For example, his character has a deep interest in history, religion, and the sciences and makes continuous references to obscure facts throughout the movie. Cage figured that since his character is a bit of an oddity, he would most likely be aware of other curiosities around him. I can just imagine the actor getting pumped up and excitedly mapping out all the characteristics and mannerisms that he will want to touch upon in his performance. In an interview, the actor disclosed some information about his character’s powers. Reportedly, he will only be able to see the future as it relates to people or places within his field of vision.

Jessica Biel will play Liz, Cris’ love interest. Thanks to a well-chosen part in last fall’s surprisingly successful romantic drama The Illusionist opposite Edward Norton, Biel has made a successful transition into A-list status. Unlike many of her roles in action flicks of the past, the part in Next requires her to play a relatively ordinary damsel in distress that simply gets sucked into a wild adventure. The love story between her and Cage’s characters is actually the driving force of the picture. The two meet after Cris has a vision of encountering her in a diner at just after nine o’clock. Not knowing whether the time is AM or PM, he continues to go to the diner twice every day until the two finally cross paths. Although the beginnings are a little bizarre, there is an instant connection between the two and Liz wants to believe Cris and his incredible notions of their destiny together. For some reason, Cris can see much further into the future than just two minutes when the visions revolve around him and Liz, prompting him to believe that that’s happening for a reason.

In interviews, Julianne Moore seems to have been the most truthful of the three, essentially admitting that the film serves primarily as light entertainment. In fact, she has stated that the most difficult thing about her part has been trying to make her dialogue sound normal, which hints at a screenplay that may be filled with absurdity. Moore’s character is an FBI agent and the actress has already received all the necessary training during the Hannibal shoot several years ago. Her character begins to chase Cris and Liz after Cris draws some unnecessary attention to himself and rises to the top of the FBI gambling fraud list.

The film originated as an adaptation of the 1954 short story, The Golden Man, written by renowned author and frequent source of Hollywood productions, Phillip K. Dick. Dick’s unparalleled visions of the future have not only dazzled audiences with stunning images when brought to the screen, but have also provided a potent look at humanity in all of its vulnerability. They’ve ranged from the intellectual, like Blade Runner, to the frivolous, like Paycheck. Flicks like Total Recall and Minority Report have been able to balance both fun and cleverness, in various portions. Dick’s most recent contribution came in the form of the underrated failure, A Scanner Darkly. In The Golden Man, Dick created a protagonist that was essentially a mutant in a post-apocalyptic future. Bestowed with precognitive powers, he could only see the infinite possibilities of his actions, but was never conscious of the present. This type of brainy content is not likely to actually make it into the film version that is Next. It is painfully obvious that screenwriters Gary Goldman (Big Trouble in Little China, Total Recall, Navy Seals), Paul Bernbaum (Hollywoodland), and Jonathan Hensleigh (The Saint, Armageddon, The Punisher) have stripped the story down, keeping only the most commercial elements.

As usual, it’s no surprise that Phillip K. Dick purists are unhappy, as Next actually shares very little with the short story. Other than the main character’s ability to see into the future, there is little else that binds the two. Thanks in part to his producer status, Cage has completely tailored the protagonist to fit his own ideas and strengths as an actor, but replacing an enigmatic figure with a clichéd Vegas magician plays too easily into Cage’s movie star persona. Perhaps, with the film distancing itself so much from the original writing, it would be best to simply treat it as a totally separate entity. In truth, this is merely an action picture with a minor gimmick, not very much unlike the dozens of similar tricks already utilized by Hollywood. With Lee Tamahori at the helm, a hefty $70 million budget, a terrorist plot, and sets packed with commandos, machine-guns, bombs, and helicopters, there’s little doubt in my mind that the movie will preference action over ideas. Of course, since it’s Hollywood, the love story will have to be front and center as well.


The story will ultimately force Cris to make a decision of whether to save the world or the woman he loves, who he can see will one day bear his child.


In Conclusion: Speaking about the movie, Gary Goldman claimed that Next would translate the excitement of a videogame onto the big screen. I’m not sure where he got the video game analogy, but frankly, it worries me. The premise is fun and the ideas are in place for something truly insightful, but clearly the filmmakers are content with action built around one gimmick. The movie also contains that clichéd, frustrating, and inevitable movie scene where the protagonist must prove his powers to those that he desperately needs to believe him. In this case Cris will flip through some television stations while telling Liz what she will see next. These types of scenes have become a long-standing tradition, but as tiring as they may be, they are still quite effective. Much like last November’s time-travel adventure Deja Vu, Next is likely to offer some really silly fun, as long as you don’t think ahead too much.

Similar Titles: Paycheck, Total Recall, Deja Vu, I, Robot
April 27th, 2007 (wide)
September 25th, 2007 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Lee Tamahori

Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Peter Falk, Thomas Kretschmann

Total: 90 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, and some language

96 min





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