Next

The prominent sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick has been blessed with some of the greatest adaptations a writer could ever hope to nab. While inevitably taking some liberties with the source material (not to mention tightening up some of those lengthy titles), films such as Blade Runner and the original Total Recall have proven to be stone cold classics and have preserved to become considered to be among the best of their respective genres…
Of course this hasn’t always been the case and in the case of Next (based on the short story The Golden Man) we find a typically high-concept tale caught in the maelstrom of a jobbing director (Lee Tamahori, fresh off directing Die Another Day – aka. the dumbest Bond movie ever made without Roger Moore) and a lead actor in the midst of phoning in his career as much as a salesman for O2.

Cris Johnson is a Las Vegas magician who has the ability to see two minutes into the future and in an effort to exist under the radar, uses his talent to win medium amounts in casinos to supplement his crappy income. Further adding to Cris’ shitty existence is the fact that despite his two minute window of clairvoyance, he’s also had a vision of being in a particular diner at a particular day where he meets the girl of his dreams and so he parks himself there twice a day in order to “bump into her”. If that sounds unfeasibly creepy then go to the head of the class, but something else Cris has to deal with is the attentions of dogged FBI agent Callie Ferris who has somehow found out about his precognative party trick and wants to secure his help in locating a nuclear weapon that has been stolen by terrorists – but instead of just simply asking him, she launches an all-out attempt to take him into custody.
Cris effortlessly avoids his pursuers and finally manages to meet up with Liz Cooper, the woman from his vision and immediately uses his powers to trick her into a lift to Flagstaff and eventually ends up in bed with her (good start with establishing trust in a relationship there, Cris), but for some reason the terrorists have become interested with him too.
Even with the powers to look 120 seconds into his own future (jeez – when you put it like that, he sounds like the world’s most ineffective X-Man) can Cris possibly evade the various groups on his tail – and should we even want that considering all the FBI want him for is to help them find a fucking nuke?

Next is a film that would of benefited hugely from the filmmakers having a spot of clairvoyance themselves, especially considering that they constantly and consistently keep making awful choices at every turn while trying to piece this mound of crap together. Tamahori seems to be going out of his way to make Once Were Warriors a distant memory with yet another ropey action thriller which curiously spends more time on it’s lead character desperately avoiding the people who want to save the people of Los Angeles from catching thermonuclear sunburn that it does on him saving the day.
Christ, Johnson only finds out about the damn bomb a full half a hour before the end of the movie and everything before that is dedicated to his extremely questionable dating techniques. As the film continues on it’s way to be as defiantly illogical as can possibly be it becomes obvious that the script thinks making every character a clueless idiot is the same as crafting a plot twist. As the clock relentlessly ticks down, I’m not sure why the FBI guys think strapping Cris into a Clockwork Orange style contraption in order to force his powers to work is a productive use of anyone’s limited time; similarly I’m also not sure why the assorted band of gun toting eurotrash terrorists feel the need to get involved either. Surely if your dealing with a pre-cog who can tell the future you’d wanna do everything in your power to stay off his radar, right? Kidnapping his girl is probably not the best way to accomplish that in the long run…
Maybe the flimsier parts of the plot (eg. most of it) would be easier to swallow if the filmmakers had cracked a cool and original way of visually realising Johnson’s powers but I strongly suspect that not even they know what his powers can do as the sub-Matrix attempts to put this ability on screen make it even harder to wrap your brain around things. Are his visions of the future instantaneous? Do they play out in real time? Is it actually time travel? When he explores different options, is that one continuous vision or multiple ones? The film both suggests that both all and none of these ideas are true and seems unwilling or unable to clear matters up leaving everything poorly thought out and as easy to casually negotiate as a Russian crossword puzzle.
Again, maybe this all could have been circumvented if our lead actor hadn’t chosen to act out his character’s vulnerabilities as if he was a stalker loaded with ketamine. Yes, this is another film made in the noughties where Oscar winner Nicolas Cage seems to be playing his entire performance by ear and here he’s decided to make us feel his character’s pain by wearing a wig apparently forged from purest roadkill and unleashing a drunken, rapey grin everytime he attempts to be charming. I know Cage likes to experiment but did nobody really tell him that being a walking red flag was possibly not going to endear the character to audiences already grappling with a half-assed plot?
Both Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel flounder in roles so weak they should be on a saline drip, with the former playing her tough fed role as if her version of Clarice Starling from 2000’s Hannibal was afflicted by being perpetually bored and the latter being saddled by spending her most important scenes wearing nothing but a towel…

Movies that treat the concept of reality and time as it’s fluid bitch really needs to be scripted as tight as a duck arse hole, but unfortunately this attempt at high concept sci-fi suffers from a lack of confidence as to which direction to take while finishing things up with one of the most insulting endings in recent history.
At least the title is apt… about twenty minutes in I was yelling “NEXT!” myself…

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