Next (2007)Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, and some language.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, Peter Falk.
LVJeff's Rating: 5/10
Photo ©Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
What Superhero Is Next?
Next is based on Philip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man," but don't let that fool you. It employs the concept that drives Dick's original story -- a being who can see the consequence of his actions a short distance into the future -- but almost none of the setting or the context, instead using the premise to set up what amounts to a poor man's superhero movie. Nicolas Cage seems to be having a field day with this kind of stuff -- he was last seen in Ghost Rider as a relatively lesser-known superhero, and now in this movie, as Cris Johnson, he's essentially an isolated potential member of the X-Men. I kept expecting Patrick Stewart to show up in a wheelchair and recruit him.
The movie feels like it's been cobbled together from loose ideas and spare parts, starting with the borrowed theme of, "With great power comes great responsibility" (at some point in the film, this is even paraphrased). As if to illustrate the point directly, the plot concerns Cris being chased around by the FBI. Why are they after him? Did he do something wrong? No, as it turns out, they want to stop some terrorists who have a nuclear device, and the team chasing Cris is led by Agt. Ferris (Julianne Moore), who not only believes she's found someone who can see in to the future but also thinks she can persuade him to use his powers to help them save the world.
However, Cris doesn't want to go along with it because he'd rather be left alone to live his life and continue looking for a girl (Jessica Biel) who appears in visions to him. So, yes, there's your superhero's burden in a nutshell. It's simple enough, and Cris's power enables the movie to put up quite a few entertaining moments -- basically, Next is the full-length movie version of the cool scene in Minority Report (itself based on another story by Dick) where Tom Cruise drags Samantha Morton around while running from the cops, and they duck into the mall and Morton calls every moment before it happens. If you had fun with that, then you might have fun with this.
Still, for the most part, the elements in Next were all served better somewhere else before. Cage is just being Cage, exhibiting his usual affable goofiness. Biel, though, got stuck with quite a useless and inconsistent character -- she has half a personality and, after it's established, is only required to look frightened and confused. For as much as the character accomplishes, she might as well be a mannequin. Dummies, too, could have filled in for the terrorists who have the nuclear MacGuffin -- they are vaguely Eastern European and act like characters who didn't make the final cut of the cast of Die Hard. Only Moore seems to have a fun and spunky outing as the tough-talking agent.
Frankly, none of this is as bad as it sounds -- the movie is diverting enough, and actually might've passed well as logic-less entertainment (yeah, don't try to figure out whether anything makes sense) if not for the ending. Usually, a bad ending can't entirely wreck a movie if the rest of it was strong to begin with, but Next does not hold such a privilege. Its wrap-up guarantees this film a place in the pile of forgettable silliness that props up better entries of its genre.
©Jeffrey Chen, Apr. 25, 2007