In Next, Nicolas Cage plays a character who can see into the future and adjust what he’s doing to change outcomes around. As Cris Johnson says: “Every time you look at [the future] it changes, because you looked at it.” It’s just a shame that Cage himself doesn’t have the ability to avoid some of the bombs of his career. While Next isn’t necessarily a career high for Cage, it is entertaining enough to make up for some of his shortcomings – say, to balance out his career for The Wicker Man.
Based on The Golden Man by Phillip K. Dick, Next follows Cris Johnson (Cage) as he attempts to find the woman of his visions (literally) while side-stepping government officials who want Cris to help them locate a nuclear bomb before it goes off. The problem is the government doesn’t quite catch on to the limitations of Cris’s powers. He can only see up to two minutes into the future, and only if he is personally involved. The only exception to this has been his vision of Elizabeth Cooper (Jessica Biel), which is a large part of why he’s trying to track her down.
Although the movie is based on a Dick novel, a lot of the typical themes of identity and cause-and-effect are absent from Next. Truthfully, the movie is much more of an action flick utilizing a plot device from a Dick story than a faithful adaptation of Dick’s ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that, but dedicated Dick fans might be disappointed with the result, despite how entertaining it is.
Instead the movie is much more in line with director Lee Tamahori’s past career: xXx: State of the Union, Die Another Day, etc. This is an action flick, and a well assembled one for the most part. Because Cris can see various outcomes for the situations he’s in, he moves rather fluidly and well-choreographed through action sequences. There are some subtleties in Cage’s performance, such as a FBI assault that features all the military men in defensive stances as they move through the location, but Cris, who knows where the danger lies, just moves normally and full of confidence. Just when the audience tires of Cris’s near-immortality, the camera shows one of the poor outcomes before Cris sees it, showing the character shot or blown up before backing up and seeing Cris make a different decision.
Although I was highly entertained by Next, I took issue with two specific aspects of the movie. One, no level of disbelief allows me to accept Nic Cage and Jessica Biel as a romantic couple. I’m a huge Cage fan, but the nearly-twenty-year age difference just makes the relationship seem creepy and distracts from the believability of the characters (yes, I said it – I’ll buy a character who can see into the future, but not the idea that Biel can find Cage attractive, especially with his long, creepy Tom Hanks hairstyle.
Secondly, I have to admit a bit of disappointed in how the predictive nature of Cris’s foresight is tied into the film’s ending. It’s probably the aspect of the movie that is most removed from how Phillip K. Dick wrote, because the author used plot devices to explore humanity while the movie uses it as a gimmick to get out of writing the plot into a corner.
Those minor grievances aside, Next is a pretty entertaining action film. It’s not deep and it won’t leave you thinking like you’d hope from a movie based on a Phillip K. Dick story, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.
As a DVD release, Next is a little disappointing. While the presentation of the movie itself is high quality with a fantastic transfer, the disc is pretty light on anything other than the movie. There’s no commentary, or deleted scenes included on the single disc release, just four commentaries that hit lightly on different facets of the video production, but don’t dig anywhere near deep enough.
All four featurettes are similar in presentation, which means they could have been one single documentary as easily as they are broken into four for the disc. With a total running time right around half an hour, none of the featurettes have the chance to explore their content too much, which means this is a pretty universal DVD that will appeal more to people who don’t study movie making and just want a clue about how this movie was made.
“Making the Best Next Thing” is a pretty comprehensive featurette that looks at the movie from a surface level. It’s the typical look at the cast and crew that features everyone patting each other on the back and saying how wonderful everyone is. “Visualizing The Next Move” is a far too short look at the visual effects of the movie, from the different styles of realizing Cris’s precognitive powers to the avalanche sequence which showcases a lot of the movie’s effects. “The Next ‘Grand Idea’” quickly covers a scene the movie filmed in the Grand Canyon which apparently was Nicolas Cage’s idea. Finally, “Two Minutes in the Future With Jessica Biel” is exactly what the title says: a two minute interview with Biel.
Considering the legacy of Phillip K. Dick, it’s really a shame the DVD doesn’t go much more into depth on the author than a quick mention in one of the featurettes. I guess that’s just even more evidence that Next is more about action than Dick’s ideas. Although the movie itself is enjoyable, with barely any extras on the DVD, Next is worth a rental to enjoy over some popcorn, but not a release that cries out to be a permanent part of anyone’s DVD library.