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Next (film)

Next is a 2007 film, the original script is very loosely based on the science fiction short story "The Golden Man" by Philip K. Dick. The film is directed by Lee Tamahori and stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, and Jessica Biel. The film was released on April 27, 2007.

Plot

Cris (Nicholas Cage) has the power to see 2 minutes into the future, but for a long time, Cris has been seeing a vision of a woman walking into a diner. He knows the woman in his vision will arrive at 8:09, but does not know what day or if it is AM or PM, so he has been going to this diner twice a day every day to meet her and find out why he can see her farther than two minutes in the future. This time, Cris meets Liz (Jessica Biel), the woman from his dream. He tells her his car was stolen, and she offers to drive him to Flagstaff, Arizona. When a road is washed out, they are forced to stay at a hotel on the edge of a cliff.

Agent Farris tracks them and assembles a large team to bring Cris in. The terrorists, who have been watching the FBI, also follow, hoping to kill Cris before he can help the authorities. Agent Farris confronts Liz while she is walking near the hotel and persuades her to drug Cris so that they can bring him in peacefully. Instead, Liz warns Cris, who tells her about his secret. When she asks why he will not help the FBI stop the terrorists, he tells her about the limitations of his ability. He can only see his future, and only two minutes in the future, except when it comes to her. When Cris tries to escape, he is arrested, and the terrorists kidnap Liz.

In custody, Cris is strapped to a chair with his eyes held open and forced to watch television until he can have a vision that helps the FBI. When he sees a report of Liz being strapped with explosives and blown up, Agent Farris promises to help save her as long as Cris will help her.

Cris uses his future visions to find the terrorists and lead a tactical team on a raid to stop them. When they arrive, Cris is able to walk right up to the terrorist leader by seeing where the bullets will go and dodging them. After killing the terrorists and saving Liz, they realize that the bomb has already been moved. Agent Farris shows a seismograph to Cris hoping that he will see any tremors caused by explosions before they happen. Just then, he starts yelling that it is happening now, and in the distance, the bomb goes off, destroying everything around them.

Production

Gary Goldman and Jason Koornick initially optioned the science fiction short story The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick. Goldman wrote a script treatment that he and Koornick presented to Nicolas Cage's production company, Saturn Films, but Goldman ended up writing the screenplay on spec.

The original novel's protagonist was a feral, non-sapient golden-skinnned mutant in a post-nuclear world.

Original draft

This first draft had more similarities to the short story, detailing the efforts of a government agency to capture and contain a precognitive mutant.

To provide greater interaction between the opposing parties (as well as create a leading role), Cris was changed from a feral animal whose existence threatened humanity's into a more familiar and understandable social outcast. A romantic subplot was added: the character of Liz Cooper, who in this draft was not only destined to be the love of Cris's life, but a mutant as well (born in Love Canal) and the only woman he has ever met with whom he can have children, herself incapable of procreating with normal humans.

As the original short story had a distinct tone of racist paranoia, the motivation for the pursuit of Cris was changed from an ironclad policy of exterminating mutations to a manipulative Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent's obsessive search for unconventional assets in the war on terror, though the DHS began exhibiting this paranoia as their efforts to control Cris prove increasingly inadequate.

This script was filled with anti-authoritarian themes, with Cris often speaking clearly and eloquently of how he enjoys his independence. He states plainly that "what I want is freedom. And you don’t get it by giving it up." Though many amazing uses of his gift are detailed by the DHS, all obviously within his capabilities and some just as obviously thoroughly despicable, Cris lives a simple life as a stage magician, only gambling in an extremely limited fashion. An exchange between two DHS agents shows how bewildered the authorities are by Cris's benign personality: "All he’s ever done with it is a little gambling and securities fraud?" "I know, it’s amazing; but he’s not ambitious."

The role of Cris's opposition was well filled by the ever-controversial DHS, with the undefined terrorists kept firmly in the background as the rarely mentioned motivation for their pursuit of Cris. The organization was explicitly depicted as a completely unregulated, astoundingly powerful and unapologetically ruthless collection of out-of-control fanatics, breaking laws without pause and eager to torture and even murder innocent civilians to achieve their objectives: "You're failing your country, people. You're not trying hard enough. Do you understand what I'm saying? Do you understand what I expect from you? Twist arms! Crack heads! Break the fuckin' law! But don't let this happen!" Forcing Cris' co-operation is just the objective that they are focused on, for it will permit them to achieve countless others. They wax poetic on their plans in using Cris as if he were a piece of machinery, most of which consist of using him as a "timescope"; that is, bolting him into a chair for the rest of his life so his only experiences are ones which are useful to them, a process which they believe would extend the range of his abilities. One agent suggests that they amputate his limbs, a suggestion his colleague considers humorous. That is, until she realizes Cris has probably realized the possibility of such an occurrence the instant it was proposed. However, the only rebuttal she gives is "I wish you'd given me a chance to chain him up before you decided to prune him into a stump."

To drive the point home, in comparison to the script's Machiavellian depiction of the DHS, Cris possesses a respect for life that even surprises the gentle and compassionate Liz. Though he nearly drives Liz away when he breaks a passing car's windshield with a rock, he does it anyway rather than let its reckless driver crash it through a baseball field filled with children. He is amazingly reluctant to respond to situations violently, doing everything he can to avoid confrontation and only using his abilities in increasingly potent ways to counter the authorities' increasingly extreme attempts to capture him. He never threatens them with any degree of harm throughout the pursuit, and does everything he can to prevent casualties even while he and Liz are trapped inside the fortified and fully staffed Las Vegas DHS.

However, his enemies are skilled tormentors, and eventually they drive him to the breaking point: when the DHS learns that Liz is pregnant with his child, they coldly decide to have her executed at a pre-determined time, thus pre-emptively proving to Cris their determination to possess him. Even then all his efforts are focused on securing Liz's safety: an objective which the DHS, though only with great difficulty, is able to prevent him from achieving. Then and only then does he make his first and only counterattack on those who have abused him so relentlessly and thoroughly. He demolishes the Las Vegas DHS headquarters with a barrel of C-4 agents had seized earlier in a warrant-less search. His abilities, of course, ensure that Liz and himself are the only survivors.

But one constant throughout the script was the knowledge that Cris is running for his life. The script begins with Cris's seemingly infallible abilities informing him that the authorities will settle for nothing less than total control of his abilities. Cris thus constantly flees the DHS, sure that if he is captured he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life. This theory is never challenged: even as the film ends, Cris believes he is trading his freedom for the life of a son whom he will never know.

The only clue as to his motivation for surrendering is a conversation between him and Liz Cooper in which she asks him if he has any goals in his life. His response is poetic in its simplicity: "There's only one thing I've ever wanted. A family. I was, as they say, left on a doorstep when I was two. Never found foster parents who could put up with me. So to me, a family sounds like plenty." The compassionate Liz Cooper would never bear the child of a man who would let millions perish in atomic fire rather than be a slave. But by willingly accepting imprisonment, he might be able to keep the authorities from ever learning of his son's existence – he may be a slave, but he might ensure his son will live free, cared for by the woman of his dreams. He thus does what no authority figure depicted in the script could possibly do – make the ultimate sacrifice. "Not for millions, not for glory, not for fame. For one person, in the dark, where no one will ever know or see."

Saturn re-draft

Saturn Films had the script extensively rewritten, and in the process almost completely eliminating its anti-authoritarian themes. Though Cris remained a meek social outcast, he is somewhat less sympathetic. The attitude with which he applies his abilities is almost arrogant at times, and though still relatively peaceful, he is far more prone to applying violent solutions. The DHS's role was replaced with the far less controversial Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Despite a somewhat disturbing scene in which Cris experiences his worst nightmare – strapped into a chair with his eyes wedged open with the possibility of spending his remaining life thus – the authorities are carefully portrayed as sympathetic, and Cris as uncooperative and belligerent. Their insistence on Cris's obedience was reduced to the point that the authorities were the ones offering their assistance in rescuing Liz (whom they neglected to arrest despite her efforts to sabotage Cris's capture) from the terrorists. This leads to the film's greatest variation from the script – a confrontation with the terrorists (who now speak with French or German accents) but still give no clue as to their motivations. During the confrontation, Cris willingly supports the FBI with his abilities in a series of sequences similar to those in the script, only with the authorities as allies instead of antagonists.

This was the script Saturn Films brought to the attention of Revolution Studios. Revolution Studios acquired the screenplay and in November 2004, Revolution Studios hired Lee Tamahori to direct the film, titled Next, with actor Nicolas Cage cast in the lead role as a man who has the ability to see into the future. Filming was to begin in Summer 2005. In December 2005, actress Julianne Moore was cast as the federal agent who seeks people to help prevent future terrorism and uncovers Cage's character as a potential candidate. In November 2005, Initial Entertainment Group negotiated for rights of international distribution of Next, which had a target release date of 2007. In February 2006, actress Jessica Biel was cast as the love interest of Cage's character.

In May 2006, Starz! Entertainment's 14-episode reality television miniseries, Looking for Stars, gave 200 contestants the opportunity to earn a speaking role in Next, which was won by actor Marcus Welch.

Next originally was to be distributed by Sony Pictures, set to be released on September 28, 2006, but that studio dumped it in January 2007, and Paramount Pictures subsequently picked it up and released the movie on April 27, 2007 . Paramount previously released another film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story, Paycheck, and owns the US rights to yet another, Minority Report, via its acquisition of DreamWorks.

Cast

Box office performance

The film opened at #3 at the U.S. box office, grossing US$7.1 million in 2,725 theaters in its opening weekend. In its eight-week run in the United States, it grossed a total of $18 million and has a combined worldwide gross of $64.7 million. Compared to other films based on Philip K. Dick stories, Next grossed less than Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, and Blade Runner – but performed better than Impostor, Screamers and A Scanner Darkly.

Reception

"Next" received mixed reviews. As of September 10, 2007 on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, 30% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 108 reviews (32 "fresh", 76 "rotten"). On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 42 out of 100, based on 23 reviews.

Justin Chang of Variety said the film plays "like the cinematic equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel" and that the plot is highly reminiscent of 24. Chang also said "What starts out as a mildly diverting thriller blows itself to smithereens in the final reel", describing the climax as a "stunning cheat. James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 2 1/2 out of 4 stars and said parts of the film are "fascinating" and "compelling" but that "the whole thing ends up collapsing under its own weight." Berardinelli said Nicolas Cage "seems to be going through the motions", "Julianne Moore brings intensity to the part of Callie, although the character is incomplete", "Jessica Biel is appealing" but "the character is unfinished", and that "Thomas Kretschmann is unimpressive as a generic 24-style terrorist." He also said "some viewers will feel cheated by what Next does, and it's hard to blame them. Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald gave the film 2 out of 4 stars and said the film looks like director Lee Tamahori "spent about 12 bucks on his special effects budget." Ogle said the film had a decent premise but "Next begins to seriously embarrass itself and its stars once it rolls to its climax. Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell gave the film 1 1/2 stars out of 4 and called it a "colossal waste of time" and said it is "possibly the most egregious befouling of Dick's work to date." Howell said the roles "seem to be cut-and-pasted from other movies", called the film a "straight-to-DVD wannabe", and said the film "has one of the most infuriating endings ever.

Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times gave Next 1 1/2 stars out of 4 and said "Late in the movie, Cris shouts at a bad guy, 'I've seen every possible ending here. None of them are good for you.' It's as if he's talking to the audience, and alas, he's right." and "Julianne Moore spends most of her screen time in Lee Tamahori's confused sci-fi thriller Next looking royally pissed off, like she got tricked into making the movie on a sucker bet. You can't blame her; this film's audience is likely to look that way as well by the time the end credits roll. Kalamazoo Gazette critic James Sanford gave the film 1 1/2 stars and said "the only visions Next inspires are flashbacks to better films" like Honeymoon in Vegas, Leaving Las Vegas, The Illusionist, and Hannibal, adding "any film that makes someone wish he or she were watching Hannibal must be pretty awful." Sanford said "Cage performs as if he's on autopilot, Moore looks more miserable than she did as the suicidal housewife in The Hours, and Biel seems fully aware she was hired only to provide a few glimpses of cheesecake". Sanford also remarked, "the ending of this film is not just a colossal cheat, it's a hard slap in the face to anyone who has invested his or her time in watching it. Daniel Eagan of Film Journal International said the film "follows a familiar Hollywood pattern in which a few intriguing ideas are swamped by the demands of a big-budget, star-driven vehicle" and that it "won't add any luster to Nicolas Cage's resume." Eagan said "Half of Next is a clever, unpredictable thriller that plays with Dick's customary obsessions with time and reality. The other half is a sloppy, bloated adventure marred by cheesy special effects and some equally cheesy acting" and also that "the script to Next has plenty of [plot jams], one or two egregious enough to demand ticket refunds.

Orlando Sentinel critic Roger Moore gave the film 3 out of 5 stars and said "who says preposterous junk can't be fun?" Moore said "this sloppy little time-travel variation is a crowd-pleasing hoot, thanks mostly to Cage turning on the charisma and showing off his gift for hangdog understatement" and that the Groundhog Day-like attempts to woo Jessica Biel's character are "hilarious." Moore concluded "It's all so stupid and ends so perfunctorily that you can't call Next good, or even as good as the dopey Déjà Vu...but it does score over [Déjà Vu] in one important criterion. It's just fun. Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe gave the film 2 1/2 out of 4 stars and called it a "watchably absurd popcorn flick" and that the film "bears almost no resemblance" to the original short story "The Golden Man", the short story it was adapted from. He described Moore's performance as "enjoyably curt" and said "alongside Cage's spontaneity, Biel seems humorless and earnestly dull." Morris said the film is fun "until it turns crass" and concluded, "when you're being toyed with that cheaply, you forget how much you admire Nicolas Cage's shamelessness and start to resent the movie's. Diana Saenger of ReviewExpress gave the movie 3 1/2 stars and said "Next boasts a fresh plot with a tricky twist ending that can be misconstrued if you don't pay close attention and then pause to think about it." Saenger reported that it was Nicolas Cage's idea for Cris to be a magician, and that it was his suggestion that his wife be part of the scene where a woman comes out of the audience to be part of the magic show. Saenger remarked that people complaining about the twist being a rip-off probably didn't understand it and said it made perfect sense and concluded "I liked the surprise twist and found Next very entertaining.

The film was subject to the heckling of Bridget Jones and Michael J. Nelson in an October 2007 installment of Rifftrax.

Trivia

  • In the 'Clockwork Orange' scene, Callie Ferris offers Johnson a cigarette. The cigarette box bears a striking resemblance to the Victory Cigarettes box from the film adaptation of 1984.
  • Sections of the movie were filmed in the San Bernardino Mountains in California. Mountain Locations used in production of the movie included Crestline, Running Springs and Big Bear Lake. The hotel featured in the movie, "The Cliffhanger", is actually a restaurant in the Crestline area that has remained closed for some time. The restaurant, located on a cliff, overlooks the City of San Bernardino. In order to make the restaurant look more like a hotel, a facade was attached to the building. The facade is the section of the motel where Johnson and Liz Cooper were staying. Interior shots were filmed elsewhere. Following the end of production, the facade was removed. However, remnants of the signage placed and the paint works conducted remain intact. The property has been fenced off and a for sale sign has been posted. Running Springs served for scenes shot in the town. Scenes (in which a vehicle was rolled off the side of a cliff) shot in Big Bear Lake were shot at a campground. Due to the terrain located on the side of the cliff the Cliffhanger is located on, the producers decided to finish the scenes at the campground in Big Bear Lake.
  • The last word seen in the film is that of name of the hotel, named to coincide with its ending: "Cliffhanger".
  • The credits are briefly "foreseen", including a glimpse of the ending logos, before rolling from the top of the screen to the bottom. This mimics Johnson's ability to see into the future. Despite the reversed direction of flow, the credits follow the normal order, with well known names appearing before the rest of the crew. Some statements are printed in lines of text vertically reversed in order.

References

External links

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