I was wondering the strange selection of Nicolas Cage movies to hit the big screens here. There was no love for his Weather Man or Lord of War, which seem on the surface to be probable successes, and I thought World Trade Center was a mediocre effort, no doubt hitting the big screens because of the subject matter, and helmed by Oliver Stone, who seem to be quite muted and didn't turn on the controversy tap. His latest, recent effort in Ghost Rider was fun, but unmemorable.
Philip K. Dick's science fiction stories too have their fair share of hits and misses when translated to the silver screen. There's the cult classic Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, the box-office success of Total Recall by Paul Verhoeven, the new-age photo-realistic animation A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater, Steven Spielberg's Minority Report credited with Colin Farrell's noticeable appearance, and John Woo's Paycheck which made Uma Thurman look ugly without the use of prosthetics. Big stars too get attached to these pictures, from Harrison Ford to Tom Cruise to Arnold Schwarzenegger, each featured in diverse stories that the author has on offer, and most from short stories too. But what about the combination of Lee Tamahori and Nicolas Cage?
Disaster. I've not read the short on which Next is based, but this movie failed Basic Storytelling 101. It sets up pre-determined rules, and goes ahead to break them all, while trying to be too smart about it, and they say pride comes before a fall - didn't any crew notice those huge warning signs? And it's not about the illogicality of time travel nor its associated paradoxes either. It's pure laziness in development, an obsessed focus in its mediocre action sequences, and without a clue in knowing how to end a story.
Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson with Tom Hank's haircut from The Da Vinci Code. Johnson is a Las Vegas illusionist who's successful in his job because of his curse in being able to see things before they happen. Well, just anything two minutes ahead, and only if it directly involves himself. The only time that this rule doesn't seem to hold, is that he frequently daydreams about Liz (Jessica Biel), with whom he thinks he shares a mysterious connection with. The FBI is unto some terrorists who have placed a nuclear device in California, and one of its agents Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is after Johnson to seek his abilities to help them, while the baddies are after everyone else, in one of lamest reasons ever - since the FBI wants Johnson, let's waste time finishing him off.
While there were tons of promise in the movie with a premise like that, you get frequently pissed when Tamahori playbacks scenes on repeat, pulling that sleight of hand that says, ok, that's what's happening in Johnson's mind, you'll following his 2-min peek into the future, and we go back again. But the 2 minutes seem to go onto 3, 4, 5 minutes, until the ultimate sleight of hand pulled and played too far back, it's plain ludicrous. It's fine and dandy for a while, until its self fulfilling prophecy. No doubt it tries to redeem itself by playing on a paradox - that things change when you look ahead (and alter a particular course of action), but as I've already mentioned, it's lazy.
And the special effects were lazy too, with nothing done that an audience have never seen before, and to make things worse, some looked horribly fake. There's also an action routine going to make its staple this year (the other one noted was in the Die Hard 4.0 trailer), and that's the "ducking from a mid-air flying car" routine. The rest looked like the Matrix's "bullet time / dodge while the bullets are flying at you / look mom I can split myself" effects, which wears on after a while.
Cage sleepwalks through the role, no doubt assisted by a world weary character, while Jessica Biel is totally wasted in a role that could have been played by any Playboy Playmate of the Year, and that's just to put her twin peaks forward onscreen. Julianne Moore seemed to have reminisce her time playing FBI agent Clarice Starling from Hannibal, and you would have expect Hannibal Lecter himself to make an appearance and start eating everyone else - now that would make a better movie.
Next has my vote as one of the worst movie of the year for pulling that kinda rug from underneath your feet. It's title says it all, don't waste your time on this. Next!