Friday, January 11, 2008

Nicholas Cage's Next: Six ways to turkey

The minute you see the future, muses Cris Johnson in the ludicrous thriller Next (out on DVD), you change it. Johnson is played by Nicholas Cage and he is a man who can see the future - but only up to two minutes of it. He ekes out a living as a magician in Las Vegas and then uses his ability to make just about enough money at the tables to fly in under the radar.

Julianne Moore plays FBI agent Callie Ferris and is interested in tapping Cage's abilities to stop a terrorist attack on LA.

Early on in the movie, there is a sequence where Johnson - using his peculiar ability - dances past several security personnel chasing him in a casino and saunters to his escape. This begins the suspension of belief and logic that the audience is asked to make by director Lee Tamahori (who also directed the 2002 Bond flick Die Another Day). By the time the climactic scene rolls by, Cage is playing Johnson as a cool, assured super-hero having even developed a funny wince to tell us he's having another "vision". This elicited some chuckles from me.

But let's forget the premise for a minute. There are still several screamers in Next. Here is my list.

  1. No matter how cool the ability of the lead character, refrain from elevating him to indestructible, saintly superhero. Leave that to the Spider-man and X-men franchises. Instead focus on ways to humanize the situation by enacting how an ordinary person would use an extraordinary ability.

  2. Don't take young, smoking babes like Jessica Biel and cast them in a romance with middle-aged, balding guys like Nicholas Cage. It doesn't look sweet or cute, it just looks plain creepy. And look, a middle-aged balding guy is saying this: so it must be true.

  3. Explain the motivation(s) of the bad guys clearly and concisely. If a bunch of people are going through the trouble of acquiring a nuclear warhead and are planning to blow up LA, they must have their reasons. The audience would like to know! Unless the writers would like us to think the bad guys had a premonition about the movie and wanted to blow up LA before its release.

  4. In this day and age, try not to write in a situation where two interesting female characters are thrown by the wayside in the end - one mutely following everything the man suggests and the other bound and gagged waiting for the man to rescue her.

  5. I've complained about this before and I'll do it again: pare down the ambition of your CGI sequences. When you don't, they look terribly fake.

  6. And finally, someone do something about Nicholas Cage's hair! Please!

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