Philip K Dick
Movie - Next (2007)

Based on Short Story - The Golden Man

Story Version Notes
The short story is about a future which had a war with radiation, so there were mutants. The mutants came in all different varieties, but the government was active in killing them all. The people of this time were afraid of the mutants and agreed with the extermination policy. We open with a "salesman" in an area talking with other diners at a restaurant about the mutants, and then traveling to a local house. It turns out that the salesman is really a government mutant-hunter and has come with a crew to gather up a local mutant who has been hiding out with his family. The mutant is solid gold, a teen boy, visually "beautiful".

It turns out this mutant can see into the future, with all the potential branches, although the future gets "fuzzier" the further out he looks. The government tries experiments with randomly firing guns and the mutant is always able to dodge the bullets. They want to study him for a while but their end plan is to kill him. They don't want any mutants to "outbreed" the regular humans and cause regular humans to be wiped out. The main agent is very upset that this golden boy is just an "animal" - no thinking process at all. All he does is eat, sleep, and dodge harm. He considers this a huge step backwards for mankind and sees this mutant as a threat. If he survived and thrived, his kind would naturally out-do the "regular humans" but we would lose all thought, emotion, etc.

Unfortunately for the government, the golden man has another evolutionarily advantageous quality - all women instantly love his beautiful form. One of the women on the team falls for him, has sex with him, and helps him escape. The governments guys are very upset, they figure this is the doom of man now. They figure golden boy will run amuk, having sex with every woman he finds, creating a plethora of golden children who will keep doing the same until they are the dominant life form.

Lisa's Reaction to the Story Version
It's said in write-ups that Philip K Dick was tired of reading the "good mutant" stories and wanted to write one where a mutant wasn't necessarily good for "regular" mankind. It's also said that his work was turned down by sci-fi magazines because of this. I found it interesting but a little simplistic in the "all women will swoon and want to have sex with him just because he's shiny." I would hope most women don't hop randomly into bed with strangers just because their skin is shiny. I realize they meant he was god-like handsome ;) But still, I think women are a bit better than that. The golden boy didn't talk at all. So you'd have to assume these women would hop into bed with a mute who didn't think or use sign language or anything at all. All he did was eat, drink, have sex and dodge danger.

Movie Version Notes
Nicholas Cage is a Vegas showman who can see 2 minutes into the future. He's been studied by scientists as a child but once they realized it was a real skill with no real functional application, they categorized him as a freak and let him go. He makes money by doing magic acts in Vegas and playing casino games where he only wins small amounts, so that he's not banned. Soon the government hears of a nuclear bomb plot and decides to use his skills. He in the meantime runs into a woman who has been mysteriously stuck in his head - Julianne Moore. With her, and her alone, he can see further than 2 minutes.

He convinces her to go with him out of town, to get away from the agents.

The agents track them down and use Julianne to get to Nicholas. He agrees to help the agent once he's caught - but it turns out the bad guys grab Julianne. Nicholas first tracks down where Julianne is being held (with the agents' help) and once she's free, he turns his attention on the bomb. Too late, it goes off. It turns out that entire path was just a "future he saw" - so now we zip back to "current time" of when he first runs away with Julianne. He agrees to help the agents and you have the assumption that this time he'll do something better. The end.

Lisa's Reaction to the Movie Version
I adore Philip K Dick stories, and am always thrilled when any of them are turned into movies, even if it's a bad one. At least it will get people to read his books (which are *great*) and hopefully it'll encourage more stories to be made into movies. Next falls into the category of an interesting story completely twisted in the movie version. Even more interestingly, if you read the Wikipedia entry on this movie, you'll see that the script went through some drastic changes. It was initially much like the book - and then it was convoluted to turn into what you ended up watching.

In the original story, the main character was a mutant without any thought, emotions or "humanity". He just ate, slept, had sex, and could see into the future to escape harm. The main thrust of the story was that "real humans" were afraid if this mutant went around creating baby mutants that this race would end up wiping out humanity, because they would have the evolutionary edge. The worry was that thinking, feeling "superior" normal humans would be lost while this "animalistic" mutant would take over solely because of his ability to see in the future and avoid harm.

All of that thinking-vs-animal conflict is completely lost in this movie version. Really, the ONLY thing that's the same is the see-into-the-future aspect. Nicholas Cage uses his talents just to make money in a Vegas act and in gambling. The government knows a nuclear bomb is being brought in and they want to have him see into the future to help them stop it. Nicholas falls in love with a woman (Julianne Moore) who has been in his thoughts. You get a variety of situations where Nicholas uses his future-looking to help him woo Julianne, to avoid trouble and so on.

I kept thinking how this was pretty much Groundhog Day and if this had come out first it would have been cool - but it was done SO much better in Groundhog Day that it seemed stale here. Also, where Groundhog Day had believable characters who developed and grew, here the characters were both unbelievable and bizarre. Just why would Julianne go with Nicholas the psycho anywhere? Why are the terrorists doing what they're doing? Why did Julianne react the way she did in the diner (the final time) to Nicholas' repeated attempts to talk with her? It was like they had some ideas but ran into a deadline to begin shooting and just went with the half-finished script rather than actually finishing the storyline up.

There were other random homages in there too. One scene with the government agents "using" Nicholas to watch TV was pretty much straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Maybe someone in the film crew loved that movie and wanted to re-create the scene? It made little sense story wise. Why not have him listen to the radio which wouldn't require eyeball-prying devices? And plus, he's only there for maybe 2 minutes before he says "I don't want to do this" and the big bad agents go "Oh ok well never mind then."

Philip K Dick is famous for his twist endings, but this ending was AWFUL. It made no sense at all for someone who can see into the future and know which path to take. Heck, many things make no sense. Why would he unleash a random situation like "car cascading down a mountain" when he had many other paths which were much more logical? I imagine they wouldn't have made for as spectacular stunts, but that's never a good reason plot-wise. They could have at least tried to make the plot make sense.

It's worth renting this once to see it, just because it is a Philip K Dick story at heart, but this isn't a keeper. It really makes me think that this could have been an awesome movie, if they fleshed out some of the storylines involved. Maybe if Julianne was also a future-seeker which is why she made the comment she did in the diner. Maybe if she was involved with the terrorists which is how they knew to look for him. There were a lot of possibilities in there - but they were all missed.

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Philip K Dick Stories Made Into Movies
A Scanner Darkly
Blade Runner
Minority Report
Total Recall

Philip K Dick Homepage