The 1954 Philip K. Dick short story “The Golden Man” features a mutant able to see a short time into the future, a useful skill when government agents tasked with guarding humanity’s genetic stock do so by summary execution. In addition to clairvoyance, the mutant can also seduce women with his golden skin, a skill he employs to enroll a female agent in starting their own little offshoot of humanity. In the midst of Red Scare xenophobia, Dick’s tale examined how mutants without malice might still be no good for the unaltered.

In Next, which claims inspiration from “The Golden Man,” Nicolas Cage can see two minutes into the future, except in relation to love interest Jessica Biel, whom he can sense coming from weeks away for some reason. Humans, instead of hunting him, remain ignorant of his existence except for Julianne Moore, an FBI agent trying to save Los Angeles from imminent nuclear annihilation. Like the protagonist of “The Golden Man,” Cage possesses uncanny seductive abilities, which mostly consist of repeatedly trying different pick-up lines until one works. Also, he can do magic, and it never hurts to be able to turn a piece of paper into a long-stemmed rose with a burst of fire.

That little trick comes after Next’s most memorable moment, when Biel emerges from the shower dripping wet and wrapped in a towel. As the camera, Cage and probably every viewer lengthily ogle her, Biel incredulously asks “What?” It’s Biel’s big moment; she’s soon abducted and serves as a tied-down prop (alas, fully clothed) for most of the rest of the movie. While Biel suffers, Cage works alongside Moore to save Los Angeles by going after the kidnappers, Eurotrash francophone mercenaries complicit in the nuclear terrorism.

What follows are nightmare scenarios for script supervisor Luca Kouimelis—whose job is ensuring related shots match one another—as action sequences replay over and over until Cage gets the outcome he desires. Until he doesn’t.

And then the movie pulls a variant of the it-was-all-just-a-dream trick, backs up to where it can rerun with the possibility of a happy ending, and races toward a sequel visible to even the unmutated, perhaps titled Yet Again.
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