What You Need To Know:
NEXT is a fitfully interesting, sometimes entertaining thriller. The unconventional ending is liable to make many moviegoers angry, but some moviegoers may appreciate the risk that the filmmakers have taken with this ending. The movie's worldview is mixed with some positive and negative elements and contains some foul language and implied sex, so MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution.
(Pa, BB, FR, LL, VV, S, N, A, D, M) Mixed, light pagan worldview where the hero has special powers to see the future outcomes of important choices he faces, including some strong moral elements where the hero tries to save people's lives and stop evil, mean terrorists planning on mass murder of immense, evil proportions, hero says his powers do not make him "a God," but he also briefly mentions that American Indian shamen or "holy men" claimed to have special powers like the one he seems to have been born with God, which statement can be interpreted as a reference to false religious ideas, and some talk about whether to believe in "Destiny" or not; 12 obscenities, two strong profanities, seven light profanities; strong action violence such as explosions, large gunfight scene, woman's dead body lies in small pool of blood, man murdered in parking lot, robber is disabled, car chase with a crash, large objects and minivan crashes down large hill hitting each other and causing large rocks, tree trunks and other objects to roll down hill as people run down hill, robber shoots people, terrorists strap bombs to woman, and terrorists brink nuclear bomb to Los Angeles; implied fornication; upper male nudity as man lies next to sleeping girlfriend in bed; alcohol use; smoking and woman almost drugs man but warns him before he takes drink; and, attempted robbery, man refuses to help FBI at one point but later does, and man flees police custody.
NEXT stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, a man with limited special powers of seeing into the future who works as a magician in Las Vegas under the name Frank Cadillac. The FBI wants to use his special powers to find out where some terrorists in Los Angeles have a nuclear bomb they want to explode. Cris can only see two minutes into the future, so he runs away so he can be with a girl he has been seeing in his mind who “may be the one.” When he finds the girl, who’s played by Jessica Biel of 7TH HEAVEN, Cris discovers that she helps him see further into the future than ever before and that his relationship with her now puts her in serious danger from the terrorists. That’s when the real action begins.
Loosely inspired by a short story about a mutant human written by Philip K. Dick, NEXT is a fitfully interesting, sometimes entertaining action thriller. It’s good enough to give three stars to, but not more than that. The unconventional, but provocative ending is liable to make many moviegoers angry, but some moviegoers may appreciate the risk that the filmmakers have taken with such an ending.
Be that as it may, the movie borrows an idea from philosophy that it is possible for a person to predict in detail the outcome of all the choices they face, like a chess player being able to predict what exactly will happen when he makes one chess move versus what will happen if he makes different moves. Some Christian theologians have applied this ability to God, who they say is so all-knowing that He knows all the possible outcomes of all the choices that human beings face, including the outcomes of choices which they do not and will not make.
There is not enough space to discuss the possible biblical and theological, much less philosophical, merits and demerits of such viewpoints. Suffice it to say that, by exploring these ideas, the movie offers more for the viewer to think about than the average action thriller. In one scene, Nick Cage’s character actually says that he is not a god, though it seems clear that he may have God-like powers. At another point, his character mentions that some American Indian shamen, or “holy men,” have claimed to have special powers like the one with which he was born. Other than that, however, the movie avoids any theological discussion. It just uses the protagonist’s special powers to tell its story in a provocative way. Moreover, it never speculates or says from where the protagonist got his power to predict the future of multiple scenarios.
Thus, the movie leaves it up to moviegoers to apply their own particular worldviews to the natural physics and spiritual metaphysics behind the hero’s character, the hero’s special powers and the hero’s environment. Consequently, NEXT seems to offer viewers a mixed worldview that’s neither here nor there. The unconventional, open ended ending adds to this ambiguity. It is clear, however, that, in the movie’s second half, the hero tries to save his girlfriend’s life and, eventually, tries to help the FBI stop the terrorists from blowing up Los Angeles and all the people in it. Thus, the movie has some strong, positive moral elements. These positive qualities are undercut by the movie’s ambiguous, non-Christian elements, including some foul language and the movie’s implication that the hero and his new girlfriend have intercourse together one evening. MOVIEGUIDE®, therefore, advises caution.
For further study on the philosophical, theological issues brought up by this movie, readers should look up debates regarding the concept of “middle knowledge,” a concept first elaborated by the 16th Century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina and later extended in contemporary times by the Christian philosopher and defender of the faith, William Lane Craig. The debates over “middle knowledge” have a bearing on debates regarding biblical concepts like original sin, election, predestination, salvation, evangelism, etc., including debates over Calvinism, Arminianism, pelagianism, semi-pelagianism, etc., as well as philosophical debates over the origin of evil, death and the after-life, morality, the attributes of God, the nature of reality, determinism, free will, etc. Too often, such debates, including the biblical debates, have generated more heat than light, even to the point of separating friends and engaging in name-calling. Thus, if you study these issues, remember the words of St. Paul in 2 Tim. 2:23-26, “Reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance to know the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.”