Sunday, April 29, 2007
I've Been Next'd!
Strip mining involves using powerful machines to extract valuable minerals from beneath the Earth's surface, often doing great damage to the surrounding environment. If this process were also to destroy the valuable minerals being extracted it would be a perfect metaphor for what Hollywood has done with the latest Dick adaptation.
'Next' takes a basic idea from Dick's short story "The Golden Man" - the ability to see a short time into the future - and crudely wrings it for everything it's worth, which frankly isn't all that much. The writers and producers clearly attempted to transplant the protagonist of the short story (a golden mutant who proves irresistible to women and therefore spells the end for normal mankind's genetic future) into Dick's every-man hero, in this case the so-wooden-he's-practically-a-whittling-project Nicolas Cage. This crude reshuffling of Dick's recurring themes yields predictably disastrous results.
The film is so vastly different (and inferior) to the short story I wonder a bit why they even felt the need to option the story. That brings me to my concern: what if Dick's name is becoming a selling point for otherwise completely vapid, moronic movies? Hollywood knows all the Dick-heads are likely to see the next PKD adaptation in theaters. Dick's name guarantees a certain cool-factor at least until word gets out that the latest bastardization of his work sucks - yet again.
The Dick estate may end up shooting itself in its collective foot if they keep allowing ham-fisted treatments of Dick's work to flop at theaters. Dick adaptations are already shaky propositions. 25 years later Blade Runner is just beginning to turn a profit. There have now been many more misses than hits. The odds are not running in our favor.
Perhaps there will be two kinds of Dick adaptations in the future. The "serious" novels will get the "Scanner Darkly" treatment with script consultants and proper respect for the source material and then there'll be tripe like 'Next,' vapid car-chase scenes, dodgy chairs, and canned dialog. But you cannot torment audiences with 'Next' and 'Paycheck' clones forever.
When the big suprise ending came onscreen last night in the theater I distinctly heard a young girl in the back exclaim, "Oh no they di-nnn-t!"
Oh yes they did.