Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Next and the Golden Man

One of the ads that's been playing on SciFi recently is for the new Nicholas Cage movie, Next. The ad particularly piqued my interest by stating that the movie is based on a story "by the author of Minority Report". Next turns out to be based on Philip K. Dick's 1954 short story, "The Golden Man." It is set in a post-nuclear war Earth where powerful mutants are feared and hunted by normal humans. One such mutant, Cris Johnson (literally a golden man), is able to escape the clutches of the government by using his super speed and prescient abilities. The story ends with the implication that Johnson's descendants will eventually replace humanity.

One thing that sets "The Golden Man" apart from other evolving humanity stories is that Johnson is no clear improvement on standard-issue Homo sapiens. Yes he has super skills and is very physically attractive, but his brain lacks a frontal lobe, making him unable to use language or read. He is closer to an instinct-driven animal than a thinking human. As one of the characters points out,
"Superior survival doesn't mean superior man. If there were another world-wide flood, only fish would survive. If there were another ice age, maybe nothing but polar bears would be left."
Humans aren't necessarily evolving into something better, only something different. As Dick said in a 1979 interview:
"I intended to show that (1) the mutant might not be good, at least good for the rest of mankind, for us ordinaries; and (2) not in charge but sniping at us as a bandit would, a feral mutant who potentially would do us more harm than good"
The movie Next must be only loosely based on Dick's story, since Cage is not a perfect physical specimen (at least in my opinion) and would be an unlikely hero if his character was a mute unthinking animal of a man. I could be wrong, though. Watch the trailer for yourself.

You can read "The Golden Man" in Martian Time-Slip and The Golden Man (Amazon.com).

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2 comments:

rosemerry said...

Oh I'll have to look for that book when I get some more money. Oh yeah, I bought "The Real Science behind the X-Files"

Peggy said...

Cool rosemerry! If I had more cash, I'd buy one for my library too.