Minority Report

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I just got back from watching Minority Report, and I need to get these thoughts out of my head from the drive back home.

I really enjoyed it; it was both entertaining (read: flashy) and it made me think. I have always loved thinking about this stuff, about the possibilities of the future and how tied we are to a particular outcome. One of the quirks I retain from a childhood full of active imagination is the idea that if I make a point of visualizing an unpleasant situation, that situation won't ever happen to me. This story took that idea and ran with it, so I really loved it for that. But that wasn't the only thing that interested me about this movie.

The first thing that struck me was the surreality of it all. I think Spielberg did a good job of making the first part of the film (pre- Crow's death) lively and humorous in a disarming way (projectile vomiting without warning, yogic encounters), and unexpected in parts (mobile plants and half-senile old women), and frightening (ugly nurses speaking russian). By that point, it was all feeling like a dream to me, and thinking back, how appropriate: we're seeing life through the eyes of a drug addict. As John begins to return to a state of health (regaining his job, his family life and, presumably, losing his drug habit) during the somewhat boring (read: sober) second part of the film, things become rather humdrum in comparison. Intentional or not, it worked.

And, thinking about the relationships between natural and artificial realities lately (thanks Flux Forum!), I came to realize that the government's six-year experiment was an interesting example of how an artificial system can drop in from above and convince the masses that it is unavoidably the truth. What an interesting little loop to be caught in for six years, wasn't it? I'm sure we're in quite a few of them right now, ourselves.

Finally, the only thing that really bothered me about this movie was the excessive "Spielburgism", I guess you could call it. At times the music welled up inappropriately to add drama to unnecessary fight scenes (well, at least one, anyway; the fight with the government agent on the assembly line felt completely silly to me, though John's escape from it made up for that mistake with its humor and ingenuity). The ending was a bit too cheery, too, and it all wrapped up a bit too nicely, but what are you gonna do. Overall, it was great.


-- Mat Rebholz (mrebholz02@comcast.net), June 23, 2002


Oh, I'd also like to add that I thought it really captured the feel of a Philip K. Dick story , which it was based on (okay, so I've only read one -- A Scanner Darkly -- and I haven't read Minority Report). The movie was paranoid and tied to the drug experience, which seems to be a theme for him. I was even trying to justify, by the end, Spielburg's flair for the binary reality, between good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust, as a sort of reflection of the delusional thinking that fills Dick's stories... but I doubt somehow that this was intended. It's really just par for the course.

-- Mat Rebholz (mrebholz02@comcast.net), June 23, 2002.

Saw this today... oh, wow. What a great, subversive sci-fi film. It didn't even feel like a Spielberg pic -- other than the flashbacks with the angelic little kid, it could've been a David Fincher or Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, natch, but also Starship Troopers and Robocop come to mind) film, with it's unusually strong emphasis on social control, integrated with the special effects and futuristic gadgets. I love the spider drones -- an arguing couple stop, have their retina scanned, and pick up right where they left off (!) It's also the darkest, ugliest mainstream movie I've seen in a while.

There seems to be a definite class system in this world, with the majority of people we see living in the "thousand blocks" of dilapidated "federal housing", buildings that look like they haven't been touched since 1930. A nice contrast to techno-freeways and billboards that call out your name. The old woman smoking the pipe reminded me of Dickens.

Where free will is concerned, I'd go as far as to say in this society, the concept has gone out of fashion. It's mentioned that since the introduction of the Precogs, pre-meditated murders have plummeted; but I'd hardly consider carrot-and-stick decisions a real exercise of will. And yet this dystopia is not one imposed from the top down, as in Metropolis, but of our own creation. Who's to say that living with Pre-Crime is worse than the risk of a violent death? Would we vote for something that could prevent our murder (of course, you could just surround yourself with trustworthy people and be cautious after dark, but the "quick fix" is always more desirable)?

I agree that the music was a major chink in it's armor. It was just a generic, "blockbuster action film" score, and didn't gel with the dark mood established by the visuals. Something more atmospheric, along the lines of Blade Runner, would have been nice. And hey, the car scene was a hoot. Lexus saves the day! It's Utena: The Movie on steroids!

Which brings me to my last observation: this is a TERRIBLE movie for product placement. Who is going to buy the product of a dystopian future? Even the local shopping mall looks mighty unpleasant after this film.

Yeah, Philip K. Dick based a great deal of his work around drugs. He often wrote on amphetamines, and "The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch" was inspired by a strong LSD trip of his. I'd suggest that book, and "Clans Of The Alphane Moon" (not "druggy" per se, but a great look at mental disorders) for more of his warped realities.

-- Inu (paul@nadisrec.com), June 24, 2002.

I thought the music (at least for the first half of the film) was actually one of it's strong points. There were a couple of scenes in particular where the music was used very elegantly; like when Anderton played that waltz while he was juggling the precog data like a conductor. Then there was the very powerful music that was played when he found out he was the next murder suspect. (That theme was very reminiscint of a classical theme with some subtle variations and if anyone knows what it was, please tell me. Possibly Tchaikofsky?)

As for the movie's narrative, I thought it was pretty good. Unusually dark for a Speilberg movie, but in some ways not dark enough. I just felt the insatiable urge to see more and more of the future dystopia that was hinted at in the way everyone is tracked and catalogued, the carte blanche the precrime unit has where search and seizure is concerned, and the especially that antfarm-like view of the tenament where Anderton had his surgery done.

I do like the way all the characters in the film were actually almost like characatures they were so extremely odd. The warden, the eye surgeon and his nurse, the inventor of precrime, etc.

That being said, the film is definintely one of Speilberg's best, despite the noticeable shift in the second half of the film; actually, more like the last third. I didn't like that it became less sci-fi and more of a detective story in the vein of LA Confidential. I would have liked to hear more about the nature of precrime and how it relates to religion, as they hinted at in that once scene.

-- Logo (Vosepherus@aol.com), July 02, 2002.

I finally saw this, as it only just opened here in Korea. I just wanted to say that after watching this, I'm now convinvced that most of my positive impressions of A.I. were not those intended by Spielberg. I think he really must have thought that A.I.'s ending was a happy result for David and saw no irony in it.

The ending for MR was simply ludicrous. Apart from the lush visuals and fab production design, I've rarely seen such a string of wrong directorial choices (at least not since Saving Private Ryan). All the key scenes and ideas seemed to have been cribbed from other movies without regard to making them cohere into something distinctive. The ones that came to mind most: Judge Dredd, Gattaca, The Dead Zone, L.A. Confidential and most especially Seven. The plot to drive Anderton to kill was more or less a replay of Brad Pitt being egged on to commit a murder of passion he couldn't predict.

The long-winded explanation of how a vision of an actual murder could be mistaken for an "echo" was silly and contrived. Most annoying thing: how Spielberg shamelessly manipulates our view of the Colin Farrell character in the film's first half to turn our sympathies against him. Second most annoying thing: during the chase scene in the alley, even if Anderton turned out to be innocent of the future murder-- he still deserved to be put away for endangering all those innocent lives while resisting arrest.

Also: who shot Leo Crow? I thought I saw a brief image of a second gunman. If so, it's a true failure of nerve on Spielberg's part to go to any lengths to keep Tom Cruise's character morally pure.

Blade Runner has nothing to worry about.

-- Peter Chung (cretep@earthlink.net), August 05, 2002.

Major qualifier to the above: I have not read the P K Dick short story on which the movie was based, which preceded all of the above cited films. So it could be a case of the obscure original being overshadowed by better-known imitators that followed. Or coincidence, or unconscious influence.

Still, Spielberg failed terribly to crystallize what seems to be his story's principal theme: that all men are potential murderers and that the things which cause some of us to act on the dark impulses that reside in each of us are, in the end, a matter of circumstances. Or taking the opposite side of the fence: some men are inherently evil and that it's society's burden to prevent them from harming the innocent. As it is, the movie just doesn't go deep enough into either view. Instead, it's content to reduce the scenario into just another tired retread of the falsely accused man trying to prove his innocence by unveiling the plot of a power mad corrupt politician. Yawn.

-- Peter Chung (cretep@earthlink.net), August 05, 2002.

The original story was ten times darker. The main character does not fight the system; he kills an innocent man to preserve the image of Pre-Crime, and save more lives down the road.

That said, I still think the film was successful in depicting a totalitarian society, ala "1984" or "Metropolis"... in some ways, more so. People are opressed more by their own decisions than they are by any ruling class or shadow elite. Minority Report, in both incarnations, drives this point home.

-- Inu (paul@nadisrec.com), August 09, 2002.

Hey Peter, you're still working in Korea? I guess you haven't had the good fortune of seeing "Signs" yet. Capsule review: Worst. Film. Ever. More plotholes than a Speilberg first draft. By the end I was staring slack-jawed at the screen, trying to determine if what I had witnessed was actually a finished film.

Oh yeah, and the recent "Ivansxtc" was no picnic either.

-- Inu (paul@nadisrec.com), August 09, 2002.

On the other hand, I just got back from "Secret Ballot", which rocked. Beautiful desert scenery, cool fusion score and lots of sexy chador-tugging. The writing was pretty decent as well.

And so concludes Inu's Summer Movie Review ^_^

-- Inu (paul@nadisrec.com), August 11, 2002.

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