Thursday, May 13, 2010

Minority Report Film/Disc Review

With the encouragement of the very kind Rachel over at Scientist Gone Wordy, I'm writing a post on one of the best sci-fi films to be released within the last ten years, IMO. Minority Report, the 2002 commercial hit directed by Steven Spielberg, is based upon a short story from the famed science fiction writer/novelist Philip K. Dick. For the last few decades, the late and influential author has given film studios plenty to work with in optioned novels and short stories, though with varying degrees of critical, box office, and sci-fi fan success (and that more than likely was due to the manner filmmakers re-interpreted his work). Though I'm sure I've taken in a short by PKD somewhere along the span of my life, I've hardly read any of his written pieces. My exposure to this fine author has been byway of the films Hollywood has adapted from his source material (with varying degrees of alteration). Rachel, whose blog and writing I really admire, has agreed to join me in this endeavor and will be posting in parallel on PKD's Minority Report short story and the differences between it and the film she so loves (see link below):

The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

I think I may have my work cut out for me in keeping up with her (what have I gotten myself into?). Oh, well. My father had a saying he repeated often enough, and it may be appropriate here.
"God hates a coward."
This review has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. O.k., you've piqued my interest. I'm very hit or miss on sci-fi (mostly miss) and I've never taken to it in literature, so I'm not familiar with Phillip Dick's work in print. But the analogies that are present make me curious. If he's drawing parallels to the Christian God, and these psychics having foreknowledge, how are the ideals of free will addressed. Because it almost seems to me that the concept is being squelched by God interfering in the free will through the psychics...I have to see this movie now.

    Thanks Michael!

  2. What an excellent review! Along with CATCH MEIF YOU CAN, MINORITY REPORT are among my fave later period Spielberg films. I really love the look of the film and how the state-of-the-art special effects (at the time) compliment them. Not a huge Tom Cruise fan but he was well cast in this film, as was Colin Farrell, whom I like a lot.

    Alto, if push comes to shove, A SCANNER DARKLY has become my fave Philip K. Dick adaptation. Richard Linklater does a really solid job capturing the spirit of the book and even have huge chunks of dialogue ripped from its pages. I also thought that the use of animation was an inspired choice.

  3. I'm not so sure it's author Philip Dick making the religious analogy rather than the filmmakers (though I'll be making my way over to Rachel's post on the original short story to compare this). The film addresses free will in that the audience finds out that the characters do have a choice in forecasted matters (and choices are made). There is also a matter of doubt about how correct the precogs get the future, too. The film really offers some fascinating questions for the viewer. I highly recommend it. Thanks for your comment, Jen.

  4. I'm in complete agreement with you, J.D., on CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and this film being great favorites in the Spielberg's later canon. This film had some great casting. The more I watch it, the more I appreciate Colin Farrell in it. I'm really late in catching A SCANNER DARKLY, but it's going to be soon because of you and others who've recommended it. Thanks for your kind words and comment, my friend.

  5. Excelelnt review, Michael. After reading your thoughts, I'm looking forward even more to receiving the Blu-ray sometime next week.

  6. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the disc, Steve. Thank you for your kind comment.

  7. This worked out wonderfully, lp13!  I'd love to see the Blue-ray version of this movie.  I'll have to watch it again some time!

  8. I'm speechless. This is probably the most intelligent and insightful analysis of the film I've ever read. I've only seen this movie once and enjoyed it a lot but don't remember getting all this out of it. Well done, and an excellent idea to do it in tandem with Rachel.

  9. Yes, the BD of this is a good. I read somewhere that this print had to pass muster with Spielberg himself before it was released on Blu-ray Disc. And yes, I think we'll repeat this movie/book review endeavor. Thank you, Christine.

  10. That's very kind of you to say, Elyse. And Rachel wrote up a marvelous look at that short story (it was interesting to see and talk about the source material). Thank you very much, PCN.

  11. I'm with PCN. Somehow I missed all of this when I saw the movie. I enjoyed it but it looks like I missed the point, big time.

    I really like this parallel review idea.

  12. You're very kind and generous, Naomi. Thank you.

  13. PART II

    7. Speaking of other crimes; it's a shame the movie didn't have time to discuss the fallout in other crimes. Most murders occur in conjunction with some other type of crime. If murder is essentially eliminated what does this mean for the management of other crimes?

    8. Do you think the set-up with the son's supposed kidnapper was pre- or post- Lively discovery? The movie makes it seem post but the timing is awfully quick. Any chance Lamar was always planning to make Anderton an example to show the efficacy and validity of Precrime?

    9. Is the final review speech more or less annoying when it comes from the hero vs. the villain? Seriously, the movie is only two hours long yet Anderton has to do a recap on the phone as he and Lamar go on the weirdest chase through a building ever?

    10. I consider Witmer a Level 2 death. What do you think?

    11. I'm one of those that thought the ending didn't match the movie's tone. This really wasn't because it was so upbeat but because it honestly didn't have the same tone for me. On a personal note I found the end to have the same satisfaction as the ending of the movie MOON. The benefits SO FAR outweighed the harm that it's hard to believe people would be opposed. I don't say this because I am personally for the system but because I observe people continuing to support products that do nothing more than provide personal enjoyment when the making of said products has proven detrimental to a great number of people. ON THE OTHER HAND, I am happy to see such an ending because protecting personal freedoms is humanity's greatest calling. (Whoa, things just got serious... I'll try to ease it back to fun)

    To that end

    12. I so wish I had an eyeball account (best line ever, Michael! I'm still laughing). Let me be clear that I will be the first in line when microchips, that include all relevant personal information, are offered for injection.

    13. Do you think the religious aspects of the movie practically ordain (ha!) free will winning in the end?

    Ok, I realize this has got ridiculously long so I better end it now. I loved the joint review and can't wait to do it again. Also, I can't wait to hear your thoughts (or anyone's) on any/all of the above!

  14. Fantastic review as always! (btw, my husband pretty much said word for word what PCN said and kindly informed me that I'd better step up my game if I wanted to keep up with you!) :) Thanks again for doing this and inviting me to play along. Ok, here comes my looong comment of questions/observations!

    PART I

    1. When Precrime is being presented as something almost sacred I sense a definite undertone of disapproval. Did you? If so, do you think it's more of a script thing or a tone thing? Also, if this movie were being made by and for a culture more prone to group thinking (vs. America's intense love of individualism) do you think the tones/message/ending would be different? For example, Lively might instead feel incredibly proud of her daughter rather than wanting her back.

    2. Why would a police officer pull off his helmet right at the moment when the job gets most intense? Anderton dumping the helmet before he enters the house in the beginning is just one of the numerous things that seem weird.

    3. It's Witmer in the movie and Witwer in the story. Odd change.

    4. I love how smart everyone is in this movie. I know there are technical and sociological holes but no one does anything egregiously stupid (maybe excepting that helmet thing) and I really like that. Even Danny, who maybe we're not meant to like at first (he seems smarmily ambitious), isn't an idiot. He has a clear motive and works towards it with intelligence.

    5. I think this is a really solid plot. I mentioned some holes above but I really don't think the plot is full of holes. It might be only that IT snafu that really sticks out...

    6. I love how murder is the only thing Precrime prevents but apparently that means that detectives aren't really needed anymore. I guess they don't investigate any other crimes. Huh.

  15. You and husband are way too kind. I really enjoyed your write-up of the short story (and appreciated the differences that made their way to the film).

    1. Good point. Certainly Anderton and Burgess appeared very defensive in their reaction to Justice coming to investigate Precime. Although, that may have been because it was about to be taken away from the local constabulary since the concept was about to national.

    2. Yes, but we wouldn't see the film lead's face if he didn't do that.  ;)

    3. I'm convinced the change was scripted to prevent characters from sounding like Elmer Fudd...

    4. I'm very much in agreement with your point. And I think the audience warms to Witmer because of his intelligence and how he starts to put it all together. Good one!

    5. Agreed. It's plotted very well, and the underlying mystery is just that. A mystery. And one to solved by detective work in the story (and not some hokey deus ex machina reveal).

    6. I guess solving what most societies treat as the most heinous act, that of murder, prospers a positive effect on the population. It'd be great if one could eliminate that that it'd lessen rapes, child abuse, violence, etc. in general. Hmm...

  16. Continuing...

    7. I guess murder being the focus in both the short and the film, bringing anything else up would take the audience's attention away (and perhaps, make things less believable). I'm not sure.

    8. Precrime's 6 year success locally does seem post the Anderton child kidnapping. In my mind, it made Anderton the more ardent supporter of the concept because of what happened to his son--and the perfect vehicle to override public doubts. Think John Walsh, after the loss of his son Adam Walsh, in his staunch support and advocacy for child protection legislation.

    9. You're right. This does come off a little weird. The confrontation and the recap could have been tightened up considerably. If you look at and compare it to the one done in the film Michael Clayton, and there's no question (IMO) to which one was the most adept and pitch perfect of the two.

    10. I had to go back and check that post of yours to make sure we're on the same page (a great exposition, btw). And yes very much so, Witmer is a Level 2 death.

    11. Great comparison of endings, Rachel. You bring an excellent point to this (and I appreciate the gravity you give it). Did you notice, during Anderton's closing voiceover when he said:

    "<span>All prisoners were unconditionally pardoned and released...</span>"

    ... instead of showing the empty underground prison, the filmmakers displayed the deserted Precog temple instead? Interesting choice, yes?

    12. Thanks. But, what happens when organized crime gets into microchip identity theft?  *DONT_KNOW*

    13. Never thought about that one. Hmm... Excellent question.

    Thanks again, Rachel.

  17. Maya M. (Apprentice Writer)May 16, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    Hi, here for the first time via Scientist Gone Wordy -
    Whet excellent analysis you and Rachel have done, which makes me quite shamefaced thinking about how little I actually reflected on the movie when I saw it.  Can I make up for my lack of thought by saying I liked the movie, though I am really not a Cruise fan? 

    The eye surgery scene, the ,ice bath to escape spider reconnaisance scene, and the obstacle course with female precog scene all had me on the edge of my seat, and the repeating loss-of-child motif (the Cruise character, the precog's mother character, even the Ferrell and beginning crime of passion murderous husband characters, because they were ultimately prevented from having children) was very powerful.

    Perhaps I should see the movie again.  Or -gasp! - even read the story on which it's based.

    Rachel mentioned 'Children of Men' as a next candidate for your dual review, which I'd welcome seeing as how utterly depressed I felt after that movie (which was the whole point, I think) but I'd also like to propose another Ferrel film, 'In Bruges' because I was fascinated by it while watching but still havent' quite figured out what I thought about it apart from the fact that the three main characters were all played by  brilliant and relentless actors.

  18. Welcome, Maya. Glad to have you visit from SGW. The scenes you recount were superbly done in the film (and were a highlight to experience again). You also bring up a great point on the loss of the child/parent motif and how it haunts the story.

    Yes, Children of Men will be next. Your reaction paralleled mine regarding my lone viewing of the film. It'll be interesting to watch it again and see what comes of it. I have to admit that In Bruges is one of my favorites from 2008. I'm game if Rachel is. ;)

    Thank you for your generous words and comment, Maya. 

  19. I've popped over via Rachel via Apprentice Writer - just in time for a great review. It's highly amusing to see how well-appreciated this film adaptation is, when a screenwriter who wrote a how-to book totally dissed it! His book Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) has revolutionized how I approach revisions to my fiction - however, I have to laugh at his extreme dislike of films like Minority Report and Memento, another darling of discriminating filmlovers everywhere. No pleasing some people...

  20. Very kind of you to stop by and leave a comment, Julia. You're always welcome, here. That's also a very interesting bit of information. I didn't realize a screenwriter had immortalized his dislike of those two films (BTW, Memento is a favorite of mine and a good number of friends). Hmm... You have me curious, now. I'll probably try to locate the work and read his thoughts about them (and his approach to fiction). Thank you for your kind words, Julia.

  21. Well, to be fair, it's a terrible adaptation - it's pretty much nothing like the short story. :) It's just lucky that it's a great movie in its own right.

  22. Oh sweet! Michael, we've got buzz going already for our next one. ;) In Bruges is not based on a book so I'll have to leave that one to you. Also, I didn't even finish it (gasp!) so maybe I need to give it another try. However, I've been to Bruges a lot (which I call Brugge because I lived in the Netherlands and Bruges/Brugge is in the Dutch speaking portion of Belgium) so I can comment on the scenery. hehe

  23. hahahaha, Elmer Fudd!

    And I def agree; it's the classic detective aspect that really works in the plot/mystery.

  24. re 11: Great catch! That is an interesting choice!

    btw, did you notice that the temple tub appears to still have liquid inside it? weird... and probably moldy soon.