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Journal doomy's Journal: Minority Report 3

I saw 'Minority Report' last night... it was good.

I know Katz (et al.) might write a review on this movie, but before he does, let me debunk whatever he has to say about human frailty, geeks, Columbine, 9-11 and etc. Let me review it from my own point of view, cause this movie needs to be reviewed.

Philip K. Dick was a great writer, and not just that he was a visionary, he spoke of the near future, a future that was almost slightly skewed from that of ours, but at the same time highly probable. His future was stylish, frightening and very sophisticated. In time, Hollywood tried to catch up with Philip's fantasy and recreate a rendering of that future. Maybe it's the curse of Philip K. Dick, but most movies that were made from his fiction turned out to be nothing but coasters, movies such as 'Screamers' and 'Imposter' tried hard to recreate Philip's future, but failed short. Arny too did a movie ('Total Recall') based on a Philip's book, but that too turned out to be a horrible after taste (even though, I kinda liked it). Then there is that one movie, older then the rest, based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?', and that was the one that ruled them all. Blade Runner was the movie every other Philip K. Dick movie was judged against, and nothing could come close to being as good as it. And now we have 'Minority Report'.

Steven Spielberg has been a crowd pleaser for many years. He made movies that made money for the movie cartel, he was their greatest Mord Wraith. But lately (since the death of Stanley Kubrick), many things have changed about Spielberg. This man still cares about the cartel, he still is aware of the crowds that pay $8 per movie, but a madness has gripped him and from this madness he's made two movies that seem to defy everything else that he's ever made. Maybe many years from now, people would look back and read about Spielberg, and he'd be known then for making not Ryan but AI and Minority Report.

Minority Report starts hazy, in electric light shimmering as the movie unfolds, it tells of a future, much like Blade Runner, but very different. The movie is filmed in a slight shaded of blue that doesn't seem to get in the way (unlike the green in Matrix). In the near future, drug use alters some human beings, giving their offsprings the ability to see into near future (and specifically murders that take place in the near future), these children dream of murder and slept through nightmare after nightmare of very real murders. This ability was harnessed by the powers that be, and a police unit was founded to use this information catch murderers before they commit crimes. The movie starts six years after the founding of this police unit, and after many criminals have been imprisoned for crimes they have yet to commit. The crime rate in DC (where the unit was based) fell by 99% since the creation of the unit. The movie starts off with Detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise) tracking a new murder using the information given by the precogs. The precogs see murders, but they are not able to give an exact location of where the murders take place, they are only able to tell the names of the victim and the name of the murderer (these names are engraved in a ball of artificial wood, that rolls down and falls into place, much like a lottery where balls are used to find numbers). The detective in charge (Anderton), now has to piece together the names, the few images that the precogs showed and find where the crimes take place, once this location is found, the unit zooms off in their hyper cop transports and stops crimes just before it happens.

I went to the theater thinking Tom Cruise would just be horrible for this role, but he didn't over-act in this movie as he has done in many others. The acting on the part of Tom was OK, bounding on good. I don't believe there are any other Hollywood actors that could have taken this role and acted through it. Come to think of it, Hollywood is just made up of bunch of old cards, that get shuffled and throw ever time a movie is made. We need new faces and better actors. But, Tom's work didn't get in the way of the movie, and he did do a good job. Anderton is the wiz detective who pieces together all the precogs outputs and finds crimes, then on one mission he sees himself in the precog feeds and the ball for murderer reads his name. Anderton escapes the police house, convinced that he was framed (since he didn't know the name of the victim that he's supposed to kill in a few hours), he tries to piece together what was happening, and in the end tires to find the victim, leading to the murder itself.

There is some madness, almost Kubricken in the movie. I found an odd satisfaction in watching the excellent acting on the part of Lois Smith (as Dr. Iris Hineman), who informs Anderton everything about pre-crime and precogs. She's the brains behind the precogs and the first person Anderton locates after running away from his own department. Dr. Iris lives as a recluse in an almost fantasy like setting, her home is surrounded by genetically altered plants that act very much like animals. Anderton is poisoned by one of these plants/vines but Dr Isis fixes him after a bit. She informs Anderton about 'Minority Reports'. The three precogs are supposed to tell the future in unison, but sometimes, one of them differs and shows an alternative future, these were taken out and masked as 'Minority Reports' and hidden from the crime archive. Anderton gets convinced that there are such minority reports on his own case and decides to go look for them. The part that reminded me most of Kubrick was the point in which the old lady just pulls Tom close to her and kisses him full, it was just such a mad thing to do, and the insanity of the moment made me think a lot about Clockwork Orange. This was a scene that was not expected and it just played out so well. I love watching incredibly intelligent people who are also slightly insane.

The setting for the movie is just fifty years into our future, Spielberg has created a world rich in technology and style. For some reason, seeing the first car in the movie reminded me of Tron, even though those were motor bikes. All cars are pretty streamlined and all of them are automatically driven. Except for the red Lexus that Anderton steals halfway through the movie and the cop car the DoJ inspector uses, all other cars are pretty much alike and I guess they aren't owned by any given individual. So the cars could be public transportation. One unique feature of the everyday vehicles seem to be their ability drive up the walls of buildings (the walls are roads too). Anderton rides one of these cars from work and it rides all the up the wall of his apartment complex and stops on the car-port of his room. The flying cop transports reminded me of the starship 'Free Enterprise' from 'Tripping the Rift'. These machines transported the pre-crime cops to the scene of the crime. The cops had jet packs that they used pretty excessively in one fight scene with the fleeing Anderton (Shown in the Trailers). The troops used small spiders like robots (very cool BTW), that crawled all over the the buildings identifying people using eye scans. These spiders were very intelligent and they seem to work in a group, organizing raids almost on their own. I liked the spiders.

On the technologies involved, there appears to be quite a number of sensible advancements to current technology. The mass storage system seems to be based on holographic storage, and mobile storage seemed to be clear card/mini-cd type objects used with see through hardware. The computer interfaces were mostly see through clear plastic or glass, with data displayed within it. Anything displayed can be seen both from the front of the display and behind it, as it goes not much privacy was left in our future so this part was at least constant. Anderton also used a holographic display unit that layered out the pre-crime data as moving images in front of him. He used power gloves to sort through the data. There were various different advancement of technologies noted. Just as we have cathode ray tubes and LCD's there too were different technologies represented. For example, Anderton had a holographic unit at home that displayed everything in 3D, he spends some time watching his dead kid and wife on these displays. Newspapers came as single sheets folded into the size of an average newspaper, the news is updated live and in motion. Also, there were cyber interfaces that fully immersed the user in what ever fantasy he or she wanted. Such a place is shown when Anderton visits his geek friend's cyber playhouse. There we get to see someone having cyber and another low self-esteem dude getting off by having his cyber deck project a world that tells him he's da man. Live video and commercials are projected on every part of the world (even down in the Sprawl). There was even a huge projection up in the sky, much like the video balloon in Blade Runner.

Everywhere Anderton went his eyes were scanned and identified. The video on the wall actually adapted to whoever walks by. Anderton got bombarded with direct advertisement made just for him with his name and etc. Privacy was no longer something that anyone worried about, privacy just didn't exist. To finally escape from the cops, Anderton has to cut his eyes out and replace them with someone else's.And yeah there was a black market for body parts in the same Sprawl that we read in other cyber punk novels. People are so used to intrusion that they carry on their daily lives as if nothing happen to them when the crawly spiders invade their rooms and sting their eyes for identification.

Even though the subject matter was pretty dry, there was humor infused within
every other scene. Spielberg isn't that great on humor, but there were places where dark humor worked. For example, Anderton drops his eyes while trying to get into the pre-crime building, and we get to watch him chase his own eye balls down the hall and catch one just as they drop down a drain. There were other moments of humor, but a lot more were stale and not that very funny. The script too needed some work at certain spots, and there were moments when I just stared at the screen wondering just how dry Hollywood has become, but overall this was less dry than most other movies in recent times.

There were many plot holes, but the one that strikes the most involves the precog Agatha that Anderton abducts from the pre-crime building. These precogs are only able to see murders that are about to happen and nothing else, and that too in dreams. Given Agatha was the more powerful of all precogs, I found it silly that she was able to tell Anderton almost everything that will happen when they walk down a shopping center. For example, she tells him he should get an umbrella (cause it rains after they get out), then she tells to hide behind these balloons (cause right then the cops are looking over but they only see the balloons) and so on. This whole scene could have been done otherwise, maybe Agatha should have been just left as the weak precog clinging to Anderton and everything else left to Anderton.

Also the movie could have had three different endings. Spielberg could have ended the movie right when Anderton confronts the guy he thinks raped and murdered his five year old son, by making Anderton not follow the predestined path (since the precogs already tell Anderton the future can be changed). That would cause a neat ending, might be a cliff hanger. Then there is the 1984 type ending, in which Anderton kills the guy, gets caught and is put in the pre-crime prison where he has to forever watch the precog vision of him killing the man (That would have been the ending I would have chosen). But, this is Hollywood, so we got to please the public and the ending had to be one where the bad guy is caught and the good guy walks. So that's what you get for eight bucks.

Overall, it's a good movie, but I would not give it a 10, more like an 8. There are many movies the leaves impressions on you, few leave a lasting impression, some lingers on for days, and others haunt you for years. 'Minority Report' would fit on the same shelf where I store 1984, Brazil, and Blade Runner.

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Minority Report

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Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.