The SmarK DVD Rant for Minority Report
It seems like Steven Spielberg has developed a real talent lately for making thoughtful movies that overstay their welcome by a half-hour or so. For instance, the Spielberg/Kubrick sci-fi hybrid that was “A.I.”. For those who haven’t heard me rant about it before, essentially I thought it was an excellent two hour Kubrick paranoid fantasy about humans and robots that had the stupidest 30 minutes ever produced by Spielberg tacked onto the end, nearly sinking the entire movie as a result.
I won’t go that far with Minority Report, which at least puts forth a stronger story and better characters, but it’s still too long, as if there’s no editors left in Hollywood willing to stand up to Spielberg and tell him to trim his damn movies a bit. That being said, I enjoyed this movie a lot and thought it was one of the more intelligent thrillers produced in the last few years.
This is unfortunately another one of those mind-bending time travel movies that put forth an essential paradox and thus make it hard to swallow from the beginning. In fact, in this case the paradox is even pointed out by the characters themselves. The premise is that 50 years in the future, gifted psychics called “Pre-Cogs” will be able to predict specific murders up to 4 days in advance of them actually happening, allowing the police to move in and arrest the suspect before the crime is even committed. Presumably this will have eliminated murder from Washington D.C. within 6 years of creation of the project, merely at the expense of all the civil liberties, freedoms, and privacies that been taken for granted in the US for a couple of hundred years. Hell, anyone who follows the legal system even casually knows how difficult it can be to get a conviction on someone who HAS clearly committed a serious crime, given the minutia of the law and the legal details involved therein, so accepting that the justice system would allow people to get arrested before actually committing a crime wasn’t something I could really believe in as a serious concept. But even setting that aside, you then get the even bigger paradox: Pre-Cogs see the future, police act to change that future and prevent the crime. However, if the police act to change the future, then what the Pre-Cogs were seeing isn’t the future, it’s a possibility, and that’s where the whole thing should have tumbled inwards on itself before even getting to the testing phase, were it real life. The police actions are justified by the main character, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) rolling a wooden ball off a table and into the hands of his nemesis, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) and using it as an analogy for how these crimes are destined to happen, so they’re justified in stopping them. Fine. But then later in the movie, Spielberg suddenly switches philosophical sides, pulling out the hackneyed “Destiny is what you make it” nonsense that seems to permeate time travel stories and excuses all sorts of paradoxes.
But that’s just the sci-fi geek in me talking, because as a movie, I enjoyed the hell out of Minority Report. John Anderton, the previously mentioned chief of the experimental Pre-Crime division of the police, is being challenged for his job by a federal brown-noser named Danny Witwer, who is determined to play the voice of reason and point out that human flaws in the system will be the downfall for it. This sets off a series of events that result in Anderton discovering that the next recorded future murder will be one committed by himself, against a person he’s never met, in the next 36 hours. He does the only logical thing and runs, resulting in a tense and exciting 90 minutes of hide-and-seek with the police, who have the advantage of tracking everyone in the city via gross invasion of privacy. Anderton isn’t exactly a prime role model, either â€” he’s a drug addict and has become overly cocky and aloof since the kidnapping and possible death of his son years earlier. Peter Stormare provides a tragically short cameo as a doctor who provides a unique (but foreshadowed) solution to the “Eye-Dent” scanning devices, and the Spielberg black humor is present throughout the movie, from a jetpack chase through an apartment building to a desperate Anderton diving after his own eyeballs.
As I noted at the beginning, however, the movie just goes on too long, as the point would have been made quite nicely with the moment that I thought was the ending â€” Anderton killing Leo Crow and catching up with his own destiny. However, the movie then suddenly takes a 180 degree turn and follows another thread entirely, one which frankly didn’t interest me as much as the initial chase did. As well, the movie never really addresses the questions it raises about the morality of what the police are doing â€” some of the stuff done by the “heroes” at the beginning is right out of 1984 and it’s casually brushed aside with the glib “wooden ball” explanation put forth by Anderton and then never touched on again. It’s a flawed masterpiece, to say the least, but at least it makes the effort to be thoughtful and intelligent, and I give it all the credit in the world for doing so.
Spielberg has been doing this weird washed-out look thing recently and it’s in full force here, too. Colors are very noticeably shifted towards the blue (purposely so), and the film is very grainy (also purposely so). The characters all look like they’ve had the color drained out of them, and it’s just a very white and sterile looking world. Contrast with the trailer (produced before the color changes were done) and you’ll notice just how washed out everything is. The video itself is excellent, reference quality stuff, though â€” all the weirdness is in the print, not the transfer. Still, I was relieved to see that Spielberg had gone back to normal colors again with Catch Me If You Can. Also, the movie is shot in an oddball anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, which is wider than normal widescreen, although not dramatically so. Why? Who knows.
No complaints here. DTS is all over the place, with vibrant surrounds, MAD bass in the subwoofer (check out the sonic guns in the car factory!) and John Williams’ score blasting through all the speakers. If anything, the movie is almost too loud at times, but that’s the nature of DVD. Dolby 5.1 and Dolby Surround mixes are also provided, but as I’ve noted before, I’m pretty much DTS-only these days.
It’s a two-disc set, but I have to say that I was little bit disappointed by the actual lack of interaction in the extras. There’s quite a bit of information presented on the second disc, but it’s all in the form of a series of 5-minute featurettes rather than stuff like deleted scenes or storyboard comparisons. It’s broken into a few major sections, all running 10-20 minutes total:
– From Story to Screen. This is standard EPK type stuff with the actors talking about Spielberg and how great he is. Colin Farrell’s fast-paced Irish accent still freaks me out.
– Deconstructing Minority Report. The background stuff, like set design and costumes, are explored here.
– The Stunts of Minority Report. Three different scenes are examined from the perspective of the stunt coordinator. Unfortunately, Ben Stiller’s “Tom Cruz” character from the MTV Movie Awards has forever ruined these things for me.
– ILM and Minority Report. All the explanations of the CGI are contained here. Surprisingly little real information is put forth here, either.
– Final Report with Tom Cruise & Steven Spielberg. The box promises an “in-depth” discussion with them, but like everything else here it’s about 5 minutes long and comprised of sound bites and clips from the movie.
– Archives: Trailers, cast & crew, production notes, and the usual stuff that no one watches.
It’s a pretty packed disc, running close to 90 minutes total, but for some reason I felt like there was still more to be said about the movie that wasn’t covered here. I liked it, but it could have had so much more.
The Film: ****1/2
The Video: ****
The Audio: *****
The Extras: ****