Philip K. Dick was a fabulous author and a continuing rich source of inspiration for cinema, when his stories are adapted well they have given us the likes of Blade Runner. When they are adapted poorly we get films like Paycheck and Imposter. If you haven’t heard of them don’t be surprised, they are quite average. The attraction lies in the scope of Dick’s work, the meditations on what memory means and whether memories constitute the core essence of the human experience. These ruminations can be used as a framing device for a superior action film like Total Recall or they can be explored in more depth as in Blade Runner.
Minority Report is a little different, being a short story that differs slightly from the usual exploration of memories and instead questions the notion of free will as an essential part of the human experience. The Cruiser stars as John Anderton, the lead member of an experimental ‘Precrime’ police unit. A unit which utilises future visions of three ‘precogs’ in order to predict when and where a murder will take place and prevent them from ever happening. Things go a pear-shaped when The Cruiser comes up as the lead suspect in a predicted murder so he does a runner, eventually picking up the lead Precog and trying to unravel the set-up. There’s plenty of typical late Spielberg on display in the film, the shattered family unit (remarkably similar to The Cruiser’s family in War of the Worlds), some flashy camerawork and a bum-number of a running time. It’s also a remarkably blue film, I don’t mean tits’n’arse, but this is more blue-grey in colour tone than Michael Mann’s Heat. In that film the colour had the effect of lending cold and blank tone to the ultra-modern city of Los Angeles, it was ideal. Here it has the unfortunate effect of looking a lot like a grim car advert from the future.
There’s very little to write about Minority Report that could be interesting. It continues the downward curve of Spielberg’s action output, a curve that surely reached its horrible nadir with the fourth Indiana Jones film. When his more serious output, such as Munich, is so accomplished it really does make you think that he should concentrate on that kind of thing rather than clinging to dream of making another Jaws or Jurassic Park. One way of improving might be ditching the shattered family angle and at least 30 minutes off the running time.
Here is an interesting bit of trivia from IMDB about the gestation of the project and about a film I would probably have enjoyed a bit more…
“The story “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick was originally adapted as a sequel to Total Recall (1990) by writers Ronald Shusett and Gary Goldman, later joined by Robert Goethals. The setting was changed to Mars with the Precogs being people mutated by the Martian atmosphere, as established in the first film. The main character was also changed to Douglas Quaid, the man played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The project eventually fell apart but the writers, who still owned the rights to the original story, rewrote the script, removing the elements from Total Recall (1990). This script was eventually tossed out when novelist Jon Cohen was hired in 1997 to start the project over from scratch. The only original element from the early script which made it to the final Minority Report (2002) film is the sequence in the car factory, an idea that Steven Spielberg loved.”