June 21, 2002
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
"An exhilarating futuristic thriller-noir, Minority Report twists the best of technology around a gripping story, delivering a riveting, pulse intensifying escapist adventure of the first order" -- Urban Cinefile Staff, URBAN CINEFILE
"This thing is so good it's ridiculous. I feel like an embarrassed schoolgirl with a crush." -- Sean Burns, PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY
"Keep in mind "Minority Report" contains a scene in which Cruise chases his own eyeballs as they roll down an alleyway; nobody is going to call this movie 'conventional.'" -- James Sanford, KALAMAZOO GAZETTE
Challenging Wells for being the Science Fiction writer that most influenced Hollywood, Philip K. Dick's work (see our list below) is back on the big screen this summer with Minority Report, a Spielberg film in which Tom Cruise plays a future cop who works for a temporal crime prevention agency that arrests criminals before they commit the crime. Stand by for causality conflicts or at least morality ones.
Despite the bounty of wow reviews for this film, Spielberg just isn't getting the job done. Though his films are visual treats, the storylines continue to drag...and there is no clearer indication of this to me than that he has taken to finishing his films with monotonic epilogs like Cruise's at the end.
OK, Blade Runner ends with an epilog, at least in the theater version, and I have to confess I haven't seen the famed directors cut, but I suspect it doesn't. But Blade Runner isn't even threatened by Minority Report for the best noir SF Flick, partly because Spielberg can't tell a story, and partly because Cruise can't stop being so pretty.
Ironically for Sciffy audiences, the mainstreaming of the genre is hard for them to get past. Tom Cruise isn't the SF flick poster child by a long stretch, lacking the brooding introspection we love to identify with. Which is not to say that Cruise isn't an artist or actor worthy of respect...but he's one that SF fans have a hard time taking to heart. I suspect it's mutual.
Minority Report bears little resemblance to the Philip K. Dick short story, though we expect that. Unfortunately, the story that replaced it, a tale that's supposed to evoke the noir sensibility of a cop on the skids, doesn't hold the pathos of say Raymond Chandler, let alone the zaniness of Dick, and ultimately fails to draw the audience into much more than a trip through the candy store of a future that looks a lot like the present with sexier cars thrown in.
Oh those cars! The first half contains a chase scene on a vertical skyway where cars cling to highways that go up and down skyscrapers. We're not sure where they park when they reach the office, but it sure beats the elevator. These slippery sedans are a clear attempt to create the sort of gee-whiz future that early twentieth century SF was famous for, but beyond that they only serve as a platform for a "daring" chase scene, as Cruise leaps from car to car trying to get away from his own department's manhunt after being charged with future murder.
These fab chariots disappear completely from the movie to make room for a little product placement, and the next cars in the film are free roving, four wheel teardrops.
The movie drags along through the exposition of SF and Noir clichés until the only cop in the whole thing that ever seems to have had a clue, the ex-homicide G-Man who's been hunting Cruise thorough the movie, explains his realization of who the killer really must be...to the killer.
Oops. There isn't an emotional connection in the film either. Cruise's closest relationship is supposed to be to his missing child, but it's clearly with himself, drowning in a narcissistic cesspool of 3d video. Personally, I don't believe it. The clairvoyant that Cruise kidnaps to try and uncover the flaw in his indictment tells him and his estranged wife that she can feel the love in their house. Yes, that's about what it would take to find any emotion in this film, a clairvoyant.
The bottom line for me is that if Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, and John Williams can't come up with something wonderful we're all in really big trouble. Evidentially, we're in really big trouble.
A Philip K. Dick Filmology: (links go to IMDB)
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu