Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)

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J M Powell
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Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)

#1 Post by J M Powell » Thu Dec 16, 2004 11:02 am

I wanted to pipe up with a minority opinion (ugh) on this flick after reading the War of the Worlds thread in the New Films area. (If MR is still a "new" film, go ahead and move this thread.) I think Minority Report is Spielberg's best film since Raiders of the Lost Ark -- maybe since Jaws.

I'm not the first critic to draw attention to this, but it does seem like many prefectly astute and attentive viewers totally miss it: Minority Report does not not not have a saccharine ending. This film contains some of the notoriously unsubtle director's most delicate work -- I was really impressed by the fact that Spielberg remained straight-faced through the whole final act, never once tipping his hand. I think it's one of mainstream cinema's best mindf@cks, and very true to the spirit of Dick (though not to the letter of the particular story from which this film was adapted). Probably the fact that this restraint marks a first for Spielberg (though a similar phenomenon is on display to a lesser degree in A.I.) accounts for the fact that so many intelligent observers remain oblivious to the possibility

SPOILER


that Cruise never escapes the fantasy-prison mind-control tank.

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godardslave
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#2 Post by godardslave » Thu Dec 16, 2004 3:13 pm

i like the very strange atmoshpere and character of the guy who changes his eyeballs, that sequence is almost lynchian in its dark humor and unsettling tone. the von sydow character is good. There are a few other good sequences.

Im not sure about the happy/unhappy ending question, i need to watch it again. Clearly, how one interprets the ending is crucial in the overall conception and evaluation of this film.


Aside:does this forum have a "spoiler" tag people can use? i honestly don't know.

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#3 Post by chaddoli » Thu Dec 16, 2004 5:23 pm

[rant]
This is probably the only film I would say that I "hate." It's not a terrible film, the acting, cinematography, etc was excellent. But there are a few things that ruin the movie that often happen with sci-fi films. Sci-fi films, I think, should be intellectual and thought-provoking (Blade Runner, Gattaca) or just plain fun (Star Wars).

Minority Report attempts to be "mainstream intellectual," in other words, stupid. The film is so dumbed down that it makes me sick.

Oh! The reason Anderton works for precrime is because his son was kidnapped/murdered! Wow! How facinating! I've never seen that before.

So besides that completely cliche and obvious character motivation, what else?

Well, the film completely glosses over all thought-provoking material, such as "is it ok to arrest someone for a crime they haven't committed?" Yes, Cruise and Colin have a two minute conversation about it in which it is incredibly obvious what the filmmakers want you to believe. It's the idea of what the film is supposed to be about, and they gloss over it in two minutes.

If you like the basic idea, but not the execution like me, and you wish it had a much better, darker ending, like me, read the short story because it is amazing!
[/rant]

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#4 Post by solaris72 » Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:01 pm

Yeah, the short story is quite good. Not the best Dick out there, but quite good, and better than the film when all is said and done.
I disagree with you about the film, though. Frankly, I'm not really offended when somebody spills fun all over their art, or decides to dip their art in fun. The two can coexist within a single film. Which isn't to say that Minority Report is the all-time pinnacle of the art of the science fiction film (or even the pinnacle of SF films that year), or anywhere near as fun as, say, Wrath of Khan, but it's better than Impostor or Paycheck (other Dick adaptations).
Last edited by solaris72 on Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#5 Post by J M Powell » Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:04 pm

OK. To me, Minority Report is more fun than all the Star Wars movies save Empire (and maybe Jedi), but that's pretty subjective. And I agree that it's not as much an "idea film" as Blade Runner or Gattaca.

But I strongly disagree, based on discontinuities (or, if you wish, "clues") the film presents, with the notion that the film has a happy ending. That's smoke and mirrors, albeit highly effective smoke and mirrors. And what I admire most about the film is that, unlike almost every other mainstream "mindf@ck" movie (a subgenre, if that's the word, shared mostly by sci-fi & crime), this one never gives you the big reveal (a la Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, Diabolique etc.). Minority Report leaves you to figure it out -- leaves you, really, to figure out that there even is anything to figure out. Reveals are fine, but they inevitably reward the viewers who're blindsided by them and disappoint viewers who've already pieced it together. At least, that's the way it happens for me.

Minority Report is the only instance I can think of in mainstream cinema that functions like my favorite Lynch movies Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway & Mulholland Dr. in this way. Granted, it's not nearly as wonderful as they are, but the puzzles work similary.

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#6 Post by two mules » Fri Dec 17, 2004 7:33 am

J M Powell wrote: Cruise never escapes the fantasy-prison mind-control tank.

I really honestly think you're crediting the filmmakers with too much intelligence here. I respect it as your interpretation of the film, but if this ambiguity were intentional we would certainly have heard about it in the promotional materials... this is a mainstream film that tried hard to sell itself as edgy and adult, so if this was their intention I'm sure it would at least have turned up in an interview or in the DVD extras. But it doesn't.

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#7 Post by bunuelian » Fri Dec 17, 2004 10:26 am

I thought MR was a visual feast, but I couldn't get past the reduction of dialogue to a matter-of-fact explanation of what's happening on the screen so the audience never has to feel confused. It felt like watching a group of experienced auto mechanics standing around and in utter seriousness saying to one-another, "The ignition starts the car." In the abstract it doesn't seem like it would be that hard to write dialogue that at least gives the impression that these guys have all thought a lot of this stuff before, that they're experts at what they do. There's too much spoon feeding for the characters to be convincing as more than run-of-the-mill morality play cutouts.

I definitely didn't get even so much as a whiff of mindfu@k from this, but maybe I'm just frigid.

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#8 Post by THX1378 » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:20 am

This still is one of the best films Spielberg has done in a while, along with Catch Me if You Can. I Still don't get how this film was a mindf**k film. I thought the film was pretty forward and never really had anything that anyone was left to figure as a big reveal goes. As far as mindf**k films go the best one still that has came out in the past 10 years is Fight Club.

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#9 Post by Andre Jurieu » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:24 am

THX1378 wrote: As far as mindf**k films go the best one still that has came out in the past 10 years is Fight Club.
Oh boy... this will not be pretty. I'd "duck and cover" or curl up in a ball underneath your desk.

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#10 Post by J M Powell » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:17 pm

I think that this interpretation is supported by the text, and is contradicted by nothing in the text that cannot be better explained within the scope of this interpretation. At the very least, if you watch MR again with this in mind, you must agree that: 1) within the fictional world of the film, there is no way for Anderton to know for certain, once he enters the tank, whether anything he experiences from that point on is real or fake, including, presumably, his own escape; 2) there are unmissable, ridiculous plot-holes in the ending as it is presented to us, but not all that many in the film up to that point; 3) foremost among the stylistic/tonal changes, there is no Cruise voice-over in the film before Anderton is put in the tank, but there is afterward; 4) the absolute impossibility of knowing the reality of one's experiences in any world where perfect virtual reality is a technological/psychic possibility is a sf trope central to Dick (see Eye in the Sky, Ubik etc.) A quick google got me this page: http://www.hsbr.net/columns/huy/20020805.01.hsbr, which provides a good run-down of the reasons why you should agree with me, except they're all presented as reasons why you shouldn't.

Think of it like Brazil, but without
SpoilerShow
that last reveal of Sam in the torture chamber.
In MR, the plot-based clues that what you're seeing a fantasy are planted before the fantasy begins (except for the enormous plot-holes that come after); the only tip-offs you get after the fantasy begins are stylistic and subtle (which I think would be more obvious if we didn't already expect syrup from Spielberg).

I'm not saying this is the only way to interpret the film. It's impossible to argue conclusively that this is the "intended" reading -- to me, the film's slipperiness on this point, is part of the fun -- and so I might be doing this interpretation a disservice by crediting it to Spielberg. It's a bit like one of those old candlestick/two-faces optical illusions, and I don't mind if people are sure the two faces are "what's really there" and the candlestick is "reading too much into it". What's weird to me is that in this case the candlestick, as it were, never even occurs to the vast majority of viewers, even the highly media-literate, when it seems to me to be, as I said, subtle but highly persuasive. On the other hand, that's fun and ego-boosting, to feel like I (or you) know a sort-of secret about the movie. On the third hand, we should be suspicious of this superior feeling (see Bordwell's Making Meaning). On the fourth hand, my interpretation -- and this is key -- makes for a much more valuable film, and so is very attractive to an old-fashioned structuralist like myself (see Fish's "Short People Got No Reason to Live").

Some people say I read too much into Lynch, too. But that's a whole other kettle of fish.

P.S.
THX: Fight Club, whatever its merits (and I think there are many), has the more common kind of mindfu@k, with a reveal. There is no reveal in MR; to me, that's what makes MR special. Maybe it makes MR not a mindfu@k at all, but something else.

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#11 Post by THX1378 » Sun Dec 19, 2004 8:40 am

I rewatched Report tonight and I have to agree that you can read it both ways. You can take it at face value and say that he got out of the tank to set things right, or like you pointed out that it's all in his mind. I get now what your saying and thanks for listing that page.
And yeah Fight Club has the reveal. But not knowing anything about the film, when you get to that sertan point where the reveal come into play is one of the best reveals I've ever seen cause I would have never seen it coming even though there are tons of clues that lead to the reveal. When I first saw the film in theaters almost everyone who saw it said "What the f**k!" when the reveal came into play.

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#12 Post by godardslave » Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:17 pm

Thanks j powell, for introducing the very real possibility of an unhappy or at least "ambiguously & varyingly interpretable" ending to minority report.

this film has just risen from merely "above-average" to "very good" in my mind.

Its amazing what a bit of ambiguity can do for making something more intellectually and philosophically appealing. :wink:

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#13 Post by cdnchris » Sun Dec 19, 2004 3:36 pm

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but what's the difference really if it has a happy ending or not? I mean, yeah, it's of course very Hollywood for him to escape and get the bad guy, but what purpose would it serve for him not to have escaped and be trapped in a dream world ala Brazil? I remember considering the fact that he may have been dreaming (because the possibility is there) but I discarded it because it would have served no purpose, or at least I'd find no purpose in it. Yet there's people that want to believe the ending is depressing. Why?

It's like those that complain about AI and it's ending. Some thought it should have ended with the robot trapped at the bottom of the sea wishing to be a real boy, like they would have preferred the downer ending. There's nothing wrong with downer endings, I'm not saying that, but an ending like that for AI would have served no real purpose other than to just give a depressing tear-jerker ending. It would have been no better than Pay It Forward, and a hell of a lot worse (and I hate Pay it Forward.) Although, true, I guess it did go for the tear-jerker, sort-of happy ending.

Intentional or not, I guess the ambiguity is there in Minority Report, but really, what purpose would it serve to have a downer ending for it? It wouldn't make it deeper regarding the content of the film. All it would be is a downer ending for the sake of having a downer ending. How does that make it better? Because it's less Hollywood?

Or is it being said it's better because it IS open to interpretation?

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#14 Post by BWilson » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:15 pm

Yes, I think the ambiguity alone makes it a better ending. But I still haven't made up my mind what Spielberg's intentions were for the ending and he's never spoken about it. I don't know if it was his intention or not. I'd like to think it was, yet it would be the one solitary example of subtlety in the man's entire body of work.

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#15 Post by godardslave » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:37 pm

cdnchris:

because real life doesn't come guaranteed with happy endings.

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#16 Post by cdnchris » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:15 pm

godardslave wrote:cdnchris:

because real life doesn't come guaranteed with happy endings.
Uh, I know that. And that's not what I was saying, so you don't have to patronize me.

I like unhappy endings, but only if they serve where the movie was going. It's the same thing with happy endings. An unhappy ending that is just tacked on is JUST AS BAD as a happy ending that is just tacked on. To have Cruise locked in a dream state forever does not serve Minority Report in ANY way as it has NOTHING to do with what was going on before (unless I missed something which I'm open to someone explaining.)

Off the top of my head In the Mood For Love had what I guess you could call an unhappy ending, but it FIT with the rest of the movie. Then you have Pay it Forward with a tacked on ending that doesn't fit. The movie was a piece of crap sapfest, but then they knife and kill the creepy Sixth Sense kid FOR NO REASON!!!!! So what's the lesson? Be nice to people but keep in mind there's a chance some dumbass might knife you?

I'm not a fan of the ending of Minority Report, because I will admit that I was disappointed it would go down such an easy and clean road. I mean, yeah, I understand that a downer ending would have been a shock that a Hollywood movie would do that and we could avoid that cliche "confession to everyone" bit. But other than that that's it. What would you pull from it then? We shouldn't prejudge people, but if you don't you risk the chance of being in an endless dreamstate so you should just go with the flow?? Huh!? That doesn't even make sense!

There are some movies that would have benefitted from a downer ending I can think of (the remake of The Stepford Wives, though it still wouldn't have been very good) but I just can't see how this one would have.

Of course, if the whole movie was suggesting that your life is predetermined then a downer ending would make sense as Cruise was trapped from the get go, but the movie was going down the route that nothing is predetermined and you are in charge of your own life, there are no greater forces and have to take responsibilty for it. That's what they were going for, so WHY should they then just tack on an unhappy ending?

I'm not trying to come off as a prick (and hope I'm not) but I really question the benefit of it for this movie when it's not even going down that path (and it has to better than the old "because life isn't like that" stuff.)

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#17 Post by cdnchris » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:28 pm

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

BUT (I forgot to add) I guess if it is open ended you could pull whatever you want from it life is/isn't predetermined, except for the fact that Cruise really didn't kill the guy, which does kind of throw that all out of whack. Now if he really did kill the guy (and true, it may have been turned to an accident to make it more audience friendly) that would have probably made a better movie because that opens up so many other doors.

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#18 Post by BWilson » Tue Dec 21, 2004 2:22 pm

I rewatched MR last night and I have a few observations:

-The film seems to be about Reasonable Doubt. That's what a "minority report" really is, a reasonable doubt to the guilt of the accused, a dissenting opinion from one of the three judges (Precogs). Anderton's journey leads him to discover the reasonable doubt and fallibility of Precrime. The funny thing is that the minority report is an enormous red herring. The old woman tells him about it, he goes to get Agatha in order to retrieve his minority report, only to find out he doesn't have one! So he fails in his first attempt to find reasonable doubt. But, he then proceeds to the apartment where he confronts his destiny. He finds out that Leo Crow killed his son, he says, "I'm going to kill this man", but he doesn't. The time elapses on his watch. He proves, as Agatha told him, that he can change his fate, that the system is fallible, and that there is reasonable doubt. Seconds latter he shoots the man accidentally, but this is irrelevant, from this point on Anderton has proven the system fallible, the precognition did not come true.

-Does anyone agree with me that the car assembly scene was possibly inspired by Hitchcock's anecdote that he wanted to use in North By Northwest? Hitch envisioned a scene where the camera tracks along an assembly line as we watch a car get assembled from nothing. At the end of the line someone opens the door and a dead body falls out. Now no dead bodies fall out in MR, but Anderton popping his head up and proceeding to make his get away in a newly built car is great.

-Anyone have any comment on the similarity between the assembly line scenes in MR and Attack of the Clones. While both films were released within months of each other, it's pretty well documented that Lucas added the assembly line sequence to his film at the last minute. Do you think he was borrowing from his friend.

-As far as the two borrowing from one another, I can't help but think that Spielberg was influenced by THX 1138 when he got a petite freckled actress and shaved her head. Agatha and LUH look quite a bit alike and the shot where she embraces Anderton and their heads seem to merge is lifted from THX 1138 as well.

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#19 Post by flambeur » Fri Jan 07, 2005 3:50 pm

The biggest problem I had with the flic was the Anderton security clearance issue. Come on! Any normal corporation/business/institution etc. would have deleted all such clearance immediately..he's a supposed criminal for crying out loud.

I guess nothing is perfect.

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#20 Post by Andre Jurieu » Fri Jan 07, 2005 4:24 pm

flambeur wrote:The biggest problem I had with the flic was the Anderton security clearance issue. Come on! Any normal corporation/business/institution etc. would have deleted all such clearance immediately..he's a supposed criminal for crying out loud.

I guess nothing is perfect.
Yeah, it's a pretty large plot-hole if you ask me, but if the system was supervised by government officials, I could believe something this important would slip through the cracks, given the amount of bureaucracy involved. Trust me, I've seen it happen.

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#21 Post by godardslave » Sat Jan 22, 2005 9:16 pm

i'm rewatching minority report, main observation:

I missed it the first time, but Spielberg was clearly influenced by Brazil.
The visual style of Gilliam's film is most obviously appropriated in scenes such as the eye replacement seen, and when he visits the old woman in the greenhouse, but there are touches of it throughout the whole film. The quirky, visually overloaded compositions are clearly reminiscent of similar scenes in Brazil.

But this influence of Brazil most important implication is that indeed the ending may also be, just like Brazils an "unhappy, trapped in a mind" ending, as discussed above. This is a quite fascinating possibility, in effect spielberg may have sneaked this unhappy ending past the studio [and most of the audience too for that matter], rembering gilliams own huge problems. A subversive Spielberg?

I am also struck by just how unlike any other spielberg film [that i have seen] this film looks.

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#22 Post by THX1378 » Mon Jan 24, 2005 2:31 am

I missed it the first time, but Spielberg was clearly influenced by Brazil.
Ok whats the conection with Spielberg and Brazil. He's the last person thanked in the DVD booklet.

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#23 Post by justeleblanc » Mon Jan 24, 2005 3:48 am

godardslave wrote:I missed it the first time, but Spielberg was clearly influenced by Brazil.
Odd, I personally don't really see much of a direct connection, other than the genre. Though, I do remember reading in one of Kim "Howard" Johnson's books about the Python members that Brazil was actually highly influenced by Spielberg. But even with that in mind, I think both directors speak their own language.

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#24 Post by DrewReiber » Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:10 am

JusteLeblanc wrote:Though, I do remember reading in one of Kim "Howard" Johnson's books about the Python members that Brazil was actually highly influenced by Spielberg.
Well, I sure hope she didn't because that's utter rubbish. Terry Gilliam has gone on record as saying Spielberg's "view of the world is rather simplistic" and that his films are "cartoons" that "have pretensions to something deeper which I feel is never delivered". And this was said while he was talking about Brazil, so I think Johnson is likely pulling this out of her own assumptions. Orson Welles' The Trial is what highly influenced Gilliam in the making of Brazil, and film aesthetic that predates Spielberg's entire career.

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#25 Post by Kirkinson » Tue Jan 25, 2005 12:04 am

When Gilliam started having arguments with Sid Scheinberg (a Universal executive) over Brazil's length and ending, he held a private screening for Spielberg in the hopes that he would talk to the executive (they were friends) and try to convince him to release the movie Gilliam's way. After watching the film, Gilliam asked Spielberg how long he thought it was, to which Spielberg replied "I don't know, an hour and a half?"

But most important to the topic at hand is that Spielberg was not a fan of Gilliam's ending, though I don't know if he suggested it be changed, and I don't know if he ever talked to Sid Scheinberg about it (if he did, it doesn't seem to have helped).

And as to Spielberg's thanks credit on the DVD booklet, I'm not sure what that's about, as I don't recall him being mentioned anywhere. Perhaps they intended to mention his private screening in the Battle of Brazil documentary but it got cut out -- it does appear in Jack Mathews' book of the same title.

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