Some mild spoiling in the following writeup!

I agree with hotei that movie adaptations of Dick stories/novels tend to sanitise them to the point of removing the meaning the original story had. I think I was un-disappointed by Minority Report mainly because I had visions of the sentimental kind of crap that Steven Spielberg is best-known for (E.T., A.I. come to mind). It was, at least, not that. It did retain much of the sense of a Phil Dick story even if it did, ultimately, sell him out.

What makes Dick such an interesting writer is that he presents challenging ideas, questioning human power structures, or, as in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the novel Blade Runner was based on), questioning the nature of humanity itself. It would seem that these issues are perceived as being too challenging for Hollywood audiences. I thought Blade Runner was a great movie, but there was no real reason to base it on a Phil Dick novel. Any hack science fiction writer could have come up with the idea of a bunch of androids that look just like people and a guy who has to shoot them. What Dick did was to use this premise as a means to explore the character Rick Deckard's own humanity, and to explore what it might mean to be human. Similarly, in Minority Report, Dick's impetus was subversive, whereas naturally, Spielberg had to change that into an acceptable Hollywood story (one in which everyone lives happily ever after as soon as the One Bad Guy is taken care of).

There have been almost no Hollywood movies with subversive premises. I find that the general structure of movies that *seem* subversive is as follows: First, the system is revealed to be evil. The audience grows excited. The layers of the onion are peeled. Can it be...? Next, it becomes clear that it's actually just an evil faction within the system (e.g. the CIA), usually led by one demagogue, usually the old guy who you were supposed to think all along was a Good Guy! Yawn... Bad Guy taken care of, "we'll have to be extra vigilant in the future," hero gets back together with the ex-wife and commences breeding. All is recuperated. The hero's life, the system, etc. Audience's pulse goes down again. The Matrix is one of the very few exceptions to this pattern.

All that said, I did enjoy Minority Report quite a bit. I thought it could have been far more sold-out than it was. For example: (lots of spoiling follows now! stop reading if you haven't seen the movie yet!)

When Anderton catches up with the pedophile, my heart sank. Oh, JESUS, I thought, please don't let this movie work its way around to showing us that, yes, after all, we do need the Panopticon "for the children"! Thankfully, this was not the way it went.

I thought it was clear Spielberg's a fan of Blade Runner. There were some very clear resonances in Minority Report, and some of the same shortcomings. For instance, Blade Runner’s Rick Deckard was, like MR’s John Anderton, a broken man who is haunted by his past and drinks too much. (Anderton is “on the whiff,” an addict of some super-futuristic shiny plastic inhaler drug.) My complaint about this character, a mainstay of Hollywood cinema generally, is that all his demons are external. This in opposition to Philip K. Dick characters, whose demons are inside as well. How much more interesting Blade Runner would have been had Deckard suspected he wasn’t a good human, or considered the possibility that he wasn’t even human. (What human could kill as cold-bloodedly as he could?) Ditto Anderton. He’s not a very interesting character because he is so self-assured throughout. We never doubt that he is motivated only by the “good cop” desire to make the world right. His failings are only as a result of his grief.

The product placement in Minority Report was beyond anything else I've seen to date. I'm quite sick of the cross-marketing endemic in commercial cinema lately. It seems every movie is simultaneously a chance to market a pop song (whose video then is also a chance to market the movie), a soft drink, etc. Minority Report was an extreme example of this. The most annoying thing is that it’s not enough any more to have brands appear incidentally in scenes. In Minority Report, the movie virtually pauses for a Gap commercial. Use of brand-name products is sensible, it lends realism as we are ourselves surrounded by brand names, but I wish they’d leave it at that, rather than interrupting the flow of the story just to make sure we don’t miss it. Of course, this is all done with a sly wink, and a relaxing moment for the audience to have a little chuckle. It does stretch credibility a bit that in 2054 all the brand names and logos seem to be the same as they are now. Curious, that. Apparently the cars in the movie were designed by Lexus, and lackeys handed out glossy Lexus-ad booklets in the theatre lobby before the movie.

I thought the movie was quite entertaining, the story was just complex enough to be interesting to follow, at least some of Dick’s ideas were preserved, and I didn’t feel completely cheated. But I’m still waiting for a really faithful adaptation of a Dick story. Rumours have been circulating for years that the novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is on the way to production, which would be great if it was done right. I don’t think there are too many directors that have the chutzpah to take on really subversive material, though. Stanley Kubrick would maybe have been the perfect director for the project, but he’s dead.

Apologies if this writeup is a bit wandering, it's just a few thoughts I had about the movie after seeing it that I thought were worth sharing.