Daily Archives: July 10, 2010

Some thoughts on watching “Minority Report” again

In discussions of Science Fiction (SF) films, Blade Runner stands out. (As does Alien, another SF film by Ripley Scott.) I think Minority Report stands up well next to Blade Runner, and in some ways pays homage to it. Many aspects ofMinority Report reflect Blade Runner. First off, both are based on the work of Philip K Dick. Both have a police officer as the main protagonist, a police officer with alot of personal issues he is dealing with. Both protagonist also have an odd relationship with the main female protagonist. If the male protagonist is an outsider, the female protagonist is also an outsider, but more a freak than a loner. Both works feature what can mildly be described as a mad scientist who provides the police officer with insight into what is happening with the female protagonist. From a storyline, there are alot of similarities, and i haven’t read the story the film is based upon, but i am guessing that Spielberg and company emphasized that. Because visually the film echoes aspects of Blade Runner as well. The congested run down nature of the Sprawl in MR reminded me of Los Angeles in BR. The advanced transportation is similar. The run down buildings seem similar. Even the last scene in the first BR (with the voice over, not the Director’s’Cut) reminded me of the cottage scenes in MR. In BR, the Voight-Kampf machine highlights the eye and uses response time of the eye to separate humans from androids. In MR eyescanners are used to identify who you are. In BR there is an eyemaker and when the androids/replicants go to visit him, they play with the spare eyeballs. In MR spare eyeballs also play a signifigant roll. Lastly, both protagonists look like each other. Oh, and they spend alot of time looking at images for clues.

MR is a great film in it’s’own right, though, and it is visually stunning. In BR, Scott went back 40 years into the past to restore fashions and looks he wanted to project 40 years into the future. Spielberg/Kaminsky (cinematographer) resort to creating an almost black and white future with a washed out palatte that supports CGI better but also gives the film a retro look. The film is flooded with complex lighting. It is worthwhile watching it with the sound off just to see the interplay with light on the characters as they move through the film. The palate might be stark, but the tones and complexity of the lighting is tremendous, right down to the juxtaposition of rainy night, sunny day scenes at the end.

Submersion/drowning is a critical theme of the film. Major and minor characters are submerged or drowning, either literally or figuratively. Indeed the main character is drowning in grief. Even the wife of the protagonist is revealing images by dipping them in pools of liquid (not unlike the precogs and their visions themselves, who reveal images by floating in liquid).

Images are also a major element of the film, but really it comes down to vision: what you can see and what you can’t. The film is about images, sight, blindness, the eye. It is ostensibility a blend of film noir/SF genres, but if Blade Runner was a meditation of what the future of the city is, Minority Report is a meditation on what does it mean to see. The precog Agatha asks the protagonist this, but really, it is what the filmmakers are asking us.