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'Minority Report': A Failure on Every Level

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV | September 23, 2015 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV | September 23, 2015 |

The movie Minority Report was a wonderful and thoughtful science fiction film. It posited an interesting and original future, and then used that to extrapolate the logical implications of a developed technology. But the real key to it was that it had absolutely nothing to do with pre-cognition. That was the wrapper, that was the metaphor, with which we were to relate other issues. We mapped our concerns about technology, and about the role of several themes as diverse as surveillance and free will onto that plot. It hit that perfect sweet spot of resonating with several different themes without falling into the laziness of direct allegory. Further, the movie landed at the perfect time, within a year of 9/11 in the wake of the Patriot Act and the dramatic tipping of the scale towards security instead of freedom. But more than that, it was a film that gave no easy answers, with gray areas on both sides of the equation.

It is a great science fiction film, and a great story.

The television series Minority Report fails on every possible level to capture what made that film great. It isn’t even a pale imitation, nor is it even just an unrelated junk show that is using the brand. The latter would be preferable, because at least it is understandable to a cynic that Hollywood simply works that way.

Instead, the television series cut and pastes the one line description of the world, ignores all the thought and intelligence, and runs face first into a concrete wall. It is the equivalent of someone who adapts Maus and honestly thinks it’s a great story about talking mice.

The plot is idiotic, the characters paper thin, the world building anemic. This may come as a shock, but amazingly enough a shitty procedural grafted onto a shitty science fiction show does not in fact make a good show. It’s actually worse than either a shitty science fiction show or a shitty procedural because it wraps the worst of both worlds up in a bow, lights it on fire, and then proudly proclaims that it invented central heating.

The future is as painfully rendered as the imagined future in Back to the Future, except with a dead seriousness that they’re showing us something ultra super cool. Everyone is wearing the worst fake future clothes since Riker went on vacation to the Planet of Sessy.

The gist of the show is that after the precogs got retired to their island, they readjusted to normal life and then one of them came back because he believes that he can do good by preventing murders. Of course he’s off the grid and while Tom Cruise epically avoided all the surveillance tech by getting transplanted eyes in order to fool the retina scanners, said precog has managed to get by for months by just ducking a baseball cap over his eyes every time he walks by a scanner.

It’s like they sat around in a meeting brainstorming ways to strip everything original and interesting out of the movie.

All those themes of surveillance and free will? Yeah the show doesn’t give two shits about that, doesn’t even give token lip service. It’s just, ooh you’re a precog? Let’s solve murders!

How about the interesting nuance of the film towards those arrested for future crimes? Oh, well the show has all their brains fried for plot reasons, has them all thrown in a prison-asylum thing, and demonstrates that they’re evil people plotting for revenge, with the conclusion being a cut and dry declaration that stopping the precog program was a mistake.

Well, I’m glad they were just upfront with literally stripping every single gray area out of the story that made it great in the first place. It’s like watching an intricate exploration of how while violence begets violence, it sometimes is the only answer to a greater evil. And then having a sequel come along with Yosemite Sam running through firing his guns yelling “death to liberals, you bitches!”

We then proceed to be treated to every police cliché except for someone yelling about the mayor being all over his ass on this one, though I’m sure that’ll be there by episode three. It doesn’t help that our obligatory police detective partner for our precog is just a terribly written asshole. Detective work? Hah! Her idea of detective work is just walking up and yelling at and threatening every single person that she wants anything from. She’s like Gregory House without either the humor or the brains. There is no actual detective’ing, just bullying her way down the writer’s railroad with events occurring exactly when they’re supposed to according to the interminable rolling of the plot, with no actual trivialities like cause and effect.

This show is stupid. It is an insult to the name Minority Report.

But hey, it’s sci-fi on Fox, so it’ll be gone by Thanksgiving anyway.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.