Minority Report First Impressions
I’m not sure why this exists. Looking at the Fall 2015 TV lineup, it appears a lot of movies or concepts from movies are being adapted to television (Scream Queens, Limitless, etc.) and the 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report is a well-regarded sci-fi thriller with a lot of intelligence. That being said, it was a very contained story, with some loose threads, but no real room to expand or grow into a franchise. So, given how little reason this has to exist and the lack of potential ideas to run with during the story, how does this pilot hold up? Better than I would have expected.
The story starts by recounting the events of the movie, showing how Pre-Crime worked, the use and abuse of the pre-cogs, and how the three pre-cogs were ultimately freed when Pre-Crime was closed in disgrace. Roughly a decade later, we meet up with Dash (Stark Sands) who is still having visions of the future and attempting to stop the murders he sees. He is unsuccessful at this because all he has to go on are images, faces, and monuments without names or addresses. At the most recent murder he failed to stop, we are introduced to Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) who Dash attempts to help by appearing before her in disguise and giving her his drawn rendering of the killer’s face. Vega brings this info to her department, but because the murder is not her case, the tip is swiped by her superior, Lt. Blake (Wilmer Valderrama). By the way, seeing Fez from That 70’s Show play a rugged, charismatic douchebag is hilarious in hindsight. The two cops track the killer using facial recognition, but he commits suicide to avoid arrest. Suspecting he knows more, Vega tracks down Dash and, realizing he’s a pre-cog, enlists his help to solve a case she feels is still unfinished. When Dash has a vision of more murders, he agrees to help, against the wishes of his older sister and former pre-cog, Agatha (Laura Regan), who suspects that the police will use Dash for nefarious purposes if his powers are publicly exposed.
Probably the biggest compliment I can give this show is that it does find some interesting venues to build stories around based on the original movie and story. For example, when Pre-Crime was abolished, all of the prisoners in the thought prison were released, but it was discovered that the process of mental imprisonment caused immense brain damage (called “halo burn”) that left many of them mentally unstable and barely functional. This creates not only a venue for expanding upon the consequences of the Pre-Crime program, it also creates an interesting character point for the pre-cogs, and Dash in particular, as he worries whether he destroyed people’s lives unnecessarily because of his pre-cognitive abilities. Further, Vega and Dash meet with the Pre-Crime Caretaker for the pre-cogs, Wally (Daniel London), who explains the potential problem of the Pre-Crime system since the pre-cogs occasionally saw the future differently, which throws a wrench in the main argument of Pre-Crime that they can arrest people for crimes they haven’t committed because the future states they are destined to commit them. Considering how badly some adaptations of Phillip K. Dick novels have gone, the presence of actual interesting sci-fi ideas on a mainstream television show was a refreshing sight to see.
On the character side of things, while the series is not bad in this area, it’s more generic. Dash is a nervous, twitchy, introvert who wants to do the right thing. Det. Vega is a street-smart cop who hates authority, has a tragic backstory, (insert other cop clichés here) and who wanted to be in Pre-Crime because she wanted to stop crimes before they happen instead of simply mopping up the mess. Agatha is appropriately detached and single-minded in her protection of her two pre-cog siblings. Adam (Nick Zano), Dash’s twin brother, is a sleazy, misogynist alpha male who has used his ability to see the names and dates of people about to die to become a fabulously wealthy real estate broker. Lt. Fez is just the unnecessarily asinine police superior. Also their department has an Asian, tattooed, technology expert (because of course they do). It’s too early to tell whether these rather cookie-cutter character types will be a detriment to the show or not. It all depends on how the plot progresses from here.
Unfortunately, the plot is where I see the biggest problems looming on the horizon. As far as I can determine, there are two major potential plot threads that will be pursued in the future. One is the suggestion by Agatha that she has seen visions of the three pre-cogs being captured and imprisoned again as a result of Dash’s actions. At best, this means we’ll simply get the movie Minority Report again, but probably not as good. At worst, who knows how stupid it could get. On the other side of things, one of the supporting cast members in the pilot is running for mayor of Washington DC, and one of his big campaign ideas is the Hawkeye system, a system of automated surveillance to actively monitor and record data on all people in the city and study them for any signs of potential criminal or violent activity. Listen, Minority Report. I’ve already seen this story. It’s called Person of Interest, a series that has been on the air for years on the same network that is producing this show (for some reason networks are now ripping themselves off instead of their competitors). Matter of fact, the core dynamic of a shy, intelligent introvert with vast, supernaturally acquired knowledge working with a physically capable and legally flexible warrior to solve crimes sounds more than a little bit like the core dynamic of that show. Whether Minority Report does anything interesting or original with this concept is unclear at this point, but seeing the sources of the show’s narrative inspiration this clearly this early on is not necessary a good sign for the future.
At this point, Minority Report is not really that bad at all. It’s got a few decent ideas for character and world-building, and the actors all acquit themselves nicely so far (would’ve appreciated a Tom Cruise cameo though). At this point, the problems I see with it are that its premise and characters are fairly generic and its ongoing plot threads appear to largely ripped from other sources and popular current TV shows. Whether these potential problems become actual problems is something only the future will tell us (I’m sorry. That wasn’t intentional). If you liked the movie, then I think this is at least worth a look.
Considering the movie is over a decade old and told a relatively closed, complete story, the Minority Report TV series starts off much better than I was expecting. Good sci-fi ideas stemming from the source material and decent character set-up offsets the generic plotting and the sense that I'm just watching Person of Interest with laser guns. Not bad. Worth a look.