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When Stephen Spielberg took the helm of Stanley Kubrick's long-awaited Artificial Intelligence: A.I. project, upon the latter's death, many said that they were an unlikely match--Spielberg, the quintessential crowd-pleaser, an awkward fit with the dark toned Kubrick. Let Spielberg get his hands on a story about whether a robot boy could love and be loved and there was no way he'd handle the outcome as Kubrick would have. But this actually seemed a misreading of two of the elder director's seminal films. What, after all, does 2001 turn on but the moment when HAL becomes not just intelligent but emotion-laden, even jealous? And, though A Clockwork Orange is best remembered for its dystopic setting and extreme violence, in fact it is a meditation on whether human free will, even though it leads to such results, is not preferable to a placid roboticism. In the event, though the ending of A.I. is problematic for a variety of reasons, its rationale is not wholly inconsistent with those prior works of Kubrick.

On the other hand, it is hard to think of a less sensible choice of directors for a story by the paranoid, maybe even schizophrenic, Philip K. Dick than Mr. Spielberg. The set-up is rather simple--it is in fact just a short story in Mr. Dick's version: John Anderton, a policeman in the not-too-distant future, arrests people before they can accomplish the murders that three "pre-cognitive" mutants predict they will commit if given the chance. But when the precogs next predicted murderer turns out to be Anderton himself, he takes it on the lam and tries to prove the system wrong. In the process he discovers that the precogs do not necessarily render a unanimous prediction, that there is sometimes a "minority report", which raises the possibility that both he and some of the men he has imprisoned might never become criminals at all. Now, anyone familiar with the work of Mr. Dick will know where he's headed with this. And anyone familiar with the films of Mr. Spielberg will know that he--to his credit--is not capable of following. For if Mr. Dick's dark vision is true then men don't actually have free will, but follow along inexorably on predetermined paths. Meanwhile though, if Mr. Dick is wrong and Mr. Spielberg right, then the internal logic of the story itself, that which makes it grimly compelling, is corrupted.

We're left then with a short story that is brilliant, though terrible, whose conclusion we must reject utterly as anti-human, and with a film whose conclusion is comforting at the expense of a more fascinating, though uncomfortable-making, coherence. In effect, Mr. Spielberg has redeemed Mr. Dick's philosophy but only by damaging his art. Both works then are flawed, in opposite ways, and perhaps the best way to enjoy them is together, so that the tension between the artists becomes a part of the story itself.


Grade: (B)


See also:

(2 movies reviewed)

    -OFFICIAL SITE: Minority Report (20th Century Fox)
    -INFO: Minority Report (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Philip K. Dick (IMDB)
    -Spotlight on Spielberg (NY Times)
    -The Salon Directory | Steven Spielberg
    -ARTICLE: Spielberg Challenges the Big Fluff of Summer (RICK LYMAN, June 16, 2002, NY Times)
    -Philip K. Dick (PopSubCulture: Biography Project)
    -ESSAY: The God In the Trash: The Fantastic Life and Oracular Work of Philip K. Dick. (Alexander Star, Dec 6 1993, The New Republic)
    -ESSAY: Philip K. Dick's Mind-Bending, Film-Inspiring Journeys (DAVID EDELSTEIN, June 16, 2002, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: The Filming of Philip K. Dick (Alexander Star, April 25, 2002, Slate)
    -ESSAY: Prophecy and Paranoia: Philip K. Dick's Minority Report was outrageous, horrifying -- and about 50 years ahead of its time. (Jeremy Lott, June 17, 2002, Reason)
    -ESSAY: What a clever Dick: Steven Spielberg is the latest director to film a book by the dystopian soothsayer Philip K Dick. He won't be the last (Robin McKie, June 23, 2002, The Observer)
    -ESSAY: Future sex: Steven Spielberg has never done sexy well in his films, but "Minority Report" feels wet, alive and throbbing. (David Thomson, 2002-07-11, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Hiding the Dirty Bomber From the U.S. Constitution: The Bush administration establishes a Department of Precrime. (Dahlia Lithwick, June 11, 2002, Slate)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: of Minority Report (MRQE)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Film Forum: Everybody Runs: What Christian critics are saying about Minority Report (Jeffrey Overstreet, 06/20/2002, Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (James Berardinelli)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (James Bowman)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Michael Karounos, Journal of Film & Religion)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films Guide)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Elvis Mitchell, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Kenneth Turan, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Mike Clark, USA Today)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Joe Leydon, SF Examiner)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Jeffrey Overstreet, Looking Closer)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Michael Elliott, Movie Parables)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Michael Karounos, Christian Spotlight)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Dick Staub, Culture Watch)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Jeremy Lott, Relevant Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Steven Isaac, Focus on the Family)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Phil Boatwright, The Movie Reporter)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Jason Koornick, owner)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (LIZ BRAUN, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Jason Solomons, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Laura Bushell, BBCi)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Tim Appelo, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (David Edelstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Scott Von Doviak, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (STUART KLAWANS, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Lisa Kennedy, Wired)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Brent Simon, Entertainment Today)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (BERT ARCHER, Eye Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (James Parker, American Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of Minority Report (Mary Ann Johanson, Flick Filosopher)