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adaptation minority report
"… good science fiction is actually social science fiction. Technology is a reflection or an echo of what's happening socially … To Steven's credit, the world we have in Minority Report is edgier and more realistically grey than the kind of utopian world imagined by futurists. And that's always a more exciting place and a more interesting place for a story to unfold."
Scientist John Underkoffler
"Steven wants the audience to be split down the middle in their perception of this world, whether it's a good world or a bad world, and not be black or white about it. He didn't want the audience to think everything about this future world was evil or dystrophic, but an extension of a world that we absolutely recognize."
Production Designer Alex McDowell
"George Orwell's prophecy really comes true, not in the twentieth century but in the twenty-first.. We want the audience to take the technology we show them for granted by having so much of it in the movie, so they can sit back and focus on the mystery."
Director Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg decided early on that he wanted the visual world of Minority Report to reflect essentially that which is around us every day - specifically Washington, D.C., where the story unfolds -- with pieces of the future peaking out.
To aid in envisioning this future, Spielberg brought together a Think Tank: M.I.T. scientists such as John Underkoffler, urban planners, architects, inventors, writers (such as Generation X author Douglas Coupland), the Think Tank came together at a hotel in Santa Monica, California, to hash out the social and technological details of our very near future during a three-day conference. Sitting in were the filmmakers, along with screenwriter Scott Frank, and production designer Alex McDowell and his team.
"I thought it would be a good idea to bring some of the best minds in technology, environment, crime fighting, medicine, health, social services, transportation, computer technology and other fields into one room to discuss what the future a half a century hence would be like," says Spielberg.
"We sat around in a room and talked through the aspects of how society would be affected over a five-, ten-, twenty-, thirty-year period," McDowell recalls, "what would change, what the trends were, and where they would logically end up. We knew that we would have to learn the answers to those issues we would have to go into a consumer environment."
The conversations encompassed everything from advances in medicine, to how people would brush their teeth, to transportation, urban planning, architecture and art.
The gradual loss of privacy was a near unanimous prediction.
"The reason is not so people can spy on you," explains screenwriter Scott Frank, "but so they can sell to you. In the not too distant future, it is plausible that by scanning your eyes, your whereabouts will be tracked. They will keep track of what you buy, so they can keep on selling to you."
"George Orwell's prophecy really comes true, not in the twentieth century but in the twenty-first," says Spielberg. "Big Brother is watching us now and what little privacy we have will completely evaporate in twenty or thirty years, because technology will be able to see through walls, through rooftops, into the very privacy of our personal lives, into the sanctuary of our families."
Spielberg's vision for Minority Report was devoid of the natural disasters and wars that shaped many other futuristic films.
"The technology is benign and getting more and more efficient and serving the world better," says McDowell. "Offices would be entirely portable and personal technology like computers and phones would become built-in human accessories."
Generation X author Douglas Coupland dreamed up a number of products for the Washington D.C. of 2054, such as a sick-stick, a weapon that causes involuntarily vomiting, spray meat, and boosted cats, which have been engineered to grow to the same size as dogs.
Though the corporations would drive development, such technologies would naturally prove valuable to law enforcement - to find and track suspects and, by extension, catch them.
"Philip K. Dick was always interested in the consequences of technology and science," comments M.I.T. science advisor John Underkoffler, who for 17 years has worked at the institute's world-renowned Media Lab. "But Phil Dick took it past where most other people stopped, because he was one of the few people who understood that good science fiction is actually social science fiction. Technology is a reflection or an echo of what's happening socially. Dick was interested in what the anthropological effect would be. I'm not sure if he ever passed a real judgement, but he was always asking. And that's what makes him so great."
"Steven wants the audience to be split down the middle in their perception of this world," says McDowell, "whether it's a good world or a bad world, and not be black or white about it. He didn't want the audience to think everything about this future world was evil or dystrophic, but an extension of a world that we absolutely recognise."
"We want the audience to take the technology we show them for granted by having so much of it in the movie," says Spielberg, "so they can sit back and focus on the mystery."
Fossil fuels have given way to the development of Magnetic-Levitation traffic system and while the potential to prevent murder is an optimistic one, it comes with a price.
"To Steven's credit, the world we have in the film is edgier and more realistically grey than the kind of utopian world imagined by futurists," says Underkoffler. "And that's always a more exciting place and a more interesting place for a story to unfold."
in the beginning…
Minority Report begins with a day in the life of Detective John Anderton. A man who has lost everything, he has balanced his life on the precept that Pre-Crime is the answer to society's ills.
"He has basically joined Pre-Crime because of the loss of his son, and the disintegration of his family," says Tom Cruise. "He wants to rid the world of crime."
Screenwriter Scott Frank's approach to the story began with the character of Anderton. "What kind of person would embrace this kind of system?" he muses. "His own guilt over what happened has led him to think he's a true believer in this system, because if it can prevent another set of parents from losing their child, then it must be a good thing."
As leader of the Pre-Crime Division of the Justice Department, Anderton bears the responsibility of sorting through the visions of a group of Pre-Cogs - psychic beings held in a womb-like chamber, suspended in fluid, who are able to see murders before they're committed.
"The information goes from the Pre-Cogs to a computer, and John separates the pictures to analyse what is it he's looking at, where it is, and to glean information from what the Pre-cogs are seeing," says Cruise.
Underkoffler created a gestural language that would allow Anderton to sort and conduct the visual information he was getting from the Pre-Cogs. Commands were developed for stopping time, rolling backwards and forwards and making excerpts or changing his view.
"The Pre-Cogs see the future very prismatic ally," Spielberg explains. "They don't see things like film, with squares and cuts. The human eye sees in circles. [Imaginary Forces] made the pre-visions look actually organic."
"Steven wanted to create a computer language but make it physical," explains Cruise. "He wanted the specific hand movements to play like a dance - he even played music during the scene. It was actually lots of fun."
The discovery of the three beings' precognitive visions was an accidental by-product of a completely different line of research, "an unintended result," explains Underkoffler. "But given that the researchers found that their subjects had these predictive abilities, then this whole Pre-Crime government institution was founded around them. This whole facility was built in response."
The three Pre-Cogs - Dashiell, Arthur and Agatha -- lie in an "egg" deep within Pre-Crime Headquarters, bathed in a fluid that is intended as both a biological nutrient and a medium that helps to channel future visions into their heads. It also filters the images, so the Pre-Cogs will only see murder. Though the outside world has no conception of who the Pre-Cogs are or how they were made, Anderton has lived with their visions and made a connection with the only female of the three beings: Agatha.
Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown) describes Agatha as essentially "a child, but she has wisdom beyond her years. She sees people's feelings and emotions and feels their pain and suffering. It's a harsh reality for her."
"The three beings in the tank are not treated as human beings," says Spielberg. "They're not even being treated as government workers. They're being treated like vegetables that spin a magic elixir that allows us to stop murders from happening. It takes Anderton a while to learn how to relate to the main pre-cog, Agatha."
Prior to seeing his own face in a Pre-Crime visualisation, Anderton never considered the questionable implications surrounding arresting and convicting individuals before they have committed murder.
"Anderton comes into this story with an air of professionalism, because he's the best at what he does," Spielberg explains. "But he's also under a very dark cloud … Everybody he has trained to be good at stopping murders before they happen, all these trainees who are the best of the best, then come after him using all the techniques that he taught them."
"Anderton aggressively goes after people who are going to commit murder," says Frank. "He is terrific at locating them, taking these little cues of information and piecing it all together to solve the murder. He is completely together and on top of it during the day, but at night you see a man who is completely fractured and falling apart.
Spielberg points out that Anderton is on two journeys. "One is a physical journey of discovering all the clues to either vindicate himself or determine that he, in fact, can and will murder. In addition, he is on an inner journey, an emotional struggle. So every scene is informed twice - once by the information he gathers and again as he lives his life. This makes this one of the more compelling roles Tom Cruise has ever had to play, and I think he pulls it off amazingly well."
Likewise, screenwriter Frank has nothing but praise for the fearlessness with which Cruise approached the role. "From the very beginning of the project, Steven and I would periodically discuss with him what we were doing in terms of his character," Frank explains. "He's never been afraid of embracing dark characters and never once complained about any of those aspects. We tried hard to keep in mind that he's this great movie star and you want to have a great time and see him doing certain things. But at the same time he was all for going deep and making it as emotional as we needed it to be. He encouraged us to go as far as we possibly could, and I think he does his best work when we go really far with it."
In the film, the Pre-Cogs are grown children whom the state has taken away from their unstable or drug addicted parents, and made essentially into predicting machines. "You harness them and stick them in this tank and force them to dream of violent crime and murder all the time," Underkoffler states. "It has a very objectionable element. But the way Steven has conceived and put this film together does a great job at just subtly suggesting that. All of our protagonists work for this agency, but at the same time the agency is engaged in something that many people might object to."
"People can be against capital punishment until they lose a loved one," says Frank. "We can be completely civilised until the murder rate goes way up and we need to figure out how to bring in the troops. That's how dictatorships get started; it's always for the greater good. We use the Abraham Lincoln quote in the movie -- sometimes it's better to sacrifice a limb to save the whole body. But how far do you go and by sacrificing the limb are you really controlling the whole body more than you are saving the whole body?"
cinematography and design
stunts and action
music and sound
the principle crew
producer/ director steven spielberg
screenwriter scott frank
co-screenwriter jon cohen
director of photography janusz kaminski
editor michael kahn
production designer alex mc dowell
ALSO READ: Spielberg's A.I (Artificial Intelligence)
VISIT THE WEBSITE: www.minorityreport.com