Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Look at PKD - The Minority Report

Next up for the month is a new, small segment. Ever since I started to do this branch out, I’ve been looking into the writings of different sci-fi authors. One of the big ones has been author, Phillip K. Dick. I wanted to touch upon one of his novels and its adaptation last year, but I didn’t finish it in time. Then, there’s the fact I can’t find the dang thing. Anyway, instead of A Scanner Darkly, I think I’m going to start off with a more well-known property: Minority Report.

The Minority Report was a short story that first debuted in Fantastic Universe, a sci-fi magazine from the 1950’s. It’s been reprinted in a lot of places since then. It was even adapted into a small indie movie by the guy who did one of the Jurassic Park movies. I think the lead actor was some up-and-comer named Tom Cruise. Hopefully, you can smell the snark. I originally saw the movie before I read the story. For a while, I didn’t know it had been adapted. Later on, I actually found the story in a book that had other short stories written by Dick. So, what do I think of the original story and its adaptation?

The Minority Report
Story Written by Phillip K. Dick
Movie directed by Stephen Spielberg

BRIEF BLURB: In the future, a division known as Precrime is used to stop and punish crimes before they happen. Its director, John Anderton, ends up being accused of murdering a man, so he goes on the run to find out how it happens.

Original Story
The short story starts out in New York City sometime in the far future. The Precrime Division has pretty much stopped a majority of felonies by using Precogs, mutants who can predict the future. John A. Anderton is its founder and he’s about to retire. Things are going well until a new assistant named Ed Witwer shows up. Sometime later, the Precogs accuse Anderton of killing a retired general named Leopold Kaplan. Anderton finds out and goes on the run. He never met the man and thinks that Witwer or someone else is out to get him. He even doesn’t trust his wife, Lisa (who’s also a cop), at first.
Well, they didn't like each other that much in the story either.

Anderton eventually finds out about the minority report and tries to use that to exonerate himself. Eventually, he finds out that Kaplan is actually wanting to prove that Precrime is a flawed system and doesn’t work. Kaplan also wants the military to essentially seize control of it. His wife and Witwer are actually not behind it. In order to save the system he created, he turns himself in, meets Kaplan at a rally, and willingly shoots him. Because of this, Anderton and Lisa are exiled off planet while Witwer is made the new commissioner. The short story ends with Anderton telling Witwer to watch out or this could happen to him as well.

Movie and Changes Made
The movie takes place in Washington D.C. around 2054. Created by Lamar Burgess, The Precrime Division has been preventing murders for the last few years by using the Precogs, three mutants who can predict murder. Captain John Anderton is its leader and keeps it all together while battling drug addiction. His son went missing a few years earlier and he is separated from his wife, Lara. Since the government is wondering if Precrime can be used all over, they send Daniel Witwer to audit the division and see if it truly works.

During this audit, Anderton uncovers a weird case from the early days of Precrime.  Sometime later, the Precogs see another murder coming up. This time, Anderton is the perpetrator and is supposed to kill someone he’s never met. Because of this, Anderton goes on the run. After some shenanigans, he finds out about the minority report from the program’s creator. It may be the key to proving his innocence. Plus, there’s the weird case to consider.

I think I’ll lay low with the spoilers on this movie especially if you haven’t seen it. While the movie sticks to the original story at points, they do diverge in a lot of places. Wikipedia actually has all of the places where it’s different. Some of the changes makes sense. Since the 1956 story is about 30 pages in length, stuff definitely needed to be added. For example, the book version of John A. Anderton was basically split into two people: Lamar Burgess, the creator, and John Anderton, the runner. A lot of other stuff was added like the backstory with the Precogs and John’s family life. The ending is also pretty different from the story.

Short Story
I thought that this an interesting one. Since I had seen the movie before reading this, I didn’t know what to expect. It takes the premise of the movie and more or less goes into fast forward since it is much shorter. A lot of the things touched on in the movie only rarely get mentioned here. Of course, things are a bit different. John A. Anderton is in his 50’s and not as fresh-looking as Tom Cruise. Plus, Precrime is much wider here and we have space travel. It sounds so fun.

You get the idea that it is a much harsher world with this new system around. What happens to Anderton is pretty much the best example. The ending took me for a surprise since I’ve saw the movie beforehand. Given the context, it makes sense why Anderton did what he did. Whether it was the right thing is another thing entirely, but that’s up for debate. His end is actually less harsh than I thought it’d be especially when you consider the movie. The writing was also pretty good for the most part.

I don’t have too many problems with the story itself. There is a part of me that wishes it was longer. Things and ideas get mentioned but there’s not enough room to really search them. It can also get confusing when delving into the Precogs’ different predictions. Overall, this was fine. I do wish the concepts were explored further, but Dick only had so much room. I say give this a read. It’s not that long and it’s cool to see where it all began for this concept.

Now, we get to the movie. Folk have claimed that this movie is one of the best sci-fi movies. I can’t say I’m in that crowd, but it's a pretty good one. It takes a lot of inspiration from Dick’s work especially another story he’s well known for. I’ll save my story about Blade Runner for another time, though. It’s a crime noir mystery set in a pretty high-tech future. The story is interesting and it keeps you guessing on what’s really happening. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise here. I’ve never had a problem with the guy, so I liked how he portrayed Anderton. I also thought that the additions to Anderton’s backstory worked really well.
Well, I see that Internet surfing will be much of a chore in the future.

The concepts about precrime, free will,  and determining the future are explored in nice detail. The movie just had more time to explore all of that stuff and it and managed to throw in some cool action. This is a movie starring Tom Cruise, so he needs to be running from something, after all. The action scenes were exciting and sometimes funny.  I thought the twists they pulled were also pretty nice. I also liked the way it was filmed. It had a grainy, film reel feel to it.

There really isn’t much I don’t like about the movie. I do have a couple of problems with the ending, though. It seems like things get rushed after something happens to Anderton. While I liked the twist at the end about the real villain, the tone felt off compared to the rest of the movie. Now, there are some out there that have a theory on the last part of the movie. Y'all can look that up yourself. Personally, I don’t agree with it but I can see why they would think this theory is true. Either way, my problems with the last part don’t derail everything else. Other than the last part and some small nitpicks, this was a good movie.


In the end, both the short story and its adaptation were good. You can’t always say that. As for which is better, you can’t really compare them. One’s a short story while the other is a 2 hour movie. I do recommend them both though.  I don't know about the TV show though. Maybe that'll be a post for the future. Well, it’s time for me to get back to reading another story. Whether  The Star Wars is good or not is another thing entirely. Until then, Peace, God Bless and be careful out there. By the way, I have a little confession to make about the title of this segment:

“I considered calling it ‘Dick Time’ or ‘A Time for Dick…Phillip K. Dick’ but I changed my mind for obvious reasons.”
-Archie Ryell Williams

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