Spielberg’s best since Saving Private Ryan comes home on an amazing two-disc set.
December 06, 2002 – Being a huge fan of Philip K. Dick’s writing, I was really looking forward to Minority Report when it was released this past summer. I’ve read the short story that the film was based on before, and I was curious to see how closely Spielberg’s version of the story would match the original. Surprisingly, the film actually stays pretty close to the Philip K. Dick original, while mixing things up just enough to keep fans of the short story guessing towards the end.
In the works for more than two years, the Minority Report DVD has arrived, and it’s one of the top releases of 2002. Featuring a great anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, and a second disc packed with extras, this is one DVD that no Spielberg fan should be without this year.
Minority Report takes place in the year 2054. Washington D.C. is currently testing a new brand of justice called “Precrime” where murders are able to be seen in advance by three psychic mutants known as the “Precogs”. Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the head of the successful division, and all seems to be going well until the Precogs foresee that he is going to commit murder, so he runs and sets out to find out why the Precogs saw what they did.
The movie is based on the short story of the same name, and it stays pretty truthful to that original text, with just enough changes made to create an entertaining movie that would appeal to the mass-market audience as well as to throw readers of the book for a loop towards the end of the film.
In the original short story, Anderton was an aging pudgy guy who was balding, and he felt his job was in danger by an upstart younger guy who shows up one day. In the film, Anderton is Tom Cruise, and the upstart who comes in to Precrime is Colin Farrell. Once the Precogs predict Anderton’s crime, the basic story is pretty similar to the original short story (except his murder target is not the same) right up to the third act where things get a bit different, and in some ways better.
Screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen were able to take a very good Philip K. Dick short story, and translate it into a movie while still retaining the intelligence of the original text. The realization of what caused the Precog’s prediction in the book is a little more thought-provoking than what is revealed in the film, but the movie doesn’t really suffer too much. It’s still a smarter film than most summer blockbusters.
The acting across the board is excellent, with not a single really weak performance, and with the help of this “Think Tank” of scientists and futurists along with ILM, Spielberg was able to craft a very convincing future that isn’t that far away. ILM’s work on the movie is very solid and is easily one of their best effects jobs on a 2002 film.
Minority Report feels like a much more complete film than Spielberg’s previous (A.I.) and doesn’t really fall apart towards the end like that last Sci-Fi flick did. It’s a great adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, and is a front-runner for one of the best movies of 2002.
Minority Report is presented in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen. That’s right, 2.39:1. The movie marked a return to the scope aspect ration for Spielberg, and the Director once again teamed up with Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. As you probably know, his famous grain is everywhere in the image. Now, that’s how the film was intended, but I for one am beginning to become pretty annoyed at the “Kaminski Effect” that’s present in Spielberg’s films.
Sure it creates a stylish look to the movie, and it looks fantastic on the big screen, but it doesn’t translate too well to DVD. Our favorite digital medium allows every single little spec of grain to be seen, and combined with the film’s washed out and subdued color palate, it prevents the image from being as sharp and detailed as it could be.
With that little rant out of the way, the transfer on the disc is very solid with some moments where there is some pretty good detail. Just look at the Precrime officers’ helmets in the early scenes, or all of the little layers and threads of video that can be seen in the “scrubbing the image” shot. Another great moment is the awesome overhead shot during the “Spyder Sequence” where all sorts of little details can be seen in the various rooms that the camera passes over.
Any visible edge enhancement wasn’t that annoying, and I noticed no real bad compression artifacts.
As expected, the DVD includes robust Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS mixes, and no matter what your bias is, you can’t really be totally disappointed with either mix. Both mixes feature a very active sound field, with all five channels receiving quite a bit of attention throughout the entire film. While the DTS track features slightly smoother and more natural sounding separation and a little less jarring bass than the Dolby mix, both are very solid and definitely impresses in many sequences in the film.
Remember the seismic charges on the Episode II DVD? Well, the sequence with the shockwave shotguns is almost as fun on the ears as that new demo sequence. The resulting bass and reverb from the weapon is enough to impress even the most jaded audiophile.
I also came to appreciate John William’s low-key and very un-sci-fi score thanks to the 5.1 mixes on this disc. His score is used quite well in the surround channels and there are even some very cool moments where drumbeats will jump between the two forward surrounds to create a very nice little effect.
No matter what track you choose to listen to, you’ll be hearing one very strong audio presentation.
With the entire first disc being devoted solely to the film, all of the extras are found on disc two, so lets just dive right on into the goodies.
“From Story to Screen” includes two different featurettes. “The Story – The Debate” runs for just over nine minutes, and includes interviews with both Spielberg and Cruise where they talk about how the two came together to make the film. Spielberg speaks about how he always wanted to work with Cruise, while Tom comments on how the films of Spielberg had affected him.
Screenwriter Jon Cohen talks a bit about Philip K. Dick as well as the themes of Minority Report and how it was turned into a script. Then, the films’ other Screenwriter Scott Frank begins to talk about making the people in the film as real as they could be. The rest of the featurette gives viewers a basic overview of what the story is about and what a Minority Report is.
“The Players” is another nine-minute-plus featurette that delves into the cast and characters in the film. Once again, there are all-new interviews with Spielberg, Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max Von Sydow, and Samantha Morton where they talk about their characters.
“Deconstructing Minority Report” goes in-depth with the creation of the future world where the movie takes place. It begins with a nine-minute featurette titled “The World of Minority Report – An Introduction” where Spielberg talks about how he gathered scientists and futurists to plot out and design what the world would be like in about fifty years time. One neat comment from Spielberg is how he mentions that the “1984” prophecy doesn’t come true in the 20th century, but rather the 21st century. The featurette also touches on how the washed out look of the movie was achieved, and even includes some comments from John Williams about the noir influences in his score.
“Precrime and Pecogs” runs for just over eight minutes and looks at the design of the Precrime police station, and includes comments from Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski about what it was like to shoot in such a layered environment. The featurette then goes on and talks about the design of the Precogs, and then Spielberg talks a bit about the cool futuristic toys and gadgets that the police use in the movie such as the shockwave guns and the jetpacks.
“The Spyder Sequence” is a five-minute featurette on the Spyder scene in the middle of the movie, and it includes a detailed breakdown of the sequence as well as an in-depth look at the effects that includes multiple shots of the scene being developed with CGI. Also, John Williams goes into detail on scoring the sequence. Probably one of the coolest parts of the featurette is when Kaminski talks about how the awesome, long, overhead shot of the apartment complex was achieved.
“Precog Visions” is another short featurette that runs for almost five minutes and talks about how Imaginary Forces (who did the main title sequence on Seven) created the visions that the Precogs saw to predict crimes.
“Vehicles of the Future” once again runs for five minutes, and talks all about the different futuristic vehicles used in the film. For the maglev vehicles, we see some of the early computer animatics for the sequence as well as an interview with Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom where he describes how he created the unique sound of those vehicles. In addition to covering the cool Lexus that Tom Cruise drives, the featurette also details the police flying vehicles with behind the scenes footage, CGI tests, and early concept art.
“The Stunts of Minority Report” includes detailed behind-the-scenes stunt footage for in-depth breakdowns of three key sequences: “The Maglev Chase”, “The Hoverpack Chase”, and “The Car Factory”. Each of the featurettes run about three minutes and offers great descriptions on how each of the stunts sequences was created.
The next section on the disc is “ILM and Minority Report”. This is the area where effects hounds will gorge themselves on ILM’s contribution to the film. Minority Report was easily the best work that ILM did in a 2002 film, and the featurettes in this area take viewers deep into select sequences.
It all kicks off with a five-minute “Introduction”, where ILM’s role in the film is explained. Tom Cruise talks about how this was really one of the first times where he would have to act against something that wasn’t there, and how Spielberg’s experience with effects helped him through the scenes. ILM then starts to explain how Spielberg always would have input on the effects shots.
Following that little introduction there are sequence-specific featurettes for “Holograms”, “Hall of Containment”, “Mag-Lev”, “Hovercraft/Hoverpacks”, and the “Cyberparlor”. As with the stunt featurettes in the previous section, each of these informative featurettes run just a little over three minutes, with the exception of the “Cyberparlor” one that is just over a minute in length.
“Final Report” is a three-minute discussion with Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg where the two talk about working with each other that ends with the production credits for the DVD.
When you’re done with all of those video features, there’s an extensive archive of the film included on the disc. In here, you’ll find concept art galleries for “Precrime”, “Hovership”, “Hoversuit”, “Hall of Containment”, “Spyders”, “Precog”, “Cyberparlor”, “Buildings and Architecture”, “Roadway Systems”, “Vehicles”, “City Apartment”, “Greenhouse Plants”, and “Objects”. Storyboards for the “Mag-Lev Sequence”, “Alley Chase”, and “Car Factory” are also included in their own galleries. Rounding out the archives is a trailer section with three trailers for the film and a preview of the Activision videogame, cast and filmmaker information, and finally production notes.
Special mention of the menu design needs to be made, as both discs features menus modeled after the “scrubbing the image” sequence where they are fully animated and when you select a new menu choice it slides and zooms into view just like the video clips in that scene in the film.