‘Minority Report’ Transforms a Brainy Sci-Fi Thriller Into a Generic Crime Procedural


In his four-star review of the 2002 film Minority Report — which he would eventually name the best picture of that year — Roger Ebert wrote, “At a time when movies think they have to choose between action and ideas, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is a triumph — a film that works on our minds and our emotions. It is a thriller and a human story, a movie of ideas that’s also a whodunit.” It’s worth remembering how innovative and unique that film was — how it moved past cop-flick and sci-fi tropes, and staked out its own territory — when contemplating Fox’s new TV adaptation/continuation of the movie, which all but leaves a cloud of dust in its retreat to safe, familiar ground. It’s like a Max Fischer Players version of the Spielberg film.

The opening scenes get us up to speed, revisiting the premise of the movie (and the Philip K. Dick story that inspired it): a not-too-distant future wherein three young “pre-cogs” can see crimes before they’re committed, resulting in the creation of “pre-crime” policing. That sequence ends as the movie does, with the pre-crime unit abolished, and the pre-cogs sent off to an undisclosed location “to hide from the world… but they couldn’t hide forever.”

We’re now in Washington, DC in the year 2065, and our pre-cogs must spend their lives going through the world, seeing futures they don’t want to see. One of them, Dash (Stark Sands, who made a brief but memorable appearance in Inside Llewyn Davis), still tries to save the day, though he doesn’t seem to have much luck in that department; he’s introduced failing to stop a murder, foiled by numerous goofy deterrents (including, I swear to God, an Asian street festival).

So with that location now a crime scene, the cops show up, and that’s when Minority Report really gets dire, for two reasons: 1. We realize it’s not going to be a smart sci-fi series, but yet another dopey police procedural; and 2. people start exchanging dialogue. It’s not just that they’re spouting future-y sounding cop jargon like, “I have no face recs, no retinal scans” and “I did manage to pull this off a selfie drone” (sure, we’ll still be saying “selfie” in 50 years, absolutely); it’s that they’re mouthing inane cop-show standbys like, “Earth to Dash!” and “To what do we owe the honor” and, and this is true, “Peekaboo, bitch!”

That last bon mot comes courtesy of the show’s other protagonist, Lara Vega (Meagan Good), a tough, smart, sexy cop who can kick bad-guy ass with the best of ‘em, but — you’ll wanna sit down, this is good — she can’t cook (I’m not kidding, there’s a whole little comic beat built around that) and she just can’t make a relationship work, and isn’t that always the way? There was apparently something once upon a time with her borderline-harasser boss (Wilmer Valderrama, of course), but we’ll apparently have to get the full details on that when her squad girlfriend does, at their “next karaoke night.” (Actual dialogue!)

Anyway, Dash tries to use his pre-visualization of the crime to help Lara catch the murderer, in spite of his sister Agatha’s warnings and taunting: “You think you can fix the past by meddling with the future?” If you remember the film well — and trust me, the less you do, the better this show is — then you might recall Agatha being the pre-cog of note; here, she’s a background player, so that Dash and Lara can team up in the great odd-couple cop show tradition: man/woman, white/black, clean/slob, pre-cog/cop, introvert/extrovert (he “just needs to work on his people skills,” you see). And, lest you worry that Fox is attempting to mold Minority Report into the current vogue of “gritty” crime shows, have no fear: by mid-episode it’s clear they’re reaching back further, trying to create some kind of faux X-Files, complete with broad hints that they’ll be “shipping” poor Dash and Lara.

Late in the show, Lara rolls out a handful of drone balls to find a suspect in a large building, recalling the robot spider sequence in the film — an important reminder late in this cripplingly vanilla hour of television that, yes, right, this show was based on a thing that we liked. By that point, however, all is lost; the climax features not just action and emotion but a solemn “thank you,” and the episode closes with this exchange between our heroes:

Dash: What happens next time? Lara: Shouldn’t you be telling me?

Why they didn’t go all the way with it and just have the pair do a freeze-framed high-five is beyond me, but let’s leave it with this: any doubt that Minority Report was pure fantasy is laid to rest by this television adaptation, because the premise holds that pre-cogs can prevent crimes and tragedies from occurring, yet somehow, Fox’s Minority Report made it all the way to series.

Minority Report premieres tonight.