FOX opting for another science fiction series after unceremoniously dumping fan favorite Almost Human is a bit puzzling. Perhaps the idea that the 2002 film Minority Report is connected with Steven Spielberg; who directed the big screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story. Whereas the futuristic Almost Human had no similar pedigree, except the confidence of J. J. Abrahams, but it did have pretty devoted following.
In all honesty, the series is quite different from the Tom Cruise vehicle and only uses Dick’s premise very slightly. Precrimes has been demolished and now the precognitive’s live outside the system, expelled by the system that their presence helped to create. The year is 2040 and police have, in essence, taken a huge step back in solving crimes.
Only, however, in that they must now wait for the crime to be committed. In terms of investigative equipment, law enforcement in this alternative future world have some pretty impressive tools at their disposal. Including something that looks like a nod and a tweak from the 2010 Sony/Quantic Dream video game Heavy Rain.
In Minority Report, at the start of the episode, one of the precog’s, Dash (played by Stark Sands who looks like a cross between Jessie Eisenberg and perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch) goes to the big city to stop a murder. Sadly, for the victim, he fails since he rushes to the wrong building.
This leaves the police to come in and investigate what happened and this is where the television version of Minority Report goes all Heavy Rain and Norman Jayden with his ARI system. In the Quantic Dream game, FBI drug addict Jayden wears a pair of glasses, which could conceivable be seen as the video game world precursor of Google Glasses.
The agent slips the glasses on, along with a pair of special gloves and ARI collects clues, postulates paths and forensically exams evidence. Jayden becomes a walking, talking crime computer. In the apartment of the murdered woman, Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) does not need glasses, she inserts a contact lens and instead of gloves, the detective puts in a single ear plug.
Using her version of ARI, Vega is able to see what transpired when the victim was attacked and then thrown through and from her high-rise apartment window. For all intents and purposes Vega has become Jayden, sans the ARI side effects which drove the video game character to become addicted to a drug.
The series features technology that has become almost synonymous with the future. The police in 2040 have virtual computers and there are holographic phones, as well as monitors. This technology also existed in the brain child of creator J.H. Wyman and executive producer J.J. Abrahams, but their “video game” point of reference appeared to be the 2011 game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Karl Urban’s character, in Almost Human, has an advanced prosthetic, which is the basis behind the verse of the Eidos Montreal game. The former FOX science fiction offering looked further into the synthetic verse from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and had police utilizing androids who were “almost human.”
Minority Report has no Tom Cruise, or small screen equivalent, as its star. Almost Human had “almost” too many high profile names. Karl Urban, Lili Taylor and the ever-busy Michael Ealy. To be fair to the new series, it does have prolific actress Meagan Good, former horror film regular Laura Regan and “Fez” from That ’70s Show (aka Wilmer Valderrama who is now all grown up and quite the specimen.)
Still, in the stakes of which show had more star power, if casting were a card game, it would be a case of “I’ll take your “Fez” and raise you a Lili Taylor.” Urban trumps all the other names on offer from Minority Report easily. (That may well have been the real reason behind FOX killing the other science fiction series. Urban made the exodus from TV to film easily and was probably not in a real hurry to return for too long.)
The Minority Report pilot feels a little smug and self gratifying. Director Mark Mylod (Entourage, Ali G Indahouse) seems an odd choice as the season one opening director but the problem with the pilot is not his fault. Things in this adaptation of an adaptation, clang.
The use of robotic help makes no real sense in some of the scenes. Written, seemingly, for effect, the fast food restaurant scene with the robot cook and the little genetic’s spiel about french fries does not work. Earlier a robot is demolishing a steel structure and while this scene feels that bit more “real” it still invites more questions than it should.
There is, however, one possible saving grace for the new series. During the back half of the pilot, the two precog brothers discuss the Precrime program and the conversation recalls Philip K. Dick’s theme of variable futures and other timelines which the Cruise film did not touch.
This moving back to the source is admirable and leads one to believe that this may turn out all right after all. Granted, the source material is a short story so this return is not the end all be all of the show. There is also the fact that Dash is, in the pilot anyway, pretty infallible with his flashes of precognition and the premise behind Dick’s book was that this cannot, or should not, be the case.
The overall feeling from watching the season premiere of Minority Report is one of expectation rather than satisfaction. In essence, the jury is out on this Sleepy Hollow version of Philip K. Dick’s bleak future scenario. The show airs Mondays on FOX. The big question is will this new series suffer the same fate as Almost Human?