When I was a little boy, my foster parents gave me this crappy construction toy where you connect various pieces of wood and roll marbles through them; the idea being that a kid would create this huge tower and be fascinated all day as one marble after another rolled through the maze. About two days after I got the thing, I fed pieces of it to the neighbor's dog and watched amused at he wandered around their house and yard with bowel problems.
This is apparently how criminals will be caught in the future -- via marbles rolling down a little ramp. One marble will have the victim's name on it and the other marble will have the killer's name on it and the cops will run out and catch the guy before he even commits the crime. At least, this is the premise of "Minority Report," Steven Spielberg's latest failed science fiction outing. Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, the lead cop at the Division of Pre-Crime. The marbles roll down their ramps to convey the visions of the three bizarre-looking "Precog" people at the center of the system.
One really has to wonder how this whole Precog thing got going since the three of them (one woman, two men) spend all day lying in a vat of goo half-naked. Nice work if you can get it. After the balls roll out of the ramp, Anderton stands in front of a huge screen with his hands up in the air and attempts to masturbate imaginary pigeons. (Okay, I get what he's doing, but the idea that operating a computer 52 years from now will be something akin to air Kung Fu seems excessively stupid.)
Things go wrong for Anderton when Detective Witwer (Colin Farrell) shows up. Witwer has his heart set on measuring penis sizes with Anderton, but apparently settles for framing him. Suddenly, the Precogs have a vision involving Anderton killing a guy and Witwer leads the team to have Anderton arrested. Naturally, despite all this foolproof technology, Anderton gets away and goes on an intense journey of self-discovery where he learns that it's okay to cry, we do have a choice in this world, and life is like a box of chocolates.
Though Spielberg tries to keep his vision of the future believable, he predictably falters when any opportunity arises for a good special effect to take center stage. The mechanical spiders that crawl around and take retinal scans in dangerous situations are way too advanced for only 52 years in the future. Also, it's disappointing to discover that villains haven't progressed much in half a century – the nemesis reveals himself by giving away a detail of the murder that he shouldn't know about (a resolution I've seen handled this way about a dozen times now). The villain comments on the murder, his companion says, "I didn't say anything about a stuffed frog and a dildo," and suddenly everyone knows the true identity of the killer.
I don't know if Tom Cruise has checked his driver's license recently, but I think he's 38. Keep your shirt on, pal. I'm aware that we're supposed to be viewing a version of the "nightmare future," but gut-sucking technology probably has another 50 years to go before you'll be able to pull off that particular special effect. Like Cruise and Spielberg themselves, the future just ain't what it used to be.
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