Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 279, on which John is going to commit a murder! Well that's what the freaky tank people say, anyway... [6.10.10]

Dag to hundrede nioghalvfjerds. So my school made the public papers. Believe it or not; our headteacher (a new guy for this year) ate a tarantula in front of the all of the students in an assembly last friday. See the details here on the Telegraph site. It got a little pic on the front cover of the daily national newspaper The Telegraph, and the full article was on page 3. What for? To raise money, you see. I won't comment on this, because no doubt someone will find this comment, but I generally think it's for good. I want that drama hall to be finished sometime soon, it'll be awesome.

The topic's been breeding discussion like rabbits over my Facebook world, though I feel I must show you
my favourite quotes from the comments on the Telegraph article webpage:
"... and somewhere in cambodia there is someone who is standing infront of an assembly about to eat a nondescript piece of processed meat with e-numbers and artificial couloring - some of the crowd are said to be quite disgusted with what he's about to eat."
“I don't care if it is responsibly sourced, if children get the wrong idea then they'll think it's OK to go around eating spiders.”
"We're in Orpington and in Orpington we don't do things like this." 
"I bet there must be at least one child with parents of Cambodian origin at the school - do they eat spiders?"
I couldn't stop laughing at that last one. If they're Cambodian, they must eat, like, loads of spiders. All the time. For dinner when the kid gets home. When the inlaws come over they just pop a tarantula in the oven, Gas Mark 2, and volià: spiders for tea. Cultural stereotyping for the win.

Onto the main topic of the day, which is a quick review of the sci-fi film Minority Report. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring, notably and the only big name in the film, Tom Cruise as the main character John Anderton.

Cops with jetpacks. Because fuck you, that's why.
The film is set about 50 years in the future, where there are three people called 'precogs' who can see crimes before they happen. Yeah, you're right with what you're thinking, there's a buttload of predicting-the-future paradoxes and Flashforward-style plot devices. But luckily it's different from that. The three precogs, who sit in a tank and twitch a lot, predict crimes and then Tom Cruise goes out and catches the vill-ains. But oh noes, they've predicted that he will commit a murder! Kill some dude! Gawsh! Add in a sympathetic backstory, dayglo cinematography and kickass production design and you've got Minority Report.

Tom Cruise's magic screen
In a way, the lighting and production of Minority Report reminds me a lot of Bladerunner: most notably, Tom Cruise's apartment with its shutter blinds, messy interior and clever technology reflect Deckard's apartment almost spookily. The whole cop-in-the-future-but-not-too-far-in-the-future concept is a trademark of Bladerunner, and like Deckard, Cruise's character has a shady backstory that we only see clearly near the end of the film.

The production design of Minority Report is what made the movie work for me. The technology, gadgets, cars, computers, clothing, scenery, everything... they create a faultless vision of the future that is both believable and sufficiently sci-fi enough for Spielberg's films. The curved glass screen Cruise uses to navigate the visions of the future the Precogs have is particularly mind-blowing. He uses special gloves to manipulate elements on the screen, using different gestures to rewind a vision or bring up another picture or zoom in, etc etc. Kinda like a multitouch iPhone, only in 3D. He acts that pretty well, actually.

Also there's a bunch of other gadgets, from the scary plastic casing and workings of the illegal drug 'neuroin' to the 'sick stick' which looks like a truncheon and does exactly what its name suggests, from the freaking awesome gun with releases a burst of air to the transportation pods and vertical highways that wrap round the buildings in 2060s Washington DC. There's even a concept Lexus car for Cruise to bop in - which reminds me of Will Smith's Audi concept car in I, Robot. Maybe that's just a concept. Maybe Lexus wanted a piece of the action. It probably doesn't drive as well as the Audi, anyway.

But the production design is much more than just gadgets. The filmmakers have created an entire world of interacting technology and social systems. For example, everyone is identified by their eyes by eye scanners which do that beepy thing. Cruise walks into a shopping centre at one point and, upon detecting his eyes and identifying him, hologram adverts beckon him over by mentioning his name: "Wondering what to do with your used mobiles, Mr. Anderton?", "Fancy a facelift, Mr Anderton?" "I know what you need Mr. Anderton. A holiday in the Bahamas." Genius stuff. A display in Gap even greets him when he enters the shop, saying "coming for another pair of jeans, Mr Anderton?" You can't help but love it.

However, there seems to be a large contrast between the hi-tech cities and some of the other houses and locales in the story. There's a victorian-style greenhouse, for instance, and a congressman's office is furnished with early 20th century furniture. Why is there such a contrast? Technology influences everything, yet we see in the first act of the film a suburban house which has no signs of technology beyond that of the 1950s. It's very odd.

The cinematography of Minority Report is very interesting, with bright, glowing overexposed glare from light sources and a permanently blue-tinted look to the entire film. Whilst that may have passed for 'it's blue cause it's the future' in 2002, eight years later it's starting to look a bit clichéd. Some of the shots in the film are beautifully composed, I must admit, especially one with Anderton and Agatha look in opposite directions which, if you see the film, you'll recognise and you'll agree with me. Some of the visual effects look a little crappy, particularly the 3D renders, but the holograms, computer screens, CGI cityscapes and graphics are spot-on. An interesting thing to note is that Minority Report is shot on an odd format which gives it a lot of fine grain, contrasting the slick, clean lines of the world of the future it displays.

In terms of acting, the film is bearable. Tom Cruise does his usual - featuring a lot of running, of course - and the others do their best to keep the - at times, poor - script convincing. The woman who plays Agatha, one of the PreCogs, is severely annoying. She screeches and twitches and generally pissed me off whilst watching the movie. Yes, she's meant to act odd but she's just disrupting the film in several scenes.

The score is brilliant, as is most work by its composer John Williams, though at times the orchestra of classical instruments fails to meet the futuristic mood of the visuals, and there's some friction between the elements. IE, you don't want to hear violins and harps if you're watching a hi-tech scene. But those are only small parts. Otherwise, I loved Williams' score. Reminded me a lot of all his other scores, but ah well. John Williams + Steven Spielberg = great success.

So, whilst Minority Report may have production values way beyond any other movie of the time, it's got its flaws and they can't just go unnoticeable. For that reason, I give it four Js:

J J J J -  FOUR Js

~John

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