Adaptation Analysis: Minority Report

Philip K Dick’s short story,Minority Report,” focuses on the paranoia of the protagonist, John A. Anderton. As Dick describes, Anderton is “Bald and fat and old (119)” and is the retiring commissioner of the precrime unit who arrests people before they commit murder. The precogs are what they use: mutants who receive visions from the future. The precrime unit treats these mutants (Mike, Donna, and Jerry) as a means to an end with no autonomy. The story intensifies as Witwer comes into the picture as a future replacement for our current commissioner. Everything is set in motion when Anderton finds his name on a card that tells the commissioner who is going to commit murder. The card says he is to murder a retired army general, Leopold Kaplan. As this is all developed, Anderton wonders if Witwer is looking for power and if his wife is conspiring against him. As a filmmaker known for his spectacle, Steven Spielberg takes Dick’s short story and expands it with many new elements and possibilities. Evidently, Spielberg uses the interweaving strategy. Desmond’s definition of point-of-departure indicates extreme distance, and I think Spielberg does not go far enough for this strategy. Spielberg takes some of what Dick grapples with and reimagines and reconfigures the plot. He keeps character names, narrative details, and disperses them in a different order. He is not afraid to scramble many essential elements of the story to fit a vision that he wants to accomplish for Hollywood and himself. A sequence that is indicative of Spielberg’s application of the interweaving strategy is the murder of Leopold Kaplan in the short story. Spielberg scrambles this scene and retains details in other parts of the film. When Anderton (Tom Cruise) confronts Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) in the film, the sequence is a reimagining of this crucial climactic scene in the short story.

With his mise-en-scene, Spielberg uses Dick’s story in a way that complements the visual storytelling of cinema. He has a radiant ability to create mood or tone through various choices in partnership with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. For example, the filter that the filmmakers employ is “bleach bypass,” which highlights blues and causes paler skin. This filter pairs well with the subject matter; the bluish tint compliments the futuristic world, the theme of an all-seeing surveillance state, and overwhelmingly present technologies (which often overtake the frame). Both iterations interestingly tackle “extrapolation”— a common occurrence in science fiction when a writer takes known scientific concepts and imagines how events and circumstances may evolve. Spielberg extrapolates on the surveillance state and uses context from post-9/11 United States policies to predict how these policies will develop with technology. Spielberg opens the film with a close-up of an eye and subsequently has eye-scanners as a means of surveillance. He does not extrapolate everything that Dick does. He still has some similarities. Philip K Dick extrapolates on authoritarianism, the criminal justice system, penal servitude through exile to other planets, and individual freedom. For authoritarianism, Dick uses Leopold Kaplan, “General of the Army of the Federated West-bloc Alliance.” as the conspirator to authoritarian rule. Kaplan tells Anderton that he is, “Retired, since the end of the Anglo-Chinese War, and the abolishment of AFWA.” (127). The indication that the military has lost power and Kaplan’s attempt to seize power by discrediting the pre-crime system extrapolates that authoritarian rule will always be possible. At the end of the short story, Anderton waits to fulfill his exile to “Centaurus X by inter-system transport” (149). Lisa, his wife, declares, “I suppose we won’t be able to use these new atronic appliances. They’re still using electricity on Centten.”(150). Dick extrapolates on the future of punishment and even something as universal as electricity.

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