It may be damning praise to say that Fox’s Minority Report is the happy victim of lowered expectations. Given the popularity and critical acclaim of the 2002 Steven Spielberg film upon which it is based, many thought the television series would surely pale in comparison both thematically and creatively. To its credit, it doesn’t even try to aim that high. Instead, it uses the original film as a jumping off point and applies Sleepy Hollow‘s framework to evolve into a fairly intelligent and always entertaining show. Based on the pilot, Minority Report technical categories could buy it a ticket to next year’s Emmy ceremony, but nothing else seen thus far merits significant awards conversation.
The Minority Report series picks up several years after the original film ended where pre-cogs Dash (Stark Sands of Broadway’s Kinky Boots), Arthur (the yet-to-be-seen Nick Zano, Happy Endings), and Agatha (Laura Regan, Mad Men) were secluded in an isolated cabin, protected from the world still reeling from the negative affects of the pre-cog program. An interesting side note for those who remember disliking the optimistic ending of the original film over the more pessimistic ending where Tom Cruise’s character was placed in the cryogenic “halo” stasis tube and forgotten will find that the television series firmly confirms the more idyllic ending as the actual ending of the story. Tired of living in isolation, Dash flees the island and moves back to Washington, DC, living off the grid thanks to his pre-cognative gifts. Unfortunately, Dash’s abilities work best when paired with the missing Arthur, so Dash can only see brief glimpses of an upcoming crime. He partners with tough, no-nonsense Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good, Eve’s Bayou) to attempt to solve crimes before they happen. It has to be on the down-low, though, as pre-cognition as a method of crime solving is now illegal.
The pilot gets off to a very shaky start with Sands’s Dash frantically running through the city attempting to stop the crime he envisions independently, yet failing miserably. The slap-dash editing intends to heighten our sense of urgency and paranoia, but it becomes headache-inducing and ultimately distracting. It finally settles into a more routine rhythm, and the story is allowed to take over. Sands is the breakout here, giving a tricky performance that could easily devolve into annoying ticks. His Dash has yet to grow into the real world given his unique upbringing, and Sands effectively conveys the struggle to connect with a world not easily understood. He does tend to wander around with a hurt puppy dog look in his eyes, though – something I’m hoping he grows out of. Good as Vega is fine given the limitations of her role, which feels like a carbon copy of Nicole Beharie’s work on Fox’s other sci-fi/fantasy show Sleepy Hollow. To be fair, the core situations are remarkably identical – the no-nonsense cop partners with an individual out of time and place to solve crimes. This appears to be a pattern partnership over at Fox these days. Her initial scenes were all dedicated to exploring futuristic technology, the kind of dramatic hand-swiping forecasted in the original film but comically enhanced with a kind of slo-mo, Vogue-y flair. Let’s have less of that please.
As a series, Minority Report is far better than I ever imagined it would be, as long as you’re willing to divorce yourself from the merits of the original film. They have easily established a series arc – the disappearance of Dash’s brother Arthur – that can be propped up by weekly crime solving through Dash’s blossoming precognitive abilities. That’s a good thing, too, as the series looks incredibly expensive. Its special effects and cinematography are near-cinematic level which helps lend credibility to the overall effect. Still, Sleepy Hollow fizzled creatively after a year in production, so here’s hoping Minority Report is able to evade that fate.
Minority Report premieres tonight at 9pm ET on Fox.