“Minority Report”, a film directed by Stephen Spielberg in 2002, is a conventional science-fiction film in many ways. It follows the typical conventions of a science fiction film and the recognisable elements used in the film are the use of advanced technology in the “Pre-crime” police department. The genre of science-fiction originated from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the 1800’s. However, since then science fiction has developed through literature and film. It has now become more favoured with the public.
The genre’s typical conventions include: futuristic settings; advanced technology; a battle against evil; and chiaroscuro lighting is used in a great deal in film. Chiaroscuro lighting is single source lighting and this is used many times in the “Minority Report”; especially when the “precogs” are in the pool of water. This makes the precogs seem emotionless and pure. Like any other film, “Minority Report” communicates with its audience and Spielberg has done this in a variety of ways. Firstly, the visual side of the film is shocking because it is a major part of the film.
The audience first see the “Pre-Crime Unit” and they then get a sense of the future. The colours used are substantially silver and white and these colours have connotations of the future and machines. Oral signifiers also contribute to the audience’s understanding of the scene as in the shopping centre; the 4D billboards speak out to John Anderton and Agatha and this presents the convention of being in the future. In terms of aural signifiers, the audience is given many detonations to make the film communicate with the audience.
The uses of diegetic sounds make a great impact in “Minority Report” corresponding to the scene I referenced earlier in the shopping mall; the billboards talk to John Anderton and Agatha and the billboard talks to the customers. The uses of non-diegetic sounds in the film can be seen in the opening scenes, whereby the shots of Anderton compiling the murder scene in the Pre-Crime Unit are accompanied by operatic music. This makes Anderton seem “god-like” as he is fixing together a murder and is preventing it from happening. The props used in the film are futuristic and revolutionary; these include: the balls, the spiders, and the precogs.
The balls used in the Pre-Crime Unit are similar to “lottery balls” being drawn out because the balls forecast who will be the victim and who will be the villain; as “lottery balls” predict the numbers. The spiders used in “Minority Report” are technical as they can find out who you are by your eye. The “precogs” are futuristic as they portray how the world will be in the future. The audience see the “precogs” as timid and un-human creatures. Stereotyping is a major part of any movie in science-fiction films and it is used a lot in the film “Minority Report”.
Spielberg has used stereotyping a lot in the film and it has had a great outcome as the audience already have expectations of what the film should be about and the audience also ensure the film meets the expectations. A stereotype is when categories are applied to characters and generalisations are made. Directors stereotype characters to ensure that audiences can follow the narrative and identify the hero, the villain, etc. “Minority Report” presents many of Propp’s character types; John Anderton to be the hero, “Lamar Burgess” to be the “villain” and Danny Witwer displayed as the “false hero.
Chief John Anderton plays the main role in the film “Minority Report” and he had a tragic loss as his son, Sean, passed away due to a kidnap. He’s now separated and divorced from his wife, Lara, and has resorted to drugs to keep him in control. Anderton had no reason to doubt the “Pre-Crime Unit” until he became a suspect. Through advanced technology, Pre-Crime officers are able to see what the precogs see, and they analyse the data, identify the culprit and victim, and try their best to stop the murder from occurring.
One day, however, his life turns around when the Precogs see a vision of him killing a man named Leo Crow. Now on the run from the cops of Precrime, Anderton has to prove his innocence. Anderton has clearly the significant conventions of a hero as he is strong, intelligent, enthusiastic and initiative. Propp’s definition of a hero is “a character or person that seeks something”; this stereotypes Tom Cruise’s role as Chief John Anderton. The audience understand this through a variety of oral, aural and visual signifiers. For example, visually Anderton is first seen entering the Pre-Crime Unit; dressed in all black.
The colour black has connotations of coolness, composure and refinement, which links with his character also, the colour black connotates depression and it disguises Anderton’s personality and his grieving at the loss of his son. First and foremost, Anderton is most concerned about his work before his personal life. In terms of aural signifiers, the audience is given a number of denotations to suggest that his character is important and dauntless. This can be seen in the scene where Anderton and Witwer are having a fight and this shows Anderton’s braveness.
These points lead up to Anderton being the “hero”. John Anderton’s companion on his “quest” to seek something as Propp would say is Agatha and she is played by Samantha Morton. Agatha plays a major role in the film as without her, John Anderton wouldn’t have defeated Lamar Burgess. Anderton decides to get to the mystery’s core by finding out the ‘”Minority Report”‘ which means the prediction of the female Pre-Cog Agatha that “might” tell a different story and prove Anderton innocent and this is how Agatha is important to the story.
Agatha appears as a victim because when John Anderton steals her from the Pre-Crime Unit; she is delicate, feeble and vulnerable. However, she fulfils the role of the “helper” as defined by Propp. Propp defined a helper as someone who helps the hero; this fits with Agatha’s role in the film. Agatha is a strong, supernatural and intelligent individual as she has the power to see the future and this is what leads to the start of the Pre-Crime business.
Visually, when the audience first see Agatha, she is with the other pre-cogs in the pool of water and the use of chiaroscuro lighting makes her seem emotionless but as the film goes on; the audience find out that Agatha has emotions and gets hurt by the Pre-Crime Unit. In terms of aural signifiers, the audience is given a number of denotations that suggest her character is timid and insubstantial. However in terms of oral signifiers, the audience get a sense of discomfort with Agatha because the tone of her voice is as if she is shocked and astounded.
During the scene in the shopping mall, Agatha is “carried” by Anderton; this suggests that Anderton is a victim and Agatha is weak. This gives the audience a sense that she is his saviour and he respects her and by carrying Agatha, Anderton is showing his respect and dignity for Agatha whilst she helps him to avoid murder. All these points lead up to Agatha stereotyped as the “helper”. John Anderton’s rival, Danny Witwer, plays a considerable role in the film as without Witwer, the audience wouldn’t have found out that Burgess is the culprit.
Danny Witwer is a character whom is difficult to classify as he has many ways of presenting himself. Defined by Propp, he is presented as: the false hero, the villain, and the hero. Witwer is suggested to the audience as the false hero because he “disrupts” Anderton’s mission to find the “Minority Report” by making false allegations and claims. He is also presented as the villain and this is because he clashes with Anderton who is the “hero” and Witwer defeats Anderton is a brawl in the scene of the car factory.
Witwer is then suggested as the “hero” as he uncovers the truth about Anderton’s crime; however he is then murdered by Lamar Burgess. In terms of visual signifiers, the audience’s first impressions of Witwer would be that he is the villain and he is there to stop John Anderton from conquering his quest to find the “Minority Report”, although this impression changes as the film carries on. When the audience first hear Witwer, they get a feeling that he is the villain of the movie because he criticises Anderton when we first see him. This gives a bad impression of him to the audience.
Alternatively in terms of oral signifiers, the audience hear his voice and then get a sense of arrogance within Danny Witwer. These points all lead to Witwer being stereotyped as the “false hero” and “villain”. The founder of the Pre-Crime Unit, Lamar Burgess, is a tricky character to define as he is seen in many ways during the film. Initially, he appears to be wise and supportive of John Anderton but as the film goes on the audience find out that this is not true and that he is an egotistical old man; the audience don’t find this out until the film goes on.
Burgess is the director of the Pre-Crime Unit and he is motivated to defend the unit. His age is misleading as he seems old in the scene where he has Lara (Anderton’s Ex-Wife) tie his tie. Also, Lamar appears not to be capable of founding Pre-Crime, however he did and it had become a very successful business. Propp’s definition of a villain is “a person who opposes or actively block’s the hero’s quest”; this statement fits into Burgess’s character. Visually, the audience would justify that Burgess is an old man that seems wise and educated man but this is not true.
Aurally, Burgess’s voice is elegant and this is what the audience would first think he is. In terms of oral signifiers, Lamar is categorized as an aged man because of his tone of speech and that he can’t tie his own tie. Burgess is additionally assumed as a “father figure” for Anderton in the first parts of the film and as the film goes on the audience find out that he is not a “father figure” but an evil criminal. It is revealed in the end scenes that Burgess killed Anne Lively who is Agatha’s mum, just for his business. These points all add up to Lamar Burgess being suggested as a villain.
The Pre-Crime Unit is an important setting in the film as in the unit; the most important parts of the film are filmed. The unit itself has many shiny metallic surfaces and many computers and gadgets. These are used to find out and solve the crimes and without the computers, there would be no Pre-Crime. The temple is used in many parts of the film and this is where the precogs stay; they looked illuminated. The temple has a care-taker who looks after the precogs. He is represented as a mentally disturbed individual as he talks with the precogs as if they were his friends.
The colours used in the Pre-Crime Unit are cold and grey. The colour grey has connotations of dullness and neutrality. The unit itself is suggested as “a centre of modern technology” with all its props used. Furthermore, the eye scans and interface all build up to the futuristic twist on the unit. This next setting is the neighbourhood scene where Anderton and the Pre-Crime Unit come and raid to prevent a crime from happening. To the audience, the setting seems normal and peaceful, however as John Anderton leads his team to prevent the crime, there is a contrast between the two tenses.
The present tense of the setting with the neighbourhood contrasts with the futuristic tense when Anderton comes into scene. Spielberg combines futuristic and familiar settings together in this scene; it makes the film more familiar to the audience. The shot used in this scene is an establishing shot and this shot is a used to present the scene itself. The shot shows the playground and the houses and the lighting used is notan lighting and this is daylight. The notan lighting makes the mood of the scene happy and calming.
The last setting I am going to mention is the “underworld” where Anderton had his eye transplant and where Anderton takes the drugs from the drug-dealer. The scene whereby Anderton’s eye transplant takes place is a: dark; scary; frightening; and intimidating place as it shows the “other side” to the future’s present day. Spielberg uses a high-angled shot in the scene where the spiders are trying to catch Anderton; the high-angled shot is used to make the scene seem as it is a game and the spiders are trying to catch Anderton. The room where Anderton sleeps in is messy and ghastly.
Minority Report” is a conventional science-fiction film because it follows the typical conventions of a science fiction film and the recognisable elements used in the film are the use of advanced technology in the “Pre-crime” police department. There is a mixture of stereotypical characters such as: Anderton, the hero; Witwer, the false hero; Agatha, the helper; and Lamar Burgess, the villain. Setting is used a lot in the film especially the “underworld” where Anderton has his eye transplant; this has created a dystopian society within the film.
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