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About that "Steven Spielberg ending" comment

All right, when I wrote about the film V for Vendetta, I said the "happy ending" was an ending Steven Spielberg would have been proud of. Is there someone out there who doesn't get it? I can think of precisely one film that Spielberg didn't slap some sort of "and they all lived happily ever after" ending onto, and that was Munich (which sucked in its own right and for other reasons).

Most of his films righteously have happy endings. Kill the shark, absolutely. Hero wins the day, without a doubt. Some poor schmuck prevails over homicidal big rig, yea!

But as I recall, his first theatrical film didn't have all that happy an ending. Indeed, I think the protaganist gets his ass shot off and dies. Which was proper, since that was based on a real story and that's really what happened.

And does Close Encounters of the Third Kind really have a "happy" ending? Our hero goes off with the aliens, and the music swells to happiness, but he's just abandoned his wife and kids and left 'em in the lurch. Even Spielberg has reputedly said, now having kids of his own, that he never could have made CE3K today, at least not with that ending.

But look at AI. The film reaches what feels like a natural ending, with the little boy robot lying at the bottom of the sea...forever. You're sad, but it all feels organic, as if to say, "Well, of course, how else could this end?" But no, bam, sea freezes, millenia go by, and aliens come and rescue him for a happy, if brief, reunion with his mother. I grant you that this almost works, but it needs a voice over narration to fill in all the blanks. Worst happy ending slapped on a gloomy film since the original Blade Runner (may that narration and its writer rot in hell...forever!).

The absolute worst offender, however, is Minority Report. I know that it's accept wisdom that AI was Spielberg's tribute to Stanley Kubrick, but Minority just drips with the influence of its source material (Philip K. Dick) and Kubrick. It is 99% a science fiction masterpiece that is substantially ruined by that last 1%.

To understand why we must remember the premise of the film. Three psychics (pre-cogs) can predict murder. All three must agree for a prediction to be reported and recorded. The Pre-Crime cops can then swoop in and arrest the "bad guy" before he/she can be bad. The plot is driven when the head of Pre-Crime, Anderton (played by Tom Cruise), is predicted to commit a murder. He is then on the run and pursued by his own team.

This is all well and good. The film offers one of the greatest images of the near-future since, oh, Blade Runner. It is, for the most part, internally consistent and all of the gadgets flow from present day. It all feels real and workable. It's beautiful.

Minority Report also offers so many disturbing tidbits. For instance, we are arguing today about facial recognition software, yet in MP, everyone is retina scanned (and ID'd) everywhere. It is a sense of all-pervading surveillance which would make the blood of modern privacy advocates curdle. Here, it's casually tossed off, albeit necessary for the plot (as written).

MP falls apart at the every end, and if you haven't seen it and don't want to no, go away. It's been years, you've no excuse. Go buy/rent the DVD, then come back when you're ready.

At the end, Anderton confronts the real villain, saves the day, and even rescues the pre-cogs. Pre-Crime is shut down and there's a completely artificial feeling that due to the efforts of Tom Cruise & Wife(a babe, a beauty, an actress; especially liked her brief moment here), freedom once more walks the land.

Only, that's hogwash. Those eye scanners are still there. And now there is murder again. It's made clear in the film that murder has ceased in the area where Pre-Crime works. The question, in the film, is that since all three pre-cogs might not agree on a prediction, some "innocent" was probably arrested and "haloed" (thrown into some horrific suspended animation, presumably forever). To Anderton, and apparently the world, this is horrifying.

But for a film that just dripped reality and truth, this is a flagrant bit of crap. The system works. It predicted, and stopped, murder. They would never shut it down. Not ever. Dick recognized this because in his original short story, it was presumed there would be minority reports; a vote of two to one was sufficient for Pre-Crime to act. The story's plot is driven by the discovery that there was no agreement, there were in fact three different predictions.

No, in the film what needed to be corrected was the method of "punishment", not apprehension. Since the murders were prevented, why halo the non-offenders? Some might be in need of incarceration, but not all, or even most.

I re-imagine the end to Minority Report. It's all right up to when the big boss shoots himself. From there we get Cruise's voice over....

With the revelantion of minority reports, there was a cry to shut down Pre-Crime. But no one could doubt Pre-Crime's effectiveness. The reality was that there were no murders.

So instead, the politicians released all those who were haloed, choosing to keep them under observation for a time. They also reasoned that if they attempted to murder again, the pre-cogs would see. And warn.

As for Agnes and the other Pre-Cogs, they were returned to their living hell, not quite alive, not quite dead. We fight to free them, to undo the injustice society has done to them. For the true minority report is that a harm against one, is a harm against us all.

See, even though it's still a classic liberal spin ("better a hundred go free than an innocent man be put to death", etc.) it is more in keeping with the tone of the film. And the real horror of the film isn't that people are haloed, but that the three humans have been abused, i.e., the pre-cogs under that huge banner of "for the good of all!"

Now that would have been a great ending to a great film. But Spielberg went all touchy-feely at the end. And that's what I mean when I write about "a tacked on, total crock, happy ending that Spielberg would be proud of".


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