‘Minority Report’ Review: Steven Spielberg Spin-Off Falls Short of Original

Futuristic crime drama series takes place 10 years after the events of the movie

Last Updated: September 21, 2015 @ 3:30 PM

The allure of adapting Steven Spielberg‘s dystopian thriller “Minority Report,” itself an extension of Philip K. Dick‘s original short story, is obvious: In an era of intensified government surveillance–and intensified civilian concerns about invasion of privacy–a drama about a watchdog program that purports to predict crimes couldn’t be more timely. And yet, the pilot to this Fox series only hints at the rich thematic possibilities inherent in the material. Will the show become more provocative as it moves along? That’s not so easy to predict.

Building off Spielberg’s 2002 film, “Minority Report” takes place in 2065, about a decade after the movie, which ended with Precrime being abolished. No longer relying on the precogs, a trio of empaths who can foresee crimes before they occur, Washington, D.C. law enforcement now must lean on old-fashioned police work to catch bad guys. The ambitious, relentless detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) grew up during Precrime and is disappointed it’s been shuttered now that she’s on the force: For her, the program’s clear flaws didn’t outweigh the ability to prevent murders and keep the potential victims’ families from experiencing so much heartache.

Unexpectedly, Vega will end up getting her wish to know what it was like to work during the Precrime era. On the hunt for a murderer, she encounters Dash (Stark Sands), a precog who has left the group’s isolated forest home to live in D.C. Dash can see vague visions of future crimes–mostly, brief snapshots of a location, a time and the general scenario–and he feels morally obligated to do something. The streetwise Vega and the socially awkward Dash form an unlikely partnership to stop what appears to be an imminent assassination attempt on a popular mayoral candidate.

The “Minority Report” film proved distressingly prescient, its depiction of a future society beset by ubiquitous advertising and overly aggressive law enforcement not that far off from the world in which we now live. But as developed by Max Borenstein, the screenwriter of last year’s summer blockbuster “Godzilla,” the “Minority Report” show, at least initially, seems more invested in developing its odd-couple detective team and cheekily forecasting mid-21st-century events. (Good news: Washington’s NFL team will have changed its racist name. Bad news: “The Simpsons” is about to start its 75th season.)

Comparisons are, perhaps, unfair to make between the movie and this pilot, in part because the show doesn’t have the budget of a Spielberg picture. But the first episode, besides lacking the film’s chillingly cold production design from Alex McDowell and eerily desaturated cinematography courtesy of Janusz Kaminski, fails to offer a particularly compelling vision. What’s initially arresting about the concept remains unfulfilled after the pilot, and while it’s understandable that the producers needed to first establish its central characters, Dash and Vega aren’t particularly well-drawn thus far, creating a concern that this show will be more interesting theoretically than it is dramatically.

Sands, who showed a winning openness and sincerity as an earnest folk singer in 2013’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” hones those qualities as the childlike Dash, who has a good heart but takes most interactions at face value. (The pilot does have some fun with his prophesying abilities, though, which extend beyond foreseeing murders to knowing where to stand so that birds don’t poop on you.)

Still, at this show’s early stage, the pairing of Good’s no-nonsense cop and Sands’ naïve precog doesn’t produce a lot of comedic tension, nor is there much emotional connection between the two. (And, as Vega’s smug boss, Wilmer Valderrama comes across as stiff rather than appropriately hiss-able.) More crucially, “Minority Report” is missing the boldness and social commentary that made the film so bracing. This sci-fi detective show will be built around solving crimes, but it has yet to solve that central dilemma.

“Minority Report” premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox.