Posted 27 June:
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A Minority Report
Dear Locus Online,
Both John Shirley and Gary Westfahl miss the most important thing about Minority Report: like Star Wars II, it is full of plot holes, inconsistencies, and illogic. Minority Report reveals yet again how jaded Hollywood has become: feed the audience some nice images and a chase scene or two and your screenplay can be as stupid as you like. (Shirley does point out the stupidity of the fight scenes the one in which 8 policemen take on Cruise and all any of them has to do is reach out and stun him with their stun sticks is particularly ridiculous.)
Think we're overstating the point? How about a few examples:
(1) In Minority Report, your eyes become your identification, automatically screened when you go to work in the morning, get on a subway train, etc. On the run from the law, Tom Cruise's character must obtain new eyes or risk being identified everywhere he goes. In one scene, Cruise's character convinces the surgeon replacing his eyes to let him keep the old ones because the surgeon won't be able to sell them to anyone else since Cruise is a fugitive. Yet, just a few scenes later, Cruise is using his old eyeballs to open the inner sanctums of the Pre-crime building in one of the stupidest scenes in recent memory.
(2) We are never given any explanation for how the precogs' civil rights were violated to the point of being kept in floating "precog milk" where they apparently don't want to be, given the film's final (and ridiculous) precogs-in-a-log-cabin-reading-books scene.
(3) A character mentions the precogs as having a range of 200 miles. There are no other precogs available at least, none mentioned in the movie. Yet PreCrime is going to go national. How?
(4) The precogs are described as only being able to see murders, because these are more final and violent than rape (arguable) and other criminal acts. Yet later in the movie, the strongest precog clearly has precognitive visions of even the most mundane events.
(5) If Tom Cruise was trying to prove the pre-cogs made a mistake regarding his pre-crime, why didn't he just lay low until the time period had expired?
(6) There is no way Agatha (the female pre-cog) could have stood up, much less walked at all, after being in the milk bath for 6 years. Her muscles would have been atrophied by that time.
(7) Criminals caught by PreCrime are loaded into living vertical tombs and placed in suspended animation. Not only is this intricate system in the hands of a Gomer Pyle of the first order, but no explanation is given for why these criminals would be stored in this way as opposed to a prison.
(8) Spielberg, visually, never integrates his settings. They are either futuristic or look like the present-day. The results are jarring as we move from scene to scene. Ridley Scott in Bladerunner understood that the new and the old will exist side-by-side in the future, just as they do today. Spielberg seems to think that in the future the modern will never interact with the antiquated.
(9) To escape in one scene, the Cruise character pulls the plug on the water in the precogs' "temple" and he and one of the precogs fall down the resulting hole into...what? Not only have we never been given any evidence that Cruise knows the schematics of the building well enough to attempt this deus ex machina escape, we never get the key establishing shot that lets us know where they went...next thing we know, they pop up in a shopping mall.
(10) The advertising used in the movie is cynical ads for current-day bottled water companies that will probably not be around in 50 years, for example. What could have been a very effective device becomes just another opportunity for product placement.
(11) The second precog vision of the murder(s) central to Minority Report's plot does not include the identity of the man who did it. Yet it is clear throughout the movie that the precogs track the scene prior to a murder occurring. Later, the murderer clearly puts on his mask just a few minutes before the murder. Therefore, there is no logical reason why the murderer's identity would not have been known after the second precog vision, rather than only at the end of the movie.
These are just a few examples we don't have the patience to go into the stupidity of the Cruise-embedded-in-a-new-car scene, etc.
Such details and plot points do matter, whether you're talking about entertainment or art. It is extremely irritating that Hollywood thinks it can make shoddily-written, ill-conceived films and pass them off as first-rate. It's even more annoying when critics fail to pick up on these things or hold the makers of such films accountable. Films should be critiqued at the level at which they fail. If they fail at a basic level, it becomes pointless to even discuss the larger questions of theme, etc.
Star Wars II is much worse than Minority Report, but they're still of a kind.
Jeff & Ann VanderMeer
26 June 2002
Dazzling Effects Are What Matter
I enjoyed both of Shirley's reviews of Star Wars II. But I wonder if he deliberately avoided the obvious reason why some of the
writing lacks punch we already know what's going to
happen! (Not that knowing what happens detracts from good
screenwriting; Apollo 13 was mesmerizing.) About the only
thing I was anticipating was whether the conception of Luke
and Leia was going to happen in Episode II or III. Looks
like I'll have to wait.
And yet I could care less how it all comes about,
because the effects are so damn dazzling!
DeMille-esque settings, Yes! Who wants to see George
remake The 10 Commandments?!
SF-history references, YES! Those spherical starships
trying to take off are Paul Lehr - Starship Troopers all
over again. The scenes of the Republic's capital are
Asimov's Trantor without question!
Is it still true episodes 7, 8 & 9 won't be done? Are
they written. Does it matter?
Hey George! How about doing the Foundation Trilogy next?
14 June 2002
Flash Gordon Petition
Dear Locus Online,
It has come to my attention that several fans of SFF author Matthew Woodring Stover have banded together to create a petition to show their support for his work on a book commissioned by King Features Syndicate entitled The Real Flash Gordon. Because SF readers in general are excellent activists, I thought I'd share this with the readers of Locus Online in the hopes of generating more support.
From the petition:
"In an attempt to revitalize the Flash Gordon franchise, HarperCollins Entertainment hired Matthew Woodring Stover to write The Real Flash Gordon. Stover’s editor at HarperCollins, Josh Behar, apparently loved the story. Harper’s marketing staff apparently loved the story. It was sent off for approval at Hearst Publications, the honchos at which apparently loved it. The novel eventually made its way to King Features Syndicate, the Hearst subsidiary which actually controls the rights to the Flash Gordon franchise.
I would like to urge anyone who has read Mr. Stover's work to respond to this petition. I would also like to urge anyone that has any interest in Flash Gordon to respond to this petition. And I would sincerely like to urge ALL READERS to respond to this petition, as the treatment of King Features Syndicate toward one of our authors has been reprehensible at least, and grossly inappropriate at most.
Approval for publication was never given; Rick Karo, Executive Vice President, Entertainment Licensing and Family Programming of Hearst Entertainment, decided that the book was an “unwholesome use of the trademark.”
The Real Flash Gordon should have come out mid-2002. It has been solicited on online bookstores such as bn.com and amazon.com. It’s made it into the Books in Print catalogue. And right now it looks as if it will never be published."
Sincerely, thank you for your time and efforts.
18 June 2002
Between the Lines would like to acknowledge the Theodore Sturgeon Literary
Trust for permission to reprint his letters in Better to Have Loved: The Life
of Judith Merril. We would also like to thank Susan Wood/Locus for permission
to reproduce the photograph of the Judith and Theodore Sturgeon on page 67,
and J.K. Klein for use of the photograph of the Futurian Society of New York
on page 275. We apologize for the omissions.
Between the Lines
26 June 2002
Bradbury Reprint Acknowledgment
Dear Locus Online,
Just a short note to set things straight about the reprint of Ray Bradbury's "The Love Affair" included in my otherwise all-new Mars Probes anthology from DAW Books (see your review posted Tue. 28 May).
I approached Ray for a story right at the beginning of the project and, although he didn’t have time to come up with something new by my deadline, he said I could use "The Love Affair" which, at the time, I understood to be have seen print only in a very limited non-US chapbook edition in the early 1980s. (On checking my bulging Bradbury shelves just this past hour -- something that, of course, I should have done some two years ago when I was actually working on the anthology! mea culpa -- I see that this chapbook is, in fact, The Love Affair & Two Poems, published by the very distinctly US-based Lord John Press. But it appeared in 1982, so at least I did get one thing right.)
The tale was -- and, indeed, still is -- a perfect starting point for the book and, believing an anthology of Mars stories without Bradbury to be analogous to a cup of tea without the cup, I gratefully accepted it, explaining its reprint status and what I believed to be its publishing history to DAW Books in the process.
This is an oversight for which I accept full responsibility: in no way should it reflect on either DAW Books -- who simply advertised what I told them was the case -- or on Bradbury himself, who, in a typically magnanimous gesture, interrupted his extraordinarily busy schedule to come up with something he felt might be appropriate for my project.
13 June 2002
Charles Eric Maine Bibliography
I am compiling an online bibliography of English sf writer Charles Eric Maine (1921-81). Maine was the pseudonym of pre-World War II fan David McIlwain, who turned filthy pro and wrote technothrillers before the term was invented. I have posted a draft bibliography on the web at http://www.waldeneast.fsnet.co.uk/cemaine.htm, and I would be grateful for any additions and comments. I can be emailed (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the website homepage. I have subscribed to Locus since 1979 and now try to get into the habit of looking at Locus Online as well – very useful for keeping up to date!
6 June 2002