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Review: ‘Minority Report’ Pilot is as Ambitious as it is Action-Packed

by  in TV News Comment
Review: ‘Minority Report’ Pilot is as Ambitious as it is Action-Packed

You undoubtedly remember the 2002 Steven Spielberg hit “Minority Report, which depicted a future where three psychics (called precogs) can predict violent crimes before they occur, allowing police officers in the PreCrime unit to apprehend the would-be murderers. It seems like a wondrous advancement, at least until Tom Cruise’s character is accused of a future crime, and has to prove the system isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Most of what I remember from “Minority Report” is its clichéd gray palette that screamed “dystopia,” so I wasn’t especially looking forward to Fox’s television sequel, assuming it’d merely be a rehash. But props to writer/developer Max Borenstein, who treats the film as a launchpad for an imaginative  police procedural that’s downright giddy over its sci-fi possibilities, alive with color and refreshing in its odd-couple chemistry.

In its first few minutes, “Minority Report” efficiently sets up its world, introducing the three precogs, older sister Agatha and her foster brothers, twins Dash and Arthur. Once prisoners of the PreCrime squad, they’ve been set free — along with hordes of could-have-been killers — in the wake of the program’s disintegration. This massive shift in policing weighs heavily on homicide Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good), who’s tired up “mopping up the messes” when preventing them was within a cop’s grasp just 11 years earlier. Also frustrated is Dash (Stark Sands), who’s haunted by crimes he can see in violent, vivid detail, but can’t stop. So, they team up, the hard-nosed cop and the “illegal psychic” with incredible abilities and zero people skills.

It’s a pairing reminiscent of another Fox cop show, “Sleepy Hollow”: She’s a no-nonsense, get-things-done hero who’s willing to think outside the box and throw out the rule book to save the day. He’s an awkward outsider, unaccustomed to the ways of her world, but with a unique insight that makes him indispensable in her quest. The pilot doesn’t tease the kind of sexual tension that’s made “Sleepy Hollow” such a web sensation, but Good and Sands share a complex and charming chemistry that makes them a joy to watch.

Also on board is a cluster of promising supporting players. Laura Regan brings a willowy wisdom to a reclusive Agatha, while Nick Zano offers alpha-male menace as Arthur. Vega’s support comes courtesy of tech maven/gal pal Akeela, played by a coolly compelling Li Jun Li, ever in enviable future fashions. And naturally Vega is saddled with an overbearing boss/potential former lover, played by Wilmer Valderrama, who’s the pilot’s only misstep. Although appropriately smug, the “That ’70s Show” veteran doesn’t seem especially invested in doing much more than flexing his muscles or flashing a smile for the camera. In an ensemble this exciting, he’s dead weight.

The pilot unfolds at an exhilarating pace. After the quick setup, we’re off and running with Dash as he, well, dashes to a soon-to-be crime scene in hopes of stopping a woman from being pitched out the window of her high-rise apartment. It’s a strong beginning, kept up by its stars’ charms and director Mark Mylod’s skill for pacing and tension. The entire episode is an unnerving ticking clock, moving us ever closer to a mysterious murder Dash can only see in graphic, painful flashes. A jolting speed and blurring filters make the precog’s nightmarish visions contagiously jarring, amping up the excitement by putting the audience on edge. And yet for all the action the first episode contains, there’s also an almost-garish display of futuristic doodads and visual effects.

There’s no real reason why a suspect needs to be cornered in a massive factory where he’s surrounded by geysers of sparks, and ambushed by jet pack-wearing cops. No real plot point can be found in use of itty-bitty Snitch-like drones or in the introduction of burger-slinging bot at a local diner. These are just fun bits of world-building, wedged in to seduce audiences to take notice of a pilot muscling for attention amid myriad other new shows. And it works. I admire ambition and deeply enjoyed all the gizmos that dazzle in the not-so-distant future, teasing a world ripe with wonders.

“Minority Report” is the rare spinoff series that expertly runs with the ball of its origin story. It’s kept the precogs, but leaps well past the movie’s events to allow for a relatively fresh start and an unpredictable future. Here, the precogs are in hiding, seen as freaks and artifacts of a less-enlightened time. They’re dismissed, but not deactivated, leaving open rich narrative possibilities and intriguing moral quandaries that will have this critic staying tuned. “Minority Report” is easily one of the most enticing new shows of the fall.

“Minority Report” debuts on Monday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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