So, I recently saw the movie Minority Report (which, I know, is several years old). It was vaguely interesting – the world it is set in, which is futuristic but still very similar to ours and quite disturbing, was well portrayed. But the movie had a fundamental problem. Its premise was nonsensical.
Now, the movie revolves around a form of crime prevention known as “pre-crime” – they have these three psychics who can predict when a murder will occur before it does, and then they dispatch police officers to prevent the murder from taking place. There hasn’t been a murder for 6 years in Washington, DC (which is where this program is being tried out before it goes nationwide).
Then, one day, one of the pre-crime cops, while monitoring the machine that reports on the psychics’ visions, sees that HE is now predicted to commit a murder! And so he must run away and lead the other police on a wild goose chase all across the city, all the while trying to avoid committing the murder he was predicted to commit, but being apparently drawn inexorably to commit it anyway. (He ends up committing it, though unintentionally [the guy wants to die and grabs his gun-hand and forces him to shoot].) How suspenseful! How like the Greek tragedies in which the protagonist knows his fate and yet cannot avoid it! (And then there’s a half-hour left of the movie in which little of actual interest happens.)
Except… does anyone else see what is terribly wrong with this situation? Let’s think for a second. How pre-crime works is, the psychics see the murder happening in the future, they tell someone about it, and then the murder is prevented. There’s nothing fundamentally different about the situation the protagonist is in – the psychics see the murder happening in the future, and they told someone – the perpetrator – about it. But somehow, instead of him just saying “ok, I’ll just avoid that situation and so not commit murder” (which is philosophically no different from the cops jumping in and preventing the murder at the last second, which they do all the time), it is treated as if he is somehow fated to do it. In fact, he wouldn’t have even wound up in the situation where he could commit murder if the prediction hadn’t been made!
So, basically, the movie is not consistent. Either seeing the future allows you to change it – in which case there’s no reason the protagonist would have been worried at all – or seeing the future does not allow you to change it – in which case pre-crime makes absolutely no sense to begin with, and would only have been good for ensuring that the murderer was always caught after the fact.
Thus Minority Report is, I think, while a somewhat interesting and amusing movie, fundamentally flawed, and so not really worth watching. There are much better philosophically-minded sci-fi movies out there for those so inclined.