At long last, Steven Spielberg's movies are starting to make their way onto Blu-ray; since 2008, I think the most-prominent one that's been available is the one which, quite frankly, fans least want (yup, Crystal Skull), although Close Encounters debuted (in a delightful set, no less) slightly before the format found its commercial footing. That said, of course, the majority of the heavy hitters from his filmography have yet to arrive home in high definition, including E.T., Jaws, the first three Indiana Jones movies, and of course, Amistad (just kidding about that last one). But the good folks at Paramount are testing the waters with solid choices like Saving Private Ryan, a movie that screams out for the format's clarity, and more recently, Minority Report, whose visual effects and action can only benefit from being presented in high-definition.
As such, this week's choice in Minority Report. I originally planned to write up the film as part of my "Shelf Life" series, but after watching it, the release seemed more suitable for this article series, especially since I was only kind of lukewarm on the movie this time around, which didn't seem to make for a memorable deconstruction of its merits.
What's Already Available: Paramount Home Entertainment released Minority Report on DVD on December 17, 2002. The double-disc set featured the following extras: "Minority Report: From Story to Screen," in which Steven Spielberg recounts his approach to the film's characters and storyline; "Deconstructing Minority Report," where fans learn how Spielberg brought together a think tank of some of the world's most renowned minds and how this elite group conceived the near-future world of the film; "The Stunts of Minority Report," a featurette about the action sequences and stunts; the ILM-centric "The Digital World of Minority Report;" "Final Report," a discussion with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise; and Minority Report Archives, which includes production concepts, storyboard sequences, production photographs, production notes, and bios.
What's In The New Set: In addition to the above extras, the Blu-ray features "The Future According to Steven Spielberg," an interactive interview with the director; "Inside the World of Precrime;" "Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg and Minority Report;" "Minority Report: Future Realized;" "Minority Report: Props of the Future;" "Highlights from Minority Report: From the Set;" "Minority Report: Commercials of the Future;" and Previs Sequences.
What's The Difference In The Movie Itself: Although Paramount's high-definition transfers can vary in quality, the presentation of Minority Report is pretty terrific, offering faithfully oversaturated, stylized imagery that still retains the crispness and vividness of HD. The inherent problem in evaluating cinematography like that of Spielberg's director of photography, Janusz Kaminski, is that it is often filled with smoke or ambient effects that complicate that question of clarity; even in Jon Anderton's home, there's a hazy, deliberately unkempt quality to the air in the room that gives its futuristic design a live-in look. But rest assured this transfer is superior to the standard-definition version that was previously available and looks great in terms of effects rendering and overall consistency.
What's The Difference In Everything Else: Surprisingly, the new bonus materials are actually really engaging, although the centerpiece extra, the interactive interview with Spielberg, is essentially a repackaged interview the director did at the time of the film's release. One will no doubt recognize many of Spielberg's answers from earlier extras, but the presentation is so fluid and effective that the inclusion of the original extras seems like a completist afterthought, especially since this is a clean, straightforward interview about virtually every aspect of the film's making.
In addition to Spielberg's comments, there are branching cues where you can investigate and explore further specific aspects of the conceptualization and production throughout the interview, making it an almost comprehensive look at the film. And while it might seem like cheating that they borrowed the content from the time of the film's release, this proves to be a real virtue since everything seems very fresh and vivid in Spielberg's mind, making the recollections and reveals that much more informative.
The remaining featurettes are interesting, and essentially delve a little deeper into other aspects of the production with the help of other participants, such as production designer Alex McDowell. McDowell, for example, hosts the "Props of the Future" featurette, and not only exhibits several of the props but explains the concept for the weapon and its physical design. Meanwhile, stuff like "From the Set" offers additional on-set footage, including of the fight between Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell in the automobile factory, and the "Philip K. Dick" featurette explores Dick's personal history and explores how his work dovetailed into Spielberg's.
What's The Final Grade: B+. Minority Report may or may not be on your personal shortlist of favorite Spielberg films, but on Blu-ray, it features not only great presentations, but a terrific slate of new extras that expand and add value to the existing landscape of bonus content.