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Face Off: Futuristic Societies - Minority Report vs. Demolition Man

03.20.2014by: Dave Davis
Last week's Face-Off column was a vehicular showdown, and the race barely begun. Most of you agreed that the iconic time-traveling DeLorean from the BACK TO THE FUTURE series left James Bond's famous gadget-packed Aston Martin in the dust.

This weekend's young-adult adaptation DIVERGENT is set in a futuristic society where people are divided into factions based on their personalities. For this week's Face Off column, let's take a good look at the futuristic societies presented in a couple of well-known sci-fi/action movies, MINORITY REPORT and DEMOLITION MAN.
CITY
Washington DC circa 2054
San Angeles (the post-quake merging of San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara) circa 2032
BAD NEIGHBORHOOD
The Sprawl, a run-down district where psychoactive drugs and illegal eye transplants can be acquired
"Wasteland", the subterranean ruins of the old city where social outcasts, fresh ratburgers and classic muscle cars can be found
CRIME PREVENTION METHODS
Using the psychic gifts of three clairvoyants (and a nifty motion-manipulated holographic computer interface), the PreCrime enforcement program predicts murders and arrests the perpetrators before their offense occurs, keeping the city murder-free for six years
Under the plan of seemingly benevolent Dr. Raymond Cocteau, San Angeles has become a nearly crime-free utopia. All citizens are implanted with tracking chips, politeness is enforced, anything "bad for you" (physical sex, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, contact sports, salt, uneducational toys, etc.) have been made illegal, and the city has been free of MDK (MurderDeathKill) for 16 years

Additionally, cryogenically frozen prisoners are "rehabilitated" during hibernation with programming to make them productive members of society upon release
LAWBREAKERS
Anyone who might commit premeditated murder or a crime of passion

Unlicensed medical providers

Purveyors of black market cyber-fantasies
Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary) and the "Scraps", the marginalized citizens who can't or won't conform to the new structured society

Homicidal lunatic Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), released from cryoprison to eliminate Friendly and the city's undesirable elements
TOP COPS
John Anderton (Tom Cruise), captain of the PreCrime police force -- until he is accused of committing an impending murder and becomes a fugitive to try and clear his name
John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a convicted sergeant from the "vulgar 20th century" released from cryoprison to deal with Phoenix

Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), a nostalgia-obsessed SAPD officer itching to fight some real crime
POLICE EQUIPMENT
-remote retina-scanning robot spiders

-"sick sticks" (batons that cause immediate involuntary vomiting)

-concussion guns, which fire concentrated bursts of air

-personal jet packs

-halo devices that force criminals into a permanent sleep state for incarceration
-glow-rods, which can render people unconscious

-portable information terminals
COOL TRANSPORTATION
An eco-friendly high-speed maglev system of automated cars that can travel sideways and vertically
Self-driving vehicles that run on "capacitance gel", and are equipped with auto-inflating tires and life-saving secure-foam
CONSUMERISM
A citywide optical recognition system directs personalized advertising at pedestrians on building-size electronic billboards
The most popular radio station in town plays nothing but classic "mini-tunes", also known as commercials

The only dining choice is Taco Bell (or Pizza Hut in some non-US releases of the film), the sole surviving restaurant of the Franchise Wars
TOILET TIME
Director Steven Spielberg's designer team came up with an analytical toilet that would make dietary recommendations, but the concept was unused in the final film
Cleaning up after a bowel movement requires use of the three seashells (or a whole bunch of profanity fines)
PLAUSIBILITY
Psychic visions probably won't be leading to any arrests in our lifetime, but crime prediction algorithm software is something that could become common in major cities within the near future.

Although they could use refining, multi-touch and motion-tracking interfaces like the movie's PreCrime video wall are now commonplace on handheld devices and peripherals like the Xbox's Kinect.

Retina scanners are in development for public security uses, and the military is developing robotic reconnaissance spiders. Augmented/virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift are on the way, and facial-recognition or identity-tag advertising could be produced by various tech companies within the next few years (websites already present specific ads based on your personal browsing history).

The movie's electronic newspapers probably won't ever be a reality, but most people can currently get immediate news updates via smartphones and tablets.
In the movie's fictional history, Arnold Schwarzenegger had been voted President of the United States after the 61st Amendment allowed a non-US citizen to run for the office. A decade after DEMOLITION MAN hit theaters, Schwarzenegger was voted Governor of California and served two terms. A recent New York Times article claimed he was considering an attempt to challenge the constitutional rules and mount a possible run for presidency in the future.

The idea of all citizens willfully allowing a health-monitoring GPS chip to be implanted in themselves would never happen, but the technology for such an implant is practically a reality. And most people's locations can already be tracked via cellphones, which are carried by the vast majority of adults.

We're not quite at enforced joy-joy feelings and enhanced calm, but there's definitely more of an atmosphere (some would claim oppressive) of political correctness today. Virtual sex? Probably someday reasonably soon.

And while Taco Bell would be unlikely to become the omnipresent victor, the concept of "Franchise Wars" isn't too difficult to imagine when megacorporations are already battling for customers and profits (nearly every major brand now falls under the umbrella of just a few gigantic companies).
MINORITY REPORT
Superficially, DEMOLITION MAN might seem like a lunkheaded action flick but reveals a bit of depth under analysis. Many of the "futuristic" concepts and lingo are played for laughs, but some of it is actually not far off the mark, with warring conglomerates and discussions about class disparity perhaps now more common than ever.

DEMOLITION MAN's speculation of ubiquitous electronic monitoring was shared by MINORITY REPORT, and it's rapidly becoming the world we live in. But Spielberg's film also presented a number of other intriguing and useful concepts that are edging closer to reality. Neither movie's reality seems like a particularly wonderful place to live as soon as you scratch the surface, but the future world of MINORITY REPORT seems to have more cool stuff that could very well exist in the coming days.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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1:55AM on 03/21/2014

Everybody Runs

Nice comparison. Minority Report is deserving of the title, if only because it directly caused some of the nifty technology in the film to become reality. As a side note, I recall reading somewhere that the electronic, self-updating newspapers were actually developed since the film came out, but ran into problems because they couldn't be folded like a regular newspaper. Then again, like it was said in the article, the onslaught of smartphones and tablets seems to have made the idea irrelevant
Nice comparison. Minority Report is deserving of the title, if only because it directly caused some of the nifty technology in the film to become reality. As a side note, I recall reading somewhere that the electronic, self-updating newspapers were actually developed since the film came out, but ran into problems because they couldn't be folded like a regular newspaper. Then again, like it was said in the article, the onslaught of smartphones and tablets seems to have made the idea irrelevant anyway.

As a follow-up to the "Future Police Societies," it'd be interesting to see similar comparisons of dystopian futures like BLADE RUNNER vs. DARK CITY or CHILDREN OF MEN, or BRAZIL vs. 12 MONKEYS.
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3:05PM on 03/20/2014

MINORITY REPORT for me

I winced through most of DEMOLITION MAN. Besides, my colon wouldn't last five minutes in DEMOLITION MAN world (only Taco Bell? Yeesh!).
I winced through most of DEMOLITION MAN. Besides, my colon wouldn't last five minutes in DEMOLITION MAN world (only Taco Bell? Yeesh!).
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9:31AM on 03/21/2014
All restaurants were Taco Bell, but I didn't see that as meaning they were all only serving Tacos, just that Taco Bell had become the ubiquitous brand name for eating out in general (so, fancy French restaurant that is called Taco Bell) - weird gag about the fast food franchise wars taken to the extreme, but that's how I figured they meant it.
All restaurants were Taco Bell, but I didn't see that as meaning they were all only serving Tacos, just that Taco Bell had become the ubiquitous brand name for eating out in general (so, fancy French restaurant that is called Taco Bell) - weird gag about the fast food franchise wars taken to the extreme, but that's how I figured they meant it.
9:25AM on 03/20/2014
Is it "which do we prefer as a sci-fi movie" or "which society would we prefer to live in"?
I've seen Demolition Man way more times, but Minority Report is probably the more interesting sci-fi concept.
It's like picking between tongue-in-cheek (Demolition Man) and morose (Minority Report) - they're such different movies.
I'd probably side with Minority Report because its themes are more interesting to me, but it really depends what sort of mood I'm in.
Is it "which do we prefer as a sci-fi movie" or "which society would we prefer to live in"?
I've seen Demolition Man way more times, but Minority Report is probably the more interesting sci-fi concept.
It's like picking between tongue-in-cheek (Demolition Man) and morose (Minority Report) - they're such different movies.
I'd probably side with Minority Report because its themes are more interesting to me, but it really depends what sort of mood I'm in.
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8:40AM on 03/20/2014
I prefer Demolition Man. Both futures are possible. However, I just enjoyed Wesley Snipes as the villain.
I prefer Demolition Man. Both futures are possible. However, I just enjoyed Wesley Snipes as the villain.
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5:40AM on 03/20/2014
We're gonna end up in a Idiocracy kinda future anyway!
We're gonna end up in a Idiocracy kinda future anyway!
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5:02AM on 03/20/2014
Minority Report for me too. Seems more possible and interesting.
Minority Report for me too. Seems more possible and interesting.
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4:21AM on 03/20/2014
Minority Report presented the more interesting future.
Minority Report presented the more interesting future.
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4:09AM on 03/20/2014

demolition man.

Though one this week.
Though one this week.
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3:38AM on 03/20/2014
Demolition Man should have won plausibility simply due to the fact that a lot of its predictions actually came true. From Schwarzenegger getting into politics, to the overly PC society, to the law dictating what we are allowed to eat and drink based on how healthy it is for us (even though we aren't at this point yet, people still keep trying to push these asinine laws through relentlessly).
Demolition Man should have won plausibility simply due to the fact that a lot of its predictions actually came true. From Schwarzenegger getting into politics, to the overly PC society, to the law dictating what we are allowed to eat and drink based on how healthy it is for us (even though we aren't at this point yet, people still keep trying to push these asinine laws through relentlessly).
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3:38AM on 03/20/2014

You had me going there

Minority Report is clearly the superior film. A lot of thought went into that script.

I remember one time watching a movie on TV that had people talking on cell phones, chatting on the internet and watching big screen TVs. It took me about twenty minutes before I realized it was a science fiction movie from the 50s and not a contemporary movie.
Minority Report is clearly the superior film. A lot of thought went into that script.

I remember one time watching a movie on TV that had people talking on cell phones, chatting on the internet and watching big screen TVs. It took me about twenty minutes before I realized it was a science fiction movie from the 50s and not a contemporary movie.
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2:21AM on 03/20/2014
Minority Report is an underrated entry in the Spielberg filmography, in that not a lot of people mention it when talking about Spielberg's films if only because so many of them are cherished classics and Minority Report isn't exactly that. But the design, the detail and the level of texture to that future-noir world was really fascinating and exciting to me and it certainly is better than the other Spielberg/Cruise collaboration, War of the Worlds.
Minority Report is an underrated entry in the Spielberg filmography, in that not a lot of people mention it when talking about Spielberg's films if only because so many of them are cherished classics and Minority Report isn't exactly that. But the design, the detail and the level of texture to that future-noir world was really fascinating and exciting to me and it certainly is better than the other Spielberg/Cruise collaboration, War of the Worlds.
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2:07AM on 03/20/2014
This is an intriguing idea for a Face-Off. Nice one! However is this column supposed to figure out which society is better or worse?

The thing that always bugged me about Minority Report is that the villain of the movie isn't just one character with less than honorable intentions. The unspoken villain is the fact that this world completely lacks any kind of due process. Once the pre-cogs predict you as a future murderer, you're captured, immediately haloed, and sent to braindance prison
This is an intriguing idea for a Face-Off. Nice one! However is this column supposed to figure out which society is better or worse?

The thing that always bugged me about Minority Report is that the villain of the movie isn't just one character with less than honorable intentions. The unspoken villain is the fact that this world completely lacks any kind of due process. Once the pre-cogs predict you as a future murderer, you're captured, immediately haloed, and sent to braindance prison forever. There's no trial, no opportunity for leniency. The insidious part is no one in the entire film seems to have a problem with this totalitarian system. The plot revolves around characters trying to discredit the pre-cogs rather than fighting for basic human rights, although perhaps that would lent itself to less thrilling chases.
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1:12AM on 03/20/2014

Know I really

need to watch Demolition Man again, its part of my two pack dvd with Over The Top. Think I'll also snag some Taco Bell to enjoy with it.
need to watch Demolition Man again, its part of my two pack dvd with Over The Top. Think I'll also snag some Taco Bell to enjoy with it.
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11:29AM on 03/20/2014
you eat that taco bell be ready to use the 3 shells dude!
you eat that taco bell be ready to use the 3 shells dude!
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