Source material: Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report” (1956)
In the movie: In 2054, Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is head of Washington D.C.’s controversial “PreCrime” unit, which acts to prevent murders before they happen, all based on the visions of three mutant “precogs.” PreCrime is on the cusp of going nationwide when Anderton faces the unthinkable: a prediction that, in 36 hours, he will murder a man he doesn’t yet know. Anderton kidnaps one of the precogs (Samantha Morton) and goes on the run, hoping somehow to prove his innocence.
Anderton eventually learns about the existence of “minority reports” — when one of the precog’s visions doesn’t line up with the others. These are usually discarded, but Anderton soon discovers that someone has used this PreCrime loophole to commit the perfect murder, one that will be dismissed as a minority report. After Anderton pursues the man responsible, it is proven that foreknowledge of your future can allow you to change it, and as a result PreCrime is discredited and shut down.
But in the book: As in the film, Dick’s original story is essentially a dissection of free will versus predestination/determinism. Rather than being in its infancy, PreCrime in the book is three decades into its existence. It also isn’t limited to handling murder cases, so presumably you could get a ticket for littering before you even bought the soda can you were eventually going to throw out your car window. The book states that “Precrime has cut down felonies by 99.8%.” That’s even better than Judge Dredd’s clearance rate.
Instead of Washington D.C., the book’s story unfolds in New York City. Like many movie adaptations of Dick’s work, the protagonist doesn’t share the movie-star good looks of its lead actor. Instead Anderton is in his 50s, balding, and out of shape. Even more importantly, he’s actually the creator of PreCrime. As in the film, Anderton finds himself on the pointy end of the system he’d served, with the precogs predicting that Anderton will commit a murder. In the book, however, his victim is a military general who is determined to discredit PreCrime. How that prediction plays out, however, is hugely different. In the book, Anderton actually does kill his predicted target in order to preserve PreCrime. So pretty much the exact opposite of how the movie plays out.