Spielberg: Creative Genius or Over Rated Hollywood Undesirable?
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Catch me if you can & Minority Report: Two films by Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is a world renowned American Director and has seen much success in his career. Many of his movies were box office smash hits bringing in multimillion dollar revenue in weeks. Some of his films were not so successful but overall he is a great, well respected director and his work is used in film courses worldwide. One of his movies, Catch me if you can, was featured in the film class that I took, and is a great example of Mr. Spielberg’s skills and abilities. I chose Minority Report for this comparison and contrast paper because I feel it is one of his films that didn’t fare so well but I personally think it’s one of his best.
Catch me if you can is a biographical film, with script added for comedy and dramatic effect. In the movie Frank Abagnale Jr. runs away from home begins committing check fraud, at first to survive and then when he feels he is getting better at fraud and impersonation, he begins using the fraud as a way to live an extravagant lifestyle. During the course of the film an FBI agent, Hanratty, begins to follow Frank and his nefarious activities in hopes of capturing him and bringing him to justice. The relationship between them almost seems to be the driving force of each of the men at times, as if neither of them have anyone else in the world. Eventually Frank is caught and begins helping the FBI from behind bars. Frank becomes the world’s authority on check fraud and is offered a position at the FBI apprehending other criminals.
Minority Report is almost an opposite plot than Catch me if you can, in the sense that Captain John Anderton is an agent of the PreCrime division of a government agency, PreCrime is a technology that allows the government to predict the future and apprehend criminals before they commit a crime. Anderton finds himself in a predicament when the “precogs” the three individuals with precognitive abilities that make PreCrime possible, predict that Anderton was going to commit murder. The movie then takes some strange twists and Anderton ends up in the situation shown by the precogs but does not actually commit murder, as the man kills himself. The rest of the movie Anderton tries to prove his innocence and show the flaws of PreCrime.
The two movies are similar in the sense that the protagonist is running from authority, and different in the sense that one is running because they actually committed a crime and one is running because they were accused of committing a crime. The two characters both have a relationship with their pursuer, however, Frank’s relationship with his pursuer improves and Anderton’s deteriorates. In both films a broken family is in the protagonist’s history, with Frank it was his parent’s divorce and with John it was the disappearance of his son. This seems to be a recurring theme in many of Spielberg’s films.
Catch me if you can has a distinctly Spielberg feel in every aspect, including cinematography. It seems he has this uncanny ability to make every film believable and really draw in the viewer. In this movie he makes use of color film, various lighting schemes, and a wide array of lenses. The main lighting schemes that can be discerned from simply watching the film are soft lighting, the occasional lighting from above and a few scenes with minimal lighting. There are a few extreme close up shots, for emphasis but mostly the film is shot at mid length distance and there are a few long shots such as when the FBI finds Frank during his engagement party. There are also different framing techniques at work; two scenes that are memorable are the game show in the beginning and when Frank is consulted by the FBI while in jail.
Minority Report doesn’t come off as a Spielberg film per se, and has a distinctly film noir feel. The movie makes use of low lighting and high contrast, for instance the city appears very metallic and stark. Much of the background in the film is highly technologically advanced and required quite a bit of framing to achieve the futuristic effect. There are plenty of long views such as those where we see the skyline and plenty of close ups as well. I think the lighting for the precogs is probably the best effect in the film as it seems like an underwater dream effect. Spielberg uses deep space composition throughout the film as well, and it provides a great effect. Minority Report is a very special effects heavy movie given its futuristic setting. The computer with touch capabilities and other objects throughout give us a sense that the future is closer than we think, and almost seems like a theme that technology may ruin our lives.
In Catch me if you can there are various editing techniques used, for instance we see Frank in an airport, then an Airplane and then he is seated in the cockpit. We assume that he is on the plane we were shown, another example of this is when we see him jumping out the window of his fiancée’s home he climbs out the window and it is assumed he escaped. There is use of flashbacks in both films, mainly relating to the broken family aspects, and in Minority Report there are foreshadowing scenes which set the plot in action. There are many examples of ellipses in both films as well. Minority Report uses varying length of shots, and some scenes are fast paced and other seem drawn out. Both films use multiple directions when it comes to filming shots and give a sense of danger in some shots, and comfort in others. In Catch me if you can there are many times when we see Frank opposite another character and the camera switches back and forth between them. The sounds in Minority Report are often very eerie, especially because there is so much classical music in a film set in the future.
Overall both films show many of the recurring themes Spielberg is known for though Minority Report seems to be a deviation from his normal works. The films have much more in common than the average viewer would be aware of until they are analyzed in this context. Many aspects of film appear in both movies and both are great movies from a technical standpoint. The audience is captivated by the characters and drawn in to the stories, which are both believable, though one is based on actual events and the other is a complete work of fiction. Spielberg can add both to his long list of victories, and film students can continue viewing them as great examples of what film was intended to be.