Jumping into the Oblivion -A Film Review of Oblivion

oblivion-movie-poster-590x866Wait … I think I’ve seen this before. Post apocalyptic future … check. Robots doing clean-up on a desolated and deserted planet … check. Tom Cruise doing stuff that Tom Cruise does … double check.

Yup I’ve seen it before. But, ah heck, I’ll watch it again.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the visual mastermind behind Tron:Legacy, Oblivion brings together a hodgepodge of nearly ever successful sci-fi story and theme that we have been witness to over the last, oh say, 25 years or so. Based on a unpublished graphic novel of the same name, Oblivion is highly successful in certain aspects, but falls short in a few others. Luckily, the good stuff easily makes up for the bad.

Picture this: the year is 2077 and Earth is a quiet wasteland, watched over by the last two humans on the planet. In the aftermath of an intergalactic war, humans have won but alas, have had to leave our precious planet due to the fallout. Now, giant moisture machines draw necessary resources from the sea and are closely guarded by Tech 49, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), his communications officer, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and their intimidating, well armed army of flying drones. Their mission: Protect the resources getting drawn from the planet by keeping the drones working. Their only contact: A daily video feed from Sally (Melissa Leo), the missions control officer who is housed on the giant “Death Star”-like way station called the Tet, that stores the resources prior to sending them off to the newly inhabited planet or moon. With relief coming in two weeks, the affects of a memory wipe (a tool used to aid the duo in keeping focused on the mission) are starting to wear off and Jack is starting to remember something … or someone. Like all good things, something bad happens and Jack finds out there is much more to his mission than meets the eye.

As a leading man, you can’t get any better than Tom Cruise. Seriously, the man is 50 and looks like I want to look. He’s charismatic, likeable and, like always, he plays the confused hero perfectly. Coupled with the highly sexual Riseborough, the two play off each other nicely – him using his instincts to succeed on the ground and her for keeping him … ahem … stimulated above. It’s not until more of the human cast is introduced that the film begins to waiver.

The Good:
With little dialogue (for most of the film) the soundtrack crafted for the film is out of this world (sigh … did I really just type that?). Music aficionados will probably say different, and while not quite near the level of what Daft Punk did for Tron: Legacy, I still contend that the score by Anthony Gonzalez (M83) and Joe Trapanese is strong. Coupled with the spectacular sound effects – specifically from the drones – the audience is given a mood enhancing background that becomes as much a character as it’s physical counterparts.

At the same time, the technology and special effects are consistently strong. While clearly inspired by the video games  Portal and Portal 2, the look and feel of the film is gorgeous. While futuristic white and grey have been over-used, the overall designs fit well together and luckily, will never go out of fashion. I especially liked the drones. Like I said before, the sound effects from the drones are fantastic and the way they interact, move and sound in the environment is both fun to watch and menacing at the same time. When I saw it draw its weapons for the first time, I immediately thought of the Enforcement Droid 209 (ED-209) from the Robocop franchise.

And then there’s the action. While few and far between, when the action heats up, it really gets going. Always at the core of the action, the drones add a very high level of tension due to their lack of emotion and every time they spring into action, your eyes are glued to the screen. At the same time, as the movie evolves, the tension and emotion, surprisingly grows and while most people will be able to figure out what’s really happening 10 minutes into the film, I still found myself happily interested in the development of Jack and his his motivations.

The Bad:
The film is just way too long. We get it … he flies in his ship. We get it … he remembers something. We get it. Move along please. Over and over the audience is bashed over the head with scenes of him traveling or him remembering a moment on the Empire State Building and it just gets old. Maybe this was a device to represent the monotonous aspects of the mission but damn … move along please.

At the same time and as I mentioned before, once other humans are introduced, the dialogue and overall intrigue kind of goes away. I was fascinated by the relationship between Jack and Victoria, and this neat triangle thing happens half way through the film. However, when Morpheous … I mean Morgan Freeman shows up with Jaime Lannister … shoot, did it again … I mean Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, stuff gets convoluted for a bit and honestly, I just started to lose interest. Luckily those incredible action scenes happen, and I found myself right back in.

Lastily, the story is … a bit weak. Not in terms of its overall arch, but in terms of holes. I can’t get really into it without spoiling the plot, but if people have negative opinions of the film, the story will get the brunt of it.

The Ugly:
Nothing. There’s nothing ugly about this film. It looks good, sounds good and most of all it will fit well into a season of big-budget movies.

While not perfect, Oblivion is a solid outing for Kosinski. Cruise keeps the epic from getting out of control and grounded in belief while the supporting special effects and score heighten the experience. As the film progresses, other human characters kind of get in the way, but overall still an entertaining movie experience. Critics will dissect for not being terribly original and for its transparent story,  but audiences will be kinder and find more enjoyment from this futuristic tale.

3.5 out 5 Stuffed Gorillas Seemingly Just a Little Dirty and Hardly Worn Out After 60 Some Years


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