Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review 211: "Oblivion"

"Please, don't take any chances..."

The Bubble-Copter-Thing Movie

      Oblivion is a 2013 sci-fi action film based on an unproduced comic book written by Joseph Kosinski. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) and written by Karl Gajdusek (Last Resort) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Star Wars Episode VII) and follows Jack (Tom Cruise) who, alongside partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), repair drones for the people of Earth, who fled after an alien invasion. However, when mysterious strangers Julia (Olga Kurylenko), Beech (Morgan Freeman) and Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arrive, Jack discovers a shocking secret that will change their lives forever. 

Cruise, responding to an emergency call a little too late.
The Year of the Pretty

      If we don't remember 2013 for anything else, we'll remember it as the year all the movies looked pretty. Pacific Rim, Gravity, literally any animated movie. And, of course, Oblivion. I'll admit, Oblivion is a very nice looking movie, which isn't a huge surprise from the guy who made Tron: Legacy. The world created is truly a stunning one. But, there lies the problem with this movie. It seems most of the creative effort went into making a beautiful world. The story of Oblivion is, well, not great. And the characters, well, they aren't great either. Oblivion feels more like a video game than most video game movies do. The locations are great and the set pieces strong, but the characters and story feel like they are only there to get you from one stunning locale to the next stunning locale. Sure, Cruise is a nice little booster to the film, but the filmmakers seemed to have been barely trying. The film has this weird feeling like the filmmakers knew this was going to be an only-average film. Which is too bad, because they almost had something here.

Ramp Up

      Oblivion is a twist movie, a film based centrally around a mysterious twist that will be revealed partway through the movie. However, this time, the twist is actually a surprise. I made my guesses as to what was really going on, but Oblivion honestly surprised me with a smart and interesting twist. I won't ruin it for you here, but basically, the reveal of what parts of the story we've been told are true and what are more complicated is done very well and raises some very interesting question. However, the film largely does nothing with this twist. The characters react but, disappointingly, the story never does. The film keeps on, on a slow pace that treats this twist as just another bit of exposition to give out so any of this makes sense. It never ramps up the action. Questions are raised, not by the movie, but by the viewer. Questions that never get satisfyingly explored in the film. And as a result, the film is never able to get past the bland, generic story the filmmakers seemed so intent on making.

The next iPhone was just ludicrous.
The Verdict

      Oblivion is hardly a bad movie. Clear care went into making a great world for the characters and story to live in, backed by some strong performances and a great twist. However, the filmmakers never seemed to think this could be anything other than an average sci-fi flick. And as a result, the intriguing twist gets buried in an exposition-heavy, generic sci-fi story that never gets going like it should. A real shame. Something great could have happened here. Oblivion gets 4 stars out of 6.

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