Dee Discusses: Oblivion

Posted: May 3, 2013 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, New Movies, Reviews
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I’ve been sitting on this one. I think it’s because I didn’t know much what to think about it. I came out with mixed feelings, and it took me a bit to process why I wasn’t a big fan of this one. I’ll be honest, it’s still hard to pinpoint, but I’m going to try my best for this review. I’m much more looking forward to my Iron Man 3 review, which I’ll be doing on Sunday. And for Star Trek in a few weeks. This is such the age of the geek, although I feel like that’s a story for another day. I say that because there’s a lot more accepted sci-fi and fantasy going around now as a genre, and that’s exciting for me. It doesn’t always mean good sci-fi, but I appreciate that it’s a growing market again. Give me sci-fi over bad romantic comedies and needless sequels any day. So without further ado, let’s get into Oblivion. Be aware there are spoilers in this review. Also that this is my opinion only.

The movie is about Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) who works on the Earth long after it’s been destroyed. Sixty years before, an alien race attacked and they were attacked by nukes, destroying the planet’s eco system and making it mostly a wasteland. With some few exceptions. The humans moved to Titan, a moon off Saturn, but Jack and his partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are behind. They need to suck up all the water and resources with giant machines to bring back to Titan, and they are only a few weeks away from their project being over. Harper says that every five years they are given a customary mind wipe. That right there was a big warning sign. They check in with a woman named Sally who is on Tet, the mission control center right outside of Earth’s hemisphere. So Harper goes out on his flying machine every day to check on the automatic drones they have and fix them if anything goes wrong. There are still aliens, named Scavs, trying to destroy the drones. Victoria is excited to move on to Titan, but Harper is having more trouble. He keeps having flashbacks of memories he knows can’t be real, since they’re from Earth and he’s too young to be alive when the attack happened. He has made himself a wooden cabin in a secret area, and he’s much less enthusiastic about leaving their home planet.

The Scavs put out a beacon, and it calls down a space ship that’s been hanging in suspension for, you guessed it, about sixty years. Harper ignores orders to go down and see the wreckage himself, and he sees a woman inside who he’s been dreaming about for years. The drones attack and kill the other escape pods, but he protects her and brings her back to the station. It’s tense. Her name is Julia (Olga Kurylenko), and she has missed the sixty years where all hell broke loose. They get captured by what they think are Scavs, but it turns out to be other humans, led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman). The humans have managed to survive and they tell Harper the drones are made to kill humans, and that they didn’t really win the war. The aliens did, or I suppose they’re sort of a giant computer a la HAL run by the Tet. They never made it to Titan after all. And Julia is Harper’s wife … he was a famous astronaut along with Julia and Victoria. They were taken by the Tet while exploring Titan and cloned many, many times. They helped overrun the Earth and the Tet apparently goes around to planets, taking up their natural resources and moving on. Harper runs into his own clone, but not until after Victoria reports him to Sally/Tet and gets killed herself when she says they are no longer a good team. So they just keep getting replaced with new clones and there’s hundreds of them around the Earth with their won sections. You can eventually see where this is going, they need to destroy the Tet.

There are a few things that really work in this film. For one it’s directed by Joseph Kosinski who has excellent vision. The visuals in this movie and his first one, Tron: Legacy, are all stunning. Apparently he used photographs he took of beautiful parts of the world and made it work for the setting here. I like the contrast of the droids and the clean but boring space stations compared to the beauty of his cabin and sometimes the long shots of the sand are pretty gorgeous too. I enjoyed the look of it. I think the actors are trying here. I’m not sure they’re given much depth outside of a few general traits, but they’re working on it. Personally I’m the biggest fan of the Victoria actress. She’s fairly cold but when she does emote, it’s very well done. I’m not a huge fan of Tom Cruise as a person, but I do think he’s a good actor. And Morgan Freeman always brings it, even if he has very little to do. I think it was a decent go at a sci-fi movie. The drones finding the human hideout was brutal and very well shot, and I like that the human camp seemed gritty and despondent.

What I didn’t like was how enormously predictable it was. I understand that maybe not everyone saw the “twist” coming, but I definitely did from early on. I knew from early on that the Scavs were humans and he was working for the enemy, it made the most sense. As soon as I heard ‘mind wipe’ in the beginning I went oh okay it’s probably reprogramming or replacement. The Julia and space crew part did surprise me, because I wasn’t sure yet how they were going to reveal what was going on. I saw the end coming a mile away. They do those parallels when a character says “I wish I could be there to see this” and it’s like okay that’s where it’s going. Since there are multiple clones of Harper, it’s not like he ever really “dies.” I wonder how many of them there are left on the planet, I guess. Anyway the point is, I wasn’t wow’ed by the movie. I thought it was okay. I got a little bored in some scenes because I’d already jumped to a few conclusions, and I was impatient for it to get there. I didn’t really want more, I guess. A lot of the action was well done, but I feel like it wanted to be both an action movie and a serious drama, and at times it just seemed too hollow to be both. Plus we’ve seen so many sci-fi movies by now where it’s like nothing is what it seems, or Space! or Clones! or Robots! Rotten Tomatoes has this movie at a 56% and that makes sense to me, because it’s a lukewarm film, so lukewarm reactions make sense.

I’d suggest this for a rental. Yes I do admit the visuals are lovely so seeing it on a big screen is nice, but I don’t think it was worth the IMAX tickets I bought. I’d say this was a B film? Maybe a B minus? So it’s still generally good, but I was left cold by it. And I have no interest in seeing it again or buying the DVD, personally.

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