Saturday, May 4, 2013


If you enjoy science fiction movies you will probably enjoy the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. And I do mean sci fi movies, plural, because this one movie is actually a lot of sci fi movies ... all rolled into one. It tries to be all things sci fi movies to all people and we all know that when you try to please everyone, you mostly succeed at not pissing off anyone.

If you like post apocalypse movies (and I do, I always think that start of a good story is the destruction of humanity) Oblivion has you covered. The film starts several years after humanity has been invaded by aliens we call the Scavs, our war with them destroys most of the planet, the Scavs blow up the moon creating huge earthquakes and tsunamis that tear the earth apart and thanks to the bombs we unleash, irradiate the rest of the planet. As Cruise's character states, we win the war but lose the earth.

Mankind is preparing to leave Earth to colonize Titan but in order to do so, we have to drain the oceans to provide fuel for a huge space station/space ship called the Tet, that hangs up in the sky. The Scavs, though defeated, are still around and seemed interested in destroying the hydro processors; the Tet launches drones to defend the processors but these lethal robots need maintenance. This is where Cruise comes in. He plays Jack, a technician whose duty is to service the drones and protect them from the Scavs

Jack is not utterly alone on Earth, he has been partnered with Victoria, Andrea Riseborough, who monitors Jack's movements and acts as a liaison with Mission Control in the Tet. The pair of them live in a glass stilt house high above the earth and high above the clouds

The movie starts out with a very deliberate pace; Jack and Vic's life seem rather placid for the fact they live on a planet that is badly wounded. These are among my favorite scenes in the movie; you know that something isn't right here, that the picture is a little too perfect. And sure enough, the cracks in the pretty picture soon begin to form. Jack is haunted by dreams, dreams of the past, of the earth's past, of his own past but this cannot be so; for reasons of security his and Vic's memories had been scrubbed before they began the mission. Yet in his mind he sees himself in New York, on the Empire State Building, with a strange woman.

On top of that, the woman who speaks to them from Mission Control is down right creepy. A space craft, a human space craft, suddenly crashes on to the earth and Jack learns that all is not as it seems. So now we are in a dystopia, another one of my favorite sci fi genres; think Logan's Run, where the policeman keeping the law soon comes to realize that the law may just be a bit fucked up. It just gets worse. Enter Morgan Freeman.

Jack is shocked to learn that there are other humans still on Earth. Morgan and his band of grubby survivors are here to point out to Jack that the war may not be over, or it may not be exactly as it may seem. The spacecraft has a survivor, as portrayed by Olga Kurylenko, and it is the woman Jack has been seeing in his dreams. Morgan sets them out on a mission, into the radioactive zone, suggesting that out there, Jack may find his destiny. Yup, now we are in The Planet of the Apes, only without the apes and a motorcycle instead of a horse

I want to avoid spoilers here, as Oblivion is still in theatres, but before the movie ends, several more sci fi cliches are thrown into the mix. The movie begins and it moves some place but there are a few logic jumps in the middle and I'm not sure if the timeline works. The movie is strangely devoid of emotion, even when the story demands it.

Oblivion was directed by Joseph Kosinski, who also did Tron Legacy. I quite enjoyed Tron Legacy. It was completely gorgeous to look at, it had a lot of momentum that carried you along, tension was built and it actually had an emotional core. Oblivion is certainly gorgeous to look at, its post apocalyptic Earth is one of the most impressive I've ever seen.

There is action in the movie, quite well done, from high level physical stunts to nicely filmed flight and fight sequences. After all, this is a Tom Cruise movie, so you get your Top Gun moments and your obligatory Tom-running-with-emotion moments. But, oddly, the tension never really seems to build. While I admire the movie for its slow build, and there are some great action sequences, I never really felt pulled into the story, I wanted to know what was going to happen but I never needed to know. Unlike Tron, the movie lacks a strong emotional connection, I was interested but not invested. Some of this actually makes sense, some of the characters seem devoid of emotion and I understand the reasoning but it was still difficult to be concerned with them

Oblivion is very much a pastiche and not as entertaining or compelling as B Movie pastiches that Quentin Tarantino throws together, but in the long run, I think it works. It's a good vehicle for Cruise, not as powerful as Minority Report but the kind of thing this dude can pull off. It hones very close to Matrix-style mind fucks but never gets there but its a very entertaining suburb. It won't rank as one of the best sci fi movies I've ever seen but I know a lot of these images will stick in my head; and when you're my age, any memory that sticks is worth something ... much as the memories of a life he may or may not have lead stays with Jack in a world where the Moon bleeds across the sky.

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