Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oblivion (2013)

A predictable post-apocalyptic big budget scifi flick

Oblivion (2013) is the second mainstream, big budget film from newcomer director Joseph Kosinski. His first was the relatively appealing "reimagined" sequel to 1982's Tron, with Tron: Legacy(2010). It was a decently re-engineered sequel and had enough imagination of its own to be worth watching. 

Oblivion seems cut from the same cloth only it it recycles too many elements from other, better science fiction films that I came away kind of empty. It is not an awful film and there is a lot I did admire in it, but at the end of the day, we have seen this before and better, elsewhere. 

Tom Cruise following up the overrated Jack Reacher (2012), playing another Jack, a ballsy tech repairman who has remained on Earth after it has been decimated by an alien invasion. "We won the war, but lost the planet," is the cliched explanation we get from Jack. Now the survivors are on Titan, one of Saturn's moons while the 'Tets' harvest and create new drinking water for the remaining humans on Titan. Jack is Tech 49, whose job it is to protect the and fix the drones who scour the earth protecting the Tets from Scavs (faceless Mad Max wannabes) whose sole reason for living is to destroy the Tets. 

Jack lives with his "eyes on" tech and now live in girlfriend, Vika (played by the lovely British actress Andrea Riseborough). They live in a lovely see through penthouse that sits far above the clouds but seems to be precariously based on unstable rocks below. It seems the Scavs could place some powerful explosives on the ground and bring the whole house down. Problems solved. But never mind. Jack seems to have a recurring dream that he is in New York with a woman he thinks he does not know and they are somehow connected, he is just not sure how. 

As we have seen from the previews, Morgan Freeman enters the story, puffing on cigars and waxing about how Jack is the answer to everyone's problems, only stupid Jack does not know what is painfully obvious to everyone, even the viewers. Oblivion does have a lot going for it. The acting is polished and Cruise has yet to give a bad performance in any role. He carries the bulk of this film and for the few scenes he is in, Morgan Freeman is always the consummate professional. The real gem I fell in love with was the Andrea Riseborough who is positively radiant recently seen in Welcome to the Punch (2013). Not only is she sexy but she has a personality that enticing and a figure to match. She is smart, crafty and yet still maintains a vulnerability that makes all the more appealing, and her chemistry with Cruise's Jack is well done. 

The problem I started having with Oblivion is that it starts well and up until the beginning of the final act I was into what was happening on screen, I was interested in the characters, cared about what happened to them and the story seemed to be gaining some steam but then it runs out of steam and the final act of the film fails crushingly dull. 

There are way too many references to other films from other genres that Oblivion seems to borrow from; Total Recall (original version), Planet Of The Apes(1968), a dash of the Matrix are just a few that come to mind. That is a shame since the script by Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt (listed inexplicably as Michael deBruyn) and Joseph Kosinski (which based the script from his own graphic novel) seems to have great ideas but nowhere to go with them. 

The visuals of the film are however stunning. Every shot is crisply clear and looks like a David Lean film. The picturesque panoramas are things I could look at for hours. Therein is the problem. We should be focused on the film instead of lingering on the cinematography. I will also send out kudos the score by M83, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese. Kosinski has an ear for great score music composers. He did for Tron Legacy when he hired the French music duo named Daft Punk and he has done it again with M83, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese. It has been called 'Tron-ish' and it does have a feel and a vibe of Daft Punk but it is its own creation and a grand one it is. 

Oblivion is not awful, but it is not great. Maybe being a Tom Cruise film, our expectations are way too high that what it really offers. It has a lot a effective elements that do work but you just can't shake that "been there, seen that" cliched feeling. Oblivion-**1/2 out of 4. JohnnyTwoToes


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