Many reviewers have already pointed out the fact that director Joseph Koskinski’s Oblivion borrows quite a bit from a number of earlier science fiction films, includng Moon, Planet of the Apes, the Matrix, even Star Wars, Attack of the Clones. And that’s all very true. Koskinski’s second feature film after his debut with Tron: The Legacy takes a lot from other movies and comes out being much less than the sum of its parts.
A lot of reviewers seem to want waste their time bashing Tom Cruise for one reason or another, but what’s the point? He’s a lightweight, and has enough problems of his own already.Some reviewers are saying that Oblivion is a well named film, because oblivion is defined in the dictionary as “the state of being forgotten, as by the public.” But it was the number one film on its opening weekend, with a box office of $38 million. If that’s oblivion I’ll take some.
But the thing about this movie is that despite the spectacular special effects, the loud and violent action scenes, and the presence of a fading superstar and a former Bond-girl (Olga Kurylenko), it is ultimately a boring film. Boring because none of the characters are interesting, and the script has a plot that consists of twists on story elements we’ve all seen before.
It takes place in the not too distant future of 2077 and the world has been destroyed as a result of a war against space invaders called Scavs. The Scavs blew the moon up and we see it hanging in pieces in the sky like a half-eaten chunk of limburger cheese. The setting is the by now all too familiar devastated landscape consisting of busted up landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, a Pentagon that has been craterized, and the usual Statue of Liberty torch sticking up out of the rubble. (Why can’t film makers do something original? Why always the same old stuff. Why not show us a few burnt out Wal-Marts, or Dunkin Donuts? Surely there would be at least one set of Golden Arches left remaining.)
Cruise plays Jack Harper exactly as he is written, a character with no back story because he had his memory wiped clean five years before the story begins. His only character trait is that he is reckless, a risk taker. That’s the same character Cruise plays in most of his films. Except that this time Harper has little flashbacks that take place on top of the Empire State Building, where he meets Olga. This is supposed to intrigue us and make us want to find out more. But all I could think of was that the reviewers are right. This movie borrows from everybody—this time, it’s An Affair to Remember. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr have a shipboard romance and promise to meet in New York at the top of the Empire State Building.
There are lots more twists, including the scene where Olga, the girl in the flashbacks, shows up in the flesh. Now I’m thinking of Solaris.This leads to an unraveling of what happened to Jack five years ago. There is also an appearance by Morgan Freeman costumed as though he were remaking Mad Max at Thunderdome, and a group of rebels. What they’re rebelling against isn’t made immediately clear. When it finally is explained it’s another case of “been there, seen that.”
Kosinski obviously was trying to make something more subtle than space opera. But say what you will about space opera at least there is always a clear cut villain for the hero to fight. In Oblivion‘s case the villain seems abstract, and impersonal. It really could have used a Ming the Merciless or Darth Vader.
Oblivion probably won’t be consigned immediately to the $5 DVD bin at WalMart, but it certainly won’t be remembered as a landmark achievement in the history of science fiction cinema.Oblivion was filmed in IMAX and it probably will be remembered for that and the art design and cinematography.
Regarding IMAX let me just say I found it to be an excrutiating experience mainly because the sound was deafening. It was so loud that a day after seeing it my ears are still hurting. I seriously hope I haven’t suffered any hearing loss. It’s totally ridiculous to have what could have been a very enjoyable movie experience turned into two hours of audio torture.
The IMAX screen was great. The image is amazingly clear and the visual aspect of the film was enhanced by the size of the image and the clarity of all the details. Some of the flying scenes have you reaching out to hold onto something. Maybe the sound problem was the fault of the theater manager, or maybe not. I didn’t see anyone complaining about it. Has everyone gone deaf already from I-pods, car stereos, and home theater audio systems? Please turn down the volume! Can ya hear me? Eh?