The weekend is coming to a close as I’m writing this, hope y’all had a nice one… especially in the weather department. It’s really the kind of “Spring” that does NOT add an extra spring in your step, unless you want to slip on ice and fall over into a puddle :(
I mean, just look at this photo from a couple of days ago!! THAT’s the reason I couldn’t see Mud last Thursday! And this is the kind of stuff we could expect for this week, courtesy of our local meteorologist at the Star Tribune:
A rain/snow mix tomorrow evening – but temperatures boomerang to near 70F by Saturday afternoon, maybe even a few severe T-storms late Sunday? Something for the entire family.
Anyway, I did see quite a few new films this past week, five to be exact:
Post-apocalyptic science fiction films are a dime a dozen and there seems to be no shortage of it. Even before the start of this film, there are trailers for a couple of them (After Earth, Elysium) and the world we live in is almost always depicted in a state of doom, with humanity facing extinction with the rest of well, what’s left of our universe.
OBLIVION begins with a voice over exposition courtesy of Jack Harper (starring the virtually ageless mega star Tom Cruise) who now lives in a high tower above the earth, Tower 49, which looks like a very expensive high rise penthouse, complete with built-in swimming pool underneath. Not a bad living quarter for a ‘mop-up crew,’ that’s what Jack refers to himself and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They’re only two weeks away on completing their mission of drones repair on earth before they could join the entire remaining human population in their new home in Titan. Now, you’d think he’d be excited for that but Jack still can’t let go of earth & his earthly house by the lake, and he’s also still haunted by his memory of a woman from 60 years ago as they walk up to the Empire State Building [is this like the only romantic rendezvous place for New Yorkers in the movies??].
Well, what do you know. On a routine mission, Jack ended up meeting that very woman who was in one of the delta-sleep pods that crash landed on earth as Jack was relaxing by the lake. Now, the arrival of ‘Julia’ who claims to be his wife, and then later meeting a group of human survivors hiding underground, led by cigar-smokin’ Morgan Freeman, Jack’s life quickly begins to unravel as he discovers just who his true identity is. He starts to question the things we’ve also been curious about from the start, and the last half of the film follows Jack in that journey of self-discovery… and more.
Now, all of this is intriguing stuff and director Joseph Kosinski builds this film with so many beautiful vistas and cool-looking robots to mesmerize us, but the plot leaves way more questions than the film could even begin to answer. Now, I don’t want to discuss ‘em here without revealing a bunch of spoilers, but let’s just say I have similar questions as this guy in Film School Rejects post. Well, I don’t really care about ‘why was Beech [Freeman's character] is always wearing sunglasses’ but the rest are definitely valid plot holes issues. I feel that my beef with Kosinski’s first film, Tron Legacy, where it’s mostly style over substance, also applies to this one. The one advantage is that this one he has a far more charismatic protagonist than Garrett Hedlund (more on that latter). But similarly, Kosinski seems far more concerned with building cool looking stuff than he is about crafting a real ‘meaty’ story that goes beyond a mere ‘intriguing concept.’
That said, I still find this film entertaining and I’ve got to admit I was wowed by the visuals. Everything from the bluish-hued barren landscape of earth in ruins, to the ultra sleek sky tower and Jack’s collapsible Bubbleship [apparently the design was a hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter – per We Are Movie Geeks], there are visual eye candy aplenty for the sci-fi geek in all of us. I saw this in 2D which was perfectly fine, but I bet this film would look pretty stunning on IMAX.
The pace is pretty good and I never find myself bored in the entire two hours. I also think there’s a balance of quiet moments and full-throttle action, which makes it more effective when it does happen. The aircraft chase with the drones in the narrow canyons remind me too much of so many other sci-fis, most notably The Phantom Menace. But then again, this film borrow a lot of sci-fi concepts from other films so I shouldn’t be surprised by that. Despite all the plot holes though, I’ve got to give props to the filmmaker for at least attempting to inject some humanity into the story.
As I’ve alluded to earlier, Tom Cruise is still more than capable to carry this film. I don’t think Jack Harper would make my top 10 Tom Cruise roles, but still he’s very watchable. Some of the flying sequences made me think of this movie as Top Gun meets Minority Report, it’s amazing Cruise still looks pretty much the same as he was in Top Gun which was released 27 years ago!! One of Cruise strengths is that he is believable in the action as well as the more emotional scenes. Interestingly enough, the part of him reminiscing on earth—recalling his old days of watching baseball, playing sports in his back yard and listening to old records—are more effective than the ‘romantic’ scenes of him and his female co-stars however. I don’t exactly know why that is, though I give Cruise some credit for not looking creepy romancing actresses nearly half his age!
Speaking of the actresses, I was impressed with Andrea Riseborough once again (she was also in Disconnect), she’s truly a star on the rise [pardon the pun] with a chameleon-like ability. I don’t think Olga Kurylenko is as versatile, but she actually impresses me more here than she did in Quantum of Solace. She has an earthy and mysterious quality about her and though she is stunningly beautiful, she doesn’t come across as flighty. Morgan Freeman of course adds gravitas to his role, Beech is the kind of ‘cool but eternally wise’ character he’s played in so many films that it probably doesn’t require much effort on his part. Hunky Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also has a small part as Freeman’s cohort, but I think he’s more capable than that.
Final Thoughts: I don’t think Oblivion will be a sci-fi classic. I appreciate it for what it is, which is popcorn entertainment, but not profound enough to be memorable. I don’t mind watching it again down the road though, even if it’s just to gawk at the marvelous visuals. It’s the kind of escapist entertainment that’s tailored to maximize Cruise’s massive star power. The film’s box office prowess will prove that Cruise’s certainly still got it.
3.5 out of 5 reels
Well, what did you think of this film? Did you enjoy this more than I did?