Tuesday, April 23, 2013

REVIEW: Oblivion


Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman


April 19, 2013

Joseph Kosinski

Universal Pictures

2 hours 5 minutes



When 'Tron: Legacy' first came out back in December of 2010, moviegoers including myself were blown away at how great the visuals were and how awesome it was to see this then 28 year old film spawn a sequel. Over two years have passed, and now director Joseph Kosinski brings his sophomore effort 'Oblivion,' to the big screen. This is also the latest action Sci-Fi flick to show that 50 year old megastar Tom Cruise can still be an awesome action hero. Sadly though, the film doesn't live up to the directorial debut of Kosinski, as 'Oblivion' is brilliant in the first half hour, but dwindles down despite some very intriguing ideas and some interesting twists. The film is still somewhat enjoyable and a fun theater experience overall, but it had so much potential which it didn't live up to, which makes it an average flick overall.

In the year 2017, Earth was attacked by a group of aliens called scavengers, or "scavs" for short. A full on battle between the humans and the aliens commenced, which the humans eventually won. Unfortunately, the Moon and Earth were so destroyed that the humans had to colonize on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. 60 years later, a select few sets of humans are left on Earth to clean up and repair the sets of drones that are stationed all over Earth. Jack Harper is one of these humans, who, with his partner/lover Victoria successfully repair the drones and keep the planet the way it was left before the evacuation. Things are going smoothly for the two, as they're about to be sent to Titan to live in peace and harmony. That is, until a mysterious stranger who for some reason recognizes Jack comes crash landing from a ship. From there, a series of strange and shocking events start occurring, which makes Jack ponder about his own life and what he's been told about it.

The most satisfying thing about the film is the cinematography and the visual effects. One of the big highlights on 'Tron: Legacy' was how gorgeous the 3D world looked, and the same can be said here. While not revolutionary or groundbreaking, all of the effects, from flying ships to swimming in a pool thousands of feet above the surface, look incredible. Hell, this movie would have looked incredible if it was filmed in 3D. The cinematography by Claudio Miranda, who most recently won an Oscar for his work on 'Life of Pi,' looks gorgeous. Each shot of Tom Cruise looking over the ruins of Earth makes the audience feel like we're right there looking with Cruise at the catastrophic aftermath. If there is one way to see this movie, it's on the big screen. Seeing it on a TV or computer would not give the look of the film enough justice. Sadly though, these are the only great things about this film. Everything else is either good, decent, or mediocre.

Of all of the actors in the film, Tom Cruise gives the best performance as Jack Harper. Of the performances I've seen of Cruise recently, this is my least favorite of his, and that's mainly because it felt like anyone could have played this character. Sure his character is likable and pretty cool, but we've already acknowledged that Cruise is a full fledged movie star, so this just felt like that message was repeating itself. Despite getting top billing, Morgan Freeman (aka the voice of god) is only in the film for like 10 minutes and is just phoning it in during his presence. He was fine, I guess, but honestly his character and the entire subplot revolving around his character could have easily been cut out with a few script revisions. Melissa Leo was also good, but it felt she was phoning her performance in as well, just constantly repeating the same exact lines she said 20 minutes prior. As for the other two female leads, they were the weakest part of the cast.

Olga Kurylenko was fine, but her character was written to do two things: 1.) Add more conflict to the story 2.) Do practically nothing other than be the damsel to Cruise. I saw talent in her performance, but there wasn't a lot of substance to her character. Andrea Riseborough was the weakest member of the cast because she just felt like that whiny woman character you'd see in any movie with two females for one man. This tidbit is purely a nitpick because it was bothering me to an extent; her pupils were dilated throughout the entire movie, which kept making me think she was on acid or something. Either way, she reminded me of a carbon copy of a bitchy character played by Laura Linney. Overall, Tom Cruise was good, but everyone else was either phoning in their performance or were just plain mediocre. I don't blame it on the actors, though. I actually have Joseph Kosinski to blame for this.

Joseph Kosinski is a guy who really needs more practice when it comes to directing his actors, as well as writing screenplays. His visual style is great, and he clearly has a vision for what he's making, but he directs his actors to be flat characters who spew out cheesy lines. What's funny about this is that this movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name, which Kosinski wrote with Arvid Nelson. The script was co-written by Kosinski and Karl Gajdusek, with 'Toy Story 3' screenwriter Michael Arndt doing script revisions. The main problem with the script is that they have too many things going on and are trying to do something groundbreaking with this film.

In truth, this film has most of what's been seen before in sci-fi films, with elements coming from films like 'Star Wars,' 'A.I.,' and '2001: A Space Odyssey.' There were a handful of things that could have either been talked about more or not been there at all. For example, the story with Morgan Freeman and his "resistance" could have easily been taken out and replaced with simpler things. They talk about aliens still scavenging the planet, yet these aliens are never shown! I get that the filmmakers were trying to have deeper meanings with this film and have genuinely great twists along the way, but the result was sadly a mediocre script with extra style and less substance.

I purposely avoided any footage from 'Oblivion' because I knew it would be a challenge to do. I thought that by going into this blank, maybe I would love the living hell out of it. Since I knew nothing of the film prior to seeing it, I felt a little ripped off in the end due to the fact that what I was seeing didn't feel new. The friend who I went with to see it really enjoyed it, and I can see why people in general would like this film overall. I might have been expecting a lot from seeing so little, so that might have affected my opinion. If you want a visually stunning big screen experience, then this is the perfect eye-candy for you. If you can get pass the bland script and unoriginality, then this may be a movie you will fall in love with. I just couldn't do that. Despite fantastic visuals, stellar cinematography, and a good performance from Tom Cruise, 'Oblivion' just felt like a movie trying to be unique and original, yet in the end was something that's been done many times before.


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