Friday, April 19, 2013

OBLIVION: Convoluted But Packs Plenty Of Visual Power

Opening today at nearly every multiplex in Raleigh and the Triangle area:

OBLIVION (Dir. Joseph Kosinski, 2013)

If I was rating this movie on the merits of its vast visual impact alone, as I experienced on an IMAX screen, I’d have to give it the highest marks. Kosinski, in his follow-up to his directorial debut, TRON: LEGACY, immerses us in the incredibly convincing post apocalyptic landscape of our world in 2077, after it’s been devastated by an alien attack that also destroyed the moon (that’s quite a sight - a demolished moon).

Tom Cruise, in deadly serious mode meaning he's refraining from flashing that blinding grin, is one of the last humans on Earth. Like WALL-E, he’s there to do a job though it’s not making skyscrapers out of trash, it’s repairing the drones that patrol Earth. In his coolly recited narration, Cruise calls himself part of the “mop-up crew.”

The rest of the human race has relocated to a colony on one of Saturn’s moons, while Cruise, protects the huge ‘hydro-rigs’ (pictured above) that harvest Earth’s remaining water.

But despite being haunted by visions of being on the observation deck of the Empire State Building with a mysterious woman during the invasion, Cruise has a nice set-up living in an iPod shiny single unit pad in the clouds (literally) with his co-worker and girlfriend, Andrea Riseborough. Their boss, Melissa Leo, pops up on a video monitor every now and then to check in and ask Riseborough, “Are you an effective team?”

The aliens, called Scavs (for “Scavengers”) have been mostly defeated, but there seem to still be some left behind lurking in the rubble.

Things get weird when Cruise comes across a crashed ship containing Olga Kurylenko in a hibernation capsule and recognizes her from his fractured Empire State Building flashbacks.

Things get weirder when Cruise and Kutylenko are captured by a ragtag underworld resistance army led by Morgan Freeman, apparently upset that he wasn’t tapped to narrate the film (I kid).

I got a bit lost in the twists and turns of the convoluted story-line and the ins and outs of the love triangle - this stuff makes sense when you have the whole story at the end but while its happening you may be like “wha?” - but the action set-pieces were gripping, the pacing swept me along, and the immaculate imagery kept my eyes a-popping.

Many critics are pointing out how many elements of OBLIVION allude to a slew of sci-fi movies, such as I AM LEGEND, THE MATRIX, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE PLANET OF THE APES, etc., but to me the movie came off most like it wanted to be a larger scale action re-imagining of Duncan Jones’ 2009 film MOON (also accused of being an amalgam of established sci-fi tropes), but it would give away too much, Spoiler-wise, to really go into it.

Perhaps Kosinki’s unpublished graphic novel that this is based on sorts out the narrative better but since that will probably never be published (bet some panels will make the Special Features of the Blu ray release though) I can only speculate.

I must re-iterate that the CGI, coupled with the sweeping cinematography of Claudio Miranda (TRON: LEGACY, LIFE OF PI) is really stunning - definitely the best I've seen so far this year. I've been so aware of watching actors walking around on sound stage in movies like OZ, but it never seemed like that in OBLIVION.

Along with its incredible visual impact, Cruise’s intense performance strongly carries the film. As MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL proved, the man is not going to let turning 50 take away any of his action star power. His steely focus carries us through what essentially is a popcorn picture posing as something more cerebral.

More later...


Trey Wessel said...

Hey great review of Oblivion! I also reviewed on my blog and came up to some of the same conclusion. I was really hoping for a more Moon like film but oh well what are you gonna do.

Rosie said...

Great review and great blog!

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Wes said...

Great review! Looks like I have another blog to read through.