Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: "Oblivion"

I have great affection for David Lynch’s Dune. It’s a movie that barely explains itself, but keeps throwing stuff at you anyways. Sure, The Original Star Wars Trilogy didn’t feel the need to spell everything out either, but it would at least establish and ground things to make the audience comfortable. Dune, on the other hand, expects you to have done some reading beforehand. Despite that problem, I really dig the flick. It’s a classic sci fi adventure with a weirdo modern (at the time) edge. It has a real “you just had to be there to understand” feel to it, and, knowing that I can never go back and “understand”, makes me love it even more.

The latest Tom Cruise movie Oblivion works well as a classic sci fi adventure, but without the special “you had to be there” feel. Actually, it’s really up to you if you want to go at all.

By no means is Oblivion bad; it’s a sleek looking and slickly told tale, constructed in a satisfying and easy to digest manner. At no time did I feel confused or out of place. It’s the kind of movie that makes you slurp an icee with glee and look forward to playing with your Wii when you get home (in fact, the ship Tom uses looks to be controlled by a Wii remote).

I just can’t say that it’s memorable. Is a cult following for this movie possible? Eh.

Tom Cruise plays yet another character named Jack, a technician assigned to maintaining the drones that protect mining machines on what is left of Earth. He must do this while fighting off the occasional Scav, the last of the aliens that invaded the planet years prior. Nearing the end of his mission, an old ship crash lands, revealing a woman Jack knows from his dreams. This leads him to a discovery that will determine the fate of humanity.

After the screening, I remarked to a friend that the story felt like the first in a franchise series, meant perhaps for a trilogy or something. Being a single film just feels off, as there are just lots of interesting things happening that deserve to be explored further. It really should’ve been an hour longer at least (seriously), giving us more to chew on. Morgan Freeman ends up expositing everything in a two minute sequence, clarifying for me that the producers just want you to shovel popcorn in your face while Tom Cruise shoots his gun.

To be fair, that isn’t too bad of a thing, as it actually works here. The visuals are top notch, Tom Cruise is at his most Tom Cruise and the action is fun. As a sci fi movie, it could’ve gone into philosophical territory regarding free will and blissful ignorance vs. knowing the truth, but opts instead for being adventurous on a superficial level. Disappointing, but hey - it works.

Dune, for all of its perceived faults, aimed for being something more than just space drama. It didn’t quite hit the mark, but the ambition was there. Oblivion is more than happy just sticking to what has worked before. It’s like the film equivalent of that guy who spends most of his life just chillin’, playing music and not making waves. Bless his heart, but please don’t follow in his footsteps.

3/5 *s

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