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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review: OBLIVION

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo

With the exception of Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise movies have been very ho-hum lately. They have ridden the fence of mediocrity, but who is to blame? Is it the material? Is it Tommy boy, the guy that used to make huge blockbuster hits? Or both? The film starts off with Jack Harper (Cruise) narrating the destruction of the Earth and what is left of it. I immediately get perturbed whenever that much exposition is done all in voice-over. An alien invasion destroyed the Moon which caused massive earthquakes and tsunamis that then destroyed the Earth and left a desolate wasteland in its place. A few landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty have, for the most part, been pummeled with the remaining portions left poking out of the ground.

Jack and his partner Vica (Riseborough) are part of a handful of people who have survived the chaos. The majority of his memory has been erased except for the part where he remembers being with a woman (Kurylenko) up on the Empire State Building. Their mission is to fix and maintain robotic drones that defend their power stations from any of the remaining species, known as the Scavs, left from the alien invasion. Vica supervises from their command station on their living quarters watching his back from any potential Scavs that may be lurking in the area. Their superior Sally (Leo) gives the commands to them via satellite from a space station orbiting earth. An unidentified spacecraft crashes down leading Jack to investigate against regulations. He discovers human bodies kept in pods and recognizes one of them as the woman from his memory. Drones quickly descend into the area killing all of the humans, but Jack is able to save this woman. She explains that her ship was a NASA mission but won’t reveal the purpose of the mission. When they go back to retrieve the ship’s flight recorder, they are captured by the Scavs. Everything Jack knows to be true is turned upside down when the Scavs reveal themselves and what their true intention happens to be.

That moment in the story also happens to be the time when the movie derails into a muddled cheap sci-fi flick and starts adding in plot twists and other additional themes and ideas. So much of the exposition was told through narration and then we get blasted with these random space loopholes and ultimate truths that it tries to be a little edgier and deeper than it started out to be. I do not want to give too much away about the second half of the film as it would ruin one of the “revelations” in the film. Did I mention that they do not always explain certain ideas they are introducing? Take for instance the cabin. Yes, a cabin. Apparently on this deserted barren Earth is a cabin that Jack still retreats to for solace and there happens to be electricity so he can listen to his record player. There is also an unnecessary love triangle thrown in.

That being said, the first half of the movie is the better half. It is a three, but mainly two, actor adventure as Cruise and Riseborough go about their mission and roam around what is left of Earth. It gets a bit slow, but I found the idea behind this portion of the story interesting as we see what is left after Earth’s destruction. This exploration of life or the lack thereof was appealing. The look and tone of the film is very reminiscent of earlier sci-fi exploration films, especially 2001: A Space Odyssey. Melissa Leo’s Sally is a direct homage to Hal 9000. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda recently won the Oscar for his work on Life of Pi. His work here is quite beautiful and visually stunning. There is a constant score throughout by Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese that fits well with this mysterious vibe that something else is out there.

Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) directed the film based on his own graphic novel. Oblivion has some great aspects going it for it but starts to lose its footing when it tries to accomplish too much. I think going in with fairly low expectations caused me to enjoy and give into the film more than I would have if I was expecting the next sci-fi masterpiece. I just wish it would have stayed on track. Call me crazy, but I would not have minded a two or three actor movie about space exploration and the destruction of Earth.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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1 comment:

  1. It was a bit disappointing to be sure. The more I thought about it the more huge holes happened to appear. Can't really get into it without spoiling it but I think we could have much more discussion than we did after the movie on this one.

    The most frustrating thing is that both of his films have been visually stunning but the story has been stunted. I can't help but think what could have been under a better director.