Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Oblivion



As I mentioned in my previous review, 2013 has not, thus far, been a good year for film. So neither mediocre reviews from film critics nor the presence of action-hero Tom Cruise were going to stop me from seeing the latest sci-fi blockbuster during opening week. What they did do, however, was provide me with those ever-so-helpful low expectations. 

As a result, Oblivion was one of the few films I’ve seen this year which succeeded in capturing my attention (i.e. it captivated me). This success was largely due to a very slow-paced start. It may have reminded me a little too much of Wall-E but it was the perfect way to begin this story, a story which actually focused on providing the thought-provoking intelligence I look for in a sci-fi film instead of on the action too many recent films have offered (with Tom Cruise, who’d have thought?). Not that there wasn’t a fair bit of pointless action in the film, but it was by no means what the film was about. 

I am not, of course, going to tell you what the film is about, but I’ll provide the setting: In the near future, aliens attack the earth. They lose the war but what’s left of the earth after the war is uninhabitable, so all surviving humans are evacuated to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.  But Titan needs energy, which is supplied by humungous fusion reactors sucking up the earth’s oceans. Jack and Victoria are assigned to look after the drones protecting those reactors. They are the earth’s last caretakers (sound familiar?). 

Then one day Jack spots a small ship crashing to earth and goes to investigate (despite protestations from Victoria). What he finds in that ship will change everything, and I will say no more about that.

While I wouldn’t call his performance outstanding, I have no complaints about Tom Cruise in the lead role (and he appears in almost every scene). The two women who play Jack’s love interests (Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko) are very well cast and also perform commendably. The cinematography is outstanding and the score, while occasionally overwhelming, is also very good.

So if Oblivion (written and directed by Joseph Kosinski) is an intelligent, well-made and well-acted film, what are the critics on about? Well, the truth is that Oblivion has its fair share of flaws. It may be intelligent, but it’s not original, stealing ideas from many greater sci-fi films, so there is some inevitable predictability in the story (tempered by the fact that there are so MANY ideas involved, it’s impossible to predict all of them). 

Added to this is the weird ending, which either lacks the intelligence I just mentioned or I lack the intelligence to figure out how anything that happens in the last twenty minutes or so is remotely plausible. And then there’s the disappointment that comes from watching a film with thought-provoking ideas fail to give those ideas their due. In other words, the film is rather superficial and should have been better.

Nevertheless, Oblivion has much more to offer than most of what passes for sci-fi these days, including thoughts worthy of theological exploration (once enough time has passed that I can refer to the plot). In my opinion, the critics were way too hard on this film, which I am giving ***+. My mug is up.

2 comments:

  1. I had similar feelings that while the movie (especially the ending) was definitely not perfect critics seem to have judged it too harshly. Perhaps it's the hodgepodge of homages to various (and as you point out, more famous) sci-fi films of the past. Anyway, enjoyed your review.

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  2. With you completely on this review. Entertaining and well made, but falls short of depth. When I read in the credits about being based on a graphic novel, I thought that fit completely (apologies to graphic novel lovers). It points to depth but never gets there. But good fun.

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