Genre: Science Fiction
Watched: May 16, 2013
Summary: Tried really hard and mostly worked
I try to see most, if not all, Science Fiction and fantasy films. The buzz around Oblivion slanted it as cerebral, more character and less action oriented. All good by me. I crave Science Fiction films that can live up to good science fiction prose. I demand Blade Runner and Aliens. Last year, I had to be satisfied with Prometheus, which tried, and failed.
Oblivion is pretty good. It tries and mostly succeeds Although not without a serious set of logical flaws, but I enjoyed it far more than I expected. It’s not as good as Minority Report (to make a Cruisian point), but it isn’t far off.
I’m not going to summarize and I’m going to spoil. This is criticism and analysis, not a buying guide. Let’s breakdown a few things:
Visually, this is a lovely film. The combination of haunting Icelandic landscape and a judicious take on post-apocalyptic is haunting and atmospheric. We have vast empty spaces. Slurries of silt and muck have swamped cities. Nothing is left. Then the few bits of new tech like the drones and fusion reactors stand out with awesome clarity and scale.
It’s also worth noting that while this is an expensive CGI heavy film (Box Office Mojo says $120 million) the graphics are slickly and deftly integrated. It feels like a film shot on location and entirely in front of the green screen. The reality? Who knows, probably a lot of green screen, but it feels spacious and open.
The audio scape is first rate. This director likes sound, and it works. Tron Legacy (his previous and only other big screen directorial effort) was one of the best sounding films of the last decade with its brilliant Daft Punk soundtrack (an amazing album as well as score) and Oblivion has a fantastic electronica score as well. The bassy (Inception horn-esque) sound of the drone siren was also awesome.
Tom is fine. I’m not one of his haters. This is a solid role in the Cruise model and he carries it. There aren’t a lot of characters in this movie, but his partner Victoria is well cast. My favorite Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, plays a minor character. He’s good too, but underutilized. I didn’t love Morgan Freeman in his role, even though he’s a fantastic actor. It just felt overdone and a bit too Morgan Freeman. The second woman, the brunette, is forgettable.
The plot is ambitious. We have an entire new world and a fairly tricky psychological setup. It worked. Pretty well too.
The directorial style is excellent. Moody, bold, and almost always clear.
Now we come to the science fiction. Spoilers abound as I try to make sense of the why of Oblivion!
How do we get from 2013 and a canceled shuttle program to 2017 and a slick Titan moon expedition with suspended animation cells capable of lasting for 60 years? Why didn’t the writers just set the “first encounter” in 2050 or something?
When the Odyssey is being sucked into the TET by tractor beam (can we say Falcon and Deathstar?) why is it that the crew module, when ejected back toward earth by Cruise, can escape said tractor beam?
Why is the TET so often “offline” and out of communication? I know it’s supposed to be blocked by the earth but any tech capable of AI drones, clones, and Cruise’s flying ship could throw up a couple of comm satellites to bounce the signal around.
Why does Cruise land his flying ship and go for a bike ride? Seems kinda dangerous and pointless, unless the point is showing him biking past the rotting hulks of ruined warships (which was kinda cool).
Why, does a super advanced alien mega-mind with it’s own giant spaceship resort to entirely indirect methods in conquering the earth? Although, again I must admit that the shattered moon looked kinda cool. But would a half exploded moon just hang up there?
Why would it employ an army of human clones? And only two models? Why not drones to begin with?
If you did “grow” a whole army of clones, why would each have a part copy of the original memories? Clones are just genetic twins. Memory is not on the duplication slate. Why have some separate “brain sync” machine/process if you didn’t want the memories anyway?
If it could build those drones, why so few?
Why resort to the whole “drone maintenance guy” thing? It doesn’t really make much sense.
Even if — and this is a tremendously big if — the 2017 Odyssey crew cryo-sleep module was still in orbit, how did the Scavs know how to send it a little jury rigged signal to cause it to return to earth?
How did each Vicky never notice how much time each Jack (Cruise) spent off grid building his man cave?
Why didn’t the Scavs locate their drone in a separate spot away form all the women and children and bring Harper there?
Why do Scavs dress like Sand People in Star Wars? Oh yes, cloaking tech.
Does vinyl really last 70 years? And if so, how come Harper, presumably born in the 70s, is such a classic rock fan? And how did he power his man cave?
Did Harper 52 just dump Vicky 52 in his 3 year search for “the girl”?
If you are a super smart alien “mega-mind” why do you let a guy carrying a nuclear bomb into your brain chamber? And if your sensors can detect an extra body on the way in, why can’t they sniff out a little Plutonium? It is only a RADIOACTIVE HEAVY ELEMENT!