It’s good to see the science fiction genre making a solid come-back to the world of cinema. Incoming sci-fi flicks like Riddick, Star Trek Into Darkness, Elysium, Upside Down and Pacific Rim are all ensuring that this is a genre that is experiencing quite a resurgence.
Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) wrote and directed Oblivion, a film from the same producers as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and based on an unpublished novel that he wrote with Arvid Nelson. Kosinski’s love for sci-fi is clear as day. He’s put classic, sometimes generic, elements of the genre and infused his own ideas to create a pretty decent staple in this beloved category.
Whatever you may think of Tom Cruise, the man knows how to act in big Hollywood fare. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him really flex his acting muscles (even though he has been taking that t-shirt off a lot lately) and he doesn’t exactly do anything that different here either. As Jack, one of the last drone repairman left on earth, Cruise delivers a solid, physical performance that more or less rings true. Andrea Riseborough, I think, gives the best performance as Victoria, Jack’s work colleague and lover. Victoria blindly works without wanting to ask any questions, unlike Jack. Her relationship with Jack is established well in the first quarter of the film. It’s a professional relationship that has grown into a sort-of marriage. Work during the day, followed by dinner and the occasional nude rendezvous in the pool at night. Their isolated existence is realistically portrayed.
On a visual level, Oblivion looks spectacular. The Iceland landscapes are used to great effect, providing some fantastic backdrops to Jack’s many travels. Which, by the way, he does heaps of. On foot, by motorbike, spacecraft – so much traveling. There are great designs and the technical depth that has gone into the machinery is easy to see. The drones are especially impressive. These round, flying killing-machines provide many suspenseful moments as they search and destroy. Their computerized P.O.V. shots certainly make their scenes more effective – even if we’ve seen it done countless times before. From the impressive visuals in 2D, it’s a safe bet that IMAX 3D would look awesome.
Science-fiction is a genre driven by ideas and theories. Oblivion has plenty of both, some work and some just don’t. In terms of the story, Kosinski keeps everything a little too “safe”. We have seen most of these ideas portrayed in many other films. There are elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon. There’s even a space-craft dog fight that is straight out of a Star Wars flick. Admittedly, nearly everything has been done before – in some way or another. It’s just a little disappointing that when the movie reveals big plot points, they just don’t have the impact they should because of familiarity. It’s a little hard for me to drive this point home without being crucified for spoilers, so let me just say that final “twists” don’t work on a dramatic scale due to the fact that we’ve been there and done that.
There are many sections of the plot that could have benefited from some further development and other parts that really didn’t need it. The key plot point of the insurgents (led by Morgan Freeman) isn’t really explored. This ragtag group of survivors are barely given any importance, left to be in the background as Morgan Freeman gets his speech on. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, from Game Of Thrones, appears in a small and ultimately fruitless role as a tough leader.
The film could use way more action. There seems to be an overabundance in explanations and back-story. This isn’t normally a bad thing, but once you realize that there’s a lack of antagonists in the picture, you realize that there just isn’t going to be much action going on.
Ultimately, the undemanding viewer should be left satisfied. Joseph Kosinski gives us a decent sci-fi film that mostly delivers. It’s a good looking flick that should really be watched on the big screen. The special effects are, of course, fantastic and the sound design is suitably creative. While the story manages to keep you intrigued and interested for most of its running time, the effort to get you there doesn’t quite pay off once the generic explanations are revealed.
[Written by contributor Guillermo Troncoso]
In Theaters: IMAX Exclusive Release: April 12, 2013 Wide Release: April 19, 2013
Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Melissa Leo
Genre: Action/Adventure, Adaptation, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://www.oblivionmovie.com