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Oblivion is at its core about memory, indulging in notably lyrical internal monologues from Jack related to haunting dreams of a life he once had with Julia in a world barely remembered - a woman he has no recollection of actually meeting before rescuing her from a crashed spacecraft later on. So you're told.
Until then, Jack patrols the war-scorched landscape of the year 2077, repairing sphere-shaped robotic drones we're told hunt remaining Scavs and protect massive offshore rigs that process sea water for the survival of mankind either orbiting off-world on a huge vessel called the Tet (short for tetrahedron, a four-sided 3D triangle) or who have already colonized the safe haven of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Like I said, so you're told.
You're told a lot of things in Oblivion. You soon realize much of what's said to be true going in will be shown as false as the plot unfolds. Riding that intrigue is a fun novelty, even though this cast really doesn't bring much that keeps a paying audience interested for long. It's tough to care about Kurylenko and Riseborough's characters; they're fairly uninspired eye candy. The same could immediately be said for Jack, if he didn't have that awesome rustic man cabin of epic vinyl LPs selfishly secreted away in a mountain forest. #jealous
One major pleasure in sitting through Oblivion is experiencing its oftentimes boundless visual impact, largely due to the astounding work by CG effects studio Pixomondo. Most memorable are the canyon walls of ruined skyscrapers suggested in the catchy teaser poster, cleverly envisioned here. Stunning. Top marks also go to the art direction that pays subtle homage to classic science fiction movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and genre faves of the late 60s and early 70s. There's a wonderful "retro-futuristic" look to the costuming and sets. Aesthetically, the first half of this 124-minute big budget flick is absolutely spellbinding.
However, story-wise, Oblivion unfortunately wobbles off course after the first hour. It's as though a Hollywood accountant tapped Kosinski's shoulder during filming, reminding him of demographic-pleasing explosions and possible gaming tie-ins moviegoers were promised in the ads and trailers. Visiting the North American version of the movie's site at oblivionmovie.com already offers up a link to its Drone Defender game download at iTunes. This sudden sideways contortion in storytelling happens around the time Morgan Freeman unnecessarily appears from the shadows in badass Mad Max gear as the stoic leader of utterly pointless ragtag rebel survivors bent on harsh truth and pyrotechnics for peace. Who the what-what?
At that point, Oblivion's core ends up no-longer being about memory. It becomes forgettable; little more than a typically underachieving Tom Cruise popcorn money-maker seen time and again lately. Acting shmacting, cool stuff blows up. Noisily. A lot. Tom Cruise runs and jumps and runs some more. Empty stereotypes spouting bad dialogue revolt. Thunderdome mayhem ensues. Good drones go bad (Bad drones! Bad!). Alien science runs amok. Tom Cruise punches Tom Cruise.
Then it gets goofy.
After the makers of Oblivion manage to sabotage the time and $120 million towards creating a potentially clever cinematic gem, this nutty bag of whiplash further nosedives into a tired wasteland of blatant Sci-Fi clichés and cheesy Tinseltown rip-offs. A proven leading dramatic talent becomes another dull one-liner, plasma gun-packin' hero in spiffy space boots. Those stunning canyon walls of ruined skyscrapers become blurred background for a cheap rehash of the Death Star dogfight from Star Wars (1977). Remember the ending in Independence Day (1996)? Yeah, right here. Lame.
Oblivion is reportedly based on co-screenwriter/director Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name. Too bad this movie - such as it is - ended up being made first. Sure, it starts off with hugely impressive potential, but fatally bails above the neck halfway through. Do yourself a favour and stick with the Sci-Fi classics this beautiful stinker aspires to be. Reviewed 04/13, © Stephen Bourne.
Oblivion is rated PG by the Ontario
Film Review Board, citing use of expletives, mild sexual references,
nudity in a non-sexual context, crude content, scenes that may
cause a child brief anxiety, or fear, embracing and kissing,
mild sexual innuendo, tobacco use, and restrained portrayals
of non-graphic violence, and is rated G by la Régie du
Cinéma in Québec.
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