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Oblivion (2013)

April 26, 2013

4/10 Omega Men

Well that was surprisingly familiar.

Oblivion takes place 60 years after we fought back the aliens who invaded our planet. Though we ultimately won the war, countless lives were lost and the Earth was left a radioactive wasteland. As for the survivors, they decided it was as good a time as any to jump ship and started a new life over on Titan, the sixth moon of Saturn. Back on Earth, one man with a mean case of amnesia serves as a maintenance crew of sorts for some space-age mega-structures that are turning our oceans into fuel for future use on Titan. It’d be a pretty easy gig if it weren’t for the leftover aliens (or “scavs” as they’re called) that keep sabotaging things, but our guy’s up for the challenge. But the more time that passes, the smarter these scavs become. Before he knows it, his simple job ain’t so simple anymore, and as his memory starts to return, his world begins to change.

If this is all sounding a little familiar, then go to the front of the class and give yourself a gold star, friend. Because as intriguing as this all may sound and as purdy as these screen grabs may be, I’ve been having a hard time thinking back on Oblivion without thinking about the movies it reminds me of. So for any of you who are the least bit familiar with some of the all-time sci-fi greats, then prepare yourself for a some déjà vu. We’ve got a Frankenscript on our hands.

“A Frankenscript?!” you scream, the blood rushing from your face. That’s right, little Johnny, and you’d best get to hiding yo’ kids and hiding yo’ wife if you know what’s good for ya’.

If all this is stuff coming as news (being that I just invented it and all), a Frankenscript is a bastard, a lesser child born from icons that came before it. It’s a greatest hits record, one that just doesn’t cut it in comparison to the original albums. It’s like Nevermind compared to that piece of crap that came out in ’02. You get the idea, and it’s a sorry situation alright, terrifying even. But before we form a posse and start killing it with fire, let’s at least take a step back to appreciate the few merits of its existence.

Now, I don’t know how the masses feel on the matter, but I dug TRON: Legacy quite a bit. It was Joseph Kosinski’s first feature-length effort, it had the weight of the nerd world riding on its shoulders, and depending on who you ask, it lived up to the hype. Sure, the script got a little ahead of itself at times, but damn if it wasn’t some good old-fashioned neon fun. Anyhow, it didn’t take much for Koskinski to win me over and it was his involvement in Oblivion that got me interested in the first place.

From a visual standpoint, it’s hard to deny how slick the art direction is here even if it does borrow a lot from TRON and even if it pales in comparison. The difference is that he built a full-fledged digital universe in TRON, where as this is driven more by style points than anything else. Still, from the weapons to the outfits, the vehicles to the architecture, Kosinki’s designs are both easy on the eyes and about the only things that make this bad boy feel new. Wish I could say the same thing about the underwhelming action scenes, but that’s what you get when all your bad guys are carbon copies of lifeless drones.

I guess the only other defense I’ve got is that, as painfully derivative as it is, I was still invested enough to see how everything played out. Then again, when your whole is shrouded in mystery like this, it’s less of a compliment earned than one that inevitably comes with the territory.

Yeesh, as far as defenses go, that one was pretty bad. So without further ado, let’s break out the pitchforks and get to the prosecution!

First off, no one expects every movie they see to be utterly original from head to toe. That’s just crazy, that’s just impossible, and if Quentin Tarantino has taught us anything over the years, it’s that Marcellus Wallace is not, I repeat, not a bitch, and that amazing things can happen when you borrow from other movies. Furthermore, the problem with Oblivion isn’t that it’s unoriginal, it’s just that it doesn’t do enough with the material it borrows from to make the end result feel unique. I can only imagine that the thought process behind this was to take all the best aspects from a handful of classics, mix ’em all together and hope that it t tasted like goddamn parfait.

Oh, and give it a cool name! Gotta give it a cool name.

It’s actually not a terrible idea from the outset, after all, I done bought a ticket and I done took the ride. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before everything just became…vapid. For example, you ever meet someone who’s absolutely gorgeous, I’m talking “Abercrombie gorgeous,” the kind of person you just gravitate towards based solely on their looks and how they carry themselves? You know who I’m talking about, and if you’re courageous enough, you might even introduce yourself to them. You smile, they smile, you say “Hi,” and then they speak. And just like that, nonsense hits your ears, their dead eyes come into focus, and before you know it, your worldview is shattered.

That, in a nutshell, is the makeup of Oblivion: an Abercrombie body with a Frankenscript personality.

Oh yes, everything is not as it seems in Oblivion, but the sad reality is that for every big reveal that it throws our way, it just doesn’t have the substance or character to support it. Despite my interest in watching the truths come to light, I couldn’t have cared less about the hero of our story or even the truths themselves once the layers were peeled back. Not only that, but the way this story is plotted and approached is nothing short of bizzare.

I hated Tom’s opening narration that simply spells out everything we need to know about him and the world as he knows it. For a movie that’s so hellbent on keeping us guessing, why would you just give us the 411 like that? For chrissakes, don’t tell us what’s up, show us what’s up and let us piece the puzzle together on our own. We moviegoing folk are smarter than you give us credit for, and don’t just overcomplicate your plot for the sake of overcomplicating it. It just makes everything look sloppier than it already is.

And I am so effing tired of amnesic protagonists. What a lazy-ass gimmick to keep an audience in the dark, one that even the almighty Maverick couldn’t help me look past. Also not sure where all this praise for Tom Cruise is coming from because the dude is just fine, nothing more. It’s no Collateral, I’ll tell you that much.

Also, last thing: way to give one of your characters one of the worst parting lines since the glory days of Schwarzenegger. Just wait for it, it is horrendous.

I wish I had better news to report, but that’s really the long and short of it. Then again, let’s not forget that it does have its merits. At the very least it’ll keep you watching, and I imagine that’ll quite a long way for a lot of folks. However, if you haven’t seen any of the sci-fi classics that this movie reeks of, then the way I see it is that you’re left with two options. The first is to go see Oblivion and get your brain sufficiently blown every step of the way. It will be awesome, you’ll think I’m crazy, it’ll be a point of contention between us for years to come. The second option (the one that I would recommend) is that you do the right thing and go watch Planet of the Apes, Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I know, I know, it’s three times the investment, but the last thing I’d want to happen is to have the genuine article sullied by an imitator.

It’s really a shame that Oblivion‘s writers didn’t try harder to give us a story of substance after all the grand theft cinema it so blatantly commits, because there was certainly no shortage of material to work with. It really could have been fulfilling, it really could have been something special. After all, the world is a better place with more sci-fi classics to choose from.

But alas, the search continues…

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2013 12:16 am

    Nothing new, or eve cool hear to see. Just plain and normal sci-fi, that seems like a hundred other films. I still don’t know whether or not I should, or should not recommend this to friends who ask me about it. Good review Aiden.

    • April 26, 2013 11:18 am

      Well said, brother. Do your friends a favor and tell ’em to skip it. After all, Mud just came out today, that’s supposed to be WAY better.

  2. April 26, 2013 12:39 am

    I was afraid to open the email because I really didnt like this movie and was afraid, you, one of my fave movie dudes, did! Yay for me. Really unhappy with this film. They hyped it so much for months and it just fell flat. I’m the first to admit I am not a gigantic Tom Cruise film but this could have been so much better. I saw another movie the same day… Wasnt happy with that either. I will wait patiently to see if you review it. 🙂

    • April 26, 2013 11:20 am

      Hahaha. Well color me flattered, girl. Glad I didn’t disappoint. And sorry to hear about your letdown of a double feature, that is the freakin’ WORST. You’ll get ’em next time though, I just know you will. Stay strong!

  3. April 26, 2013 1:07 am

    Excellent review! Apart from the great visuals it has nothing much to offer. It could have been so much better. I like Tom Cruise though.

    • April 26, 2013 11:21 am

      Thanks, man! Tom was one of the best parts, and he was just okay. Quite the bummer all around, really.

  4. April 26, 2013 1:51 am

    Great review. Had all the same points you had. Film had no substance behind the visuals. Plot sucked

    • April 26, 2013 11:22 am

      Thanks, man! Definitely one of the suckier plots I’ve come across in recent memory. Oh well, whatchagonnado?

  5. April 26, 2013 7:20 am

    I thought for sure this movie was going to be a sure thing.

    But hind sight is 20/20 – why was it released in April and not during the summer? Probably because of the comptetition for post apocalyptic adventures. Elysium (previewed here I think, will be the one to watch this summer. I’m pretty much ignoring the Will Smith and son movie this summer (looks painful).

    So looks Oblivion is wait for DVD or stream.


    • April 26, 2013 11:24 am

      Yeah, it’s definitely not as good as you’re expecting it to be, and it’s likely gonna be at the bottom of the barrel as far as sci-fi movies go this year. Then again, Jayden Smith and M. Night Shyamalan in the same movie sounds borderline horrific. But like you said, all will likely pale in comparison to Elysium.

      And definitely don’t pay to see this, definitely worth a stream at best.

  6. May 2, 2013 9:43 am

    I don’t get why everybody is hating so much on this movie. Sure, it isn’t going to be a classic, but the visuals blew me away and the story was ok. I totally agree with it being a Frankenscript (great word btw). I enjoyed the entertainment of this movie right up until the last few minutes. That little plot-twist was just stupid. But otherwise I just thought it was a visual feast with an entertaining story, although it has been told a few times before.

    • May 2, 2013 9:59 am

      I’m with you on the visuals, those were awfully nice, and I wouldn’t say I hated it either. Just had a really hard time watching this without comparing it to all the movies it borrows from, not to mention that the originality of its visuals and art style just weren’t enough to help me overlook the other aspects that were so forgettable. Not the worst movie I’ll see all year, but it’s a far cry from the movies that inspired it.

      And seriously, how awful was that character’s last line at the end there?

      • May 2, 2013 10:12 am

        I can agree with that! This might be the first time I defended a Tom Cruise movie, but I guess there is a first time for everything.
        Love your blog! You’ve set the bar quite high for a newbie like me:)

      • May 2, 2013 10:22 am

        Hahaha. Well thank you, Christina, much appreciate the kind words. Always awesome to meet a new blogger and digging your blog as well! Keep on keeping on and thanks for stopping by!

  7. Heche permalink
    May 4, 2013 10:18 pm

    I was just wondering why the Scavs ever bothered to keep their faces/identities hidden. Wouldn’t it be to their advantage to get the Tom Cruise clones on their side?

    • May 6, 2013 8:31 am

      A mighty fine question, and one that I don’t have a good answer for. Seems like it would have changed his whole viewpoint on the matter if he’d realized they were human from the get-go, right? Oh, Oblivion. You so crazy.


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