Friday, April 19, 2013

Oblivion ~ A Lesson In Remembering

Oblivion - Poster

"I am always with you, but I don't know your name. "

Drawing inspiration from past Science Fiction films, sophomore director Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy"), brings a somewhat different kind of post-apocalyptic tale. "Oblivion," as in "unaware or unconscious " stars Tom Cruise ("War of the Worlds," "Minority Report"), Olga Kurylenko ("Hit Man," "Centurion") , Melissa Leo ("Olympus Has Fallen","The Fighter") and Morgan Freeman.  

In his second attempt to bring a sci-fi epic to the big screen, Kosinski takes a story that he started working on back in 2005. Using the graphic novel that he and Arvid Nelson were working on at the time as "Oblivion's" story outline.

In art as in science, we all stand on the back of others.  We filter our perceptions through the grid of our experiences.  Kosinski has done this by taking, what he thought were some elements of his favorite films of the sci-fi genre and skillfully wove these concepts and tropes to build a story that if it doesn't make you think, it will definitely entertain you.

"Oblivion's" back story, which Jack Harper (Cruise) narrates during the opening scenes, is that 60 years before, the Earth was attacked by an alien race known as "Scavengers" or just "Scavs." During this "War of the Worlds," the Moon was shattered, and the planet was ravaged by floods and earthquakes. During the war, the humans were forced to use nuclear weapons, and have essentially radiated the planet making it mostly uninhabitable. The surviving humans, the winners of the war, have left the planet and live on a space station that orbits around Saturn's moon Titan.

Oblivion - Bubble Car

Jack and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are an "efficient team" that were left behind to protect and maintain the drones. The couple are finishing off their 5 year mission, and will join the rest of humanity on Titan. Reporting to Sally (Melissa Leo), Victoria is Jack's eyes and ears while he is down on the planet repairing drones.  The drones, similar in style as the pods from " 2001: A Space Odyssey" protect the giant levitating Hydro-processors that turn water into fusion energy.  The Scavenger's planet was dying and came to Earth to plunder what they can. That is Kosinski's story as to why these aliens came millions of miles -- and he's sticking with it.

Oblivion - JuliaKosinski's story gives Jack several levels of depth, that Cruise seems to play with the same, somewhat stoic face.  However, Cruise does get his point across. Plagued with recurring dreams about a mysterious women, he struggles to remember.  You see, at the beginning of their deployment, their memories were wiped clean in order to protect information in case they are captured by the Scavs. Jack Harper is a man who questions the establishment, his faith in what he believes, and his own identity. He struggles to make the right moves on behalf of humanity, but also to follow orders. Jack is a man who loves nature, and the beauty that has survived. Jack is a reader, and in typical sci-fi manner, reading books is dangerous. Harper is tormented by having to leave a planet that he has come to call home. Whereas Victoria has no such compulsions and is ready to return to her life on Titan.  

"Another Day In Paradise"

Oblivion - Julia

Let me just say, that saying any more about the plot would be a disservice except that, of course, things are not what they seem. Going into the second act, Harper finds a crashed spaceship and cryo-pods containing humans in the wreckage. Only able to save one pod, Jack finds that it contains the woman from his dreams -- Julia (Olga Kurylenko).  

Oblivion - Station 49
Director Kosinski's film direction is smooth and careful.  In "Oblivion"  he takes time to show us the vast landscape of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  He does this almost in the manner of David Lean's sweeping sand dunes in "Lawrence of Arabia"  The sets are sleek and elegant as depicted in Jack and Victoria's domicile/workstation which is pure "Jetsons."  Perched high in the sky, Jack's Bubble Car is ultra modern and utilitarian at the same time. All visuals in "Oblivion" are breath taking, which lends itself to the IMAX format. 

Oblivion - the Truth
"It's time to learn the truth"

Morgan Freeman's character, Malcolm Beech, is an enigma. He is filmed in shadows, and his purpose is that of a provocateur. He wears a cape, and his group of rag tag survivors are reminiscent of something Steam Punk, but not really. 

Musically, M83' Anthony Gonzalez and  Joseph Trapanese have teamed up to create a soundtrack that brings a sense of "epicness" to the scenes.  The tracks are emotional and captivating  but not overly memorable  At times the heavy tuba echos the foghorn that we have all come to associate with "Inception,"  and the tone becomes unnerving only because it seems out of place.

Science Fiction fans may find "Oblivion's" film references and typical tropes of the genre a little annoying.  Some may find them downright unoriginal. While others may find these nods comfortable and reassuring.  "Oblivion" is entertaining and introspective, but not too much. Unlike Christopher Nolan's "Inception" you don't have to think too hard. You will find that the two hours spent watching this thrill ride stream by,.are entertaining, if not enjoyable.  There will be no sequel, as Kosinski firmly ends this story in a way that may be somewhat  predictable, yet tidy

new ~ Click here for an in depth look at the sci-fi film inspirations that are in "Oblivion."

Movie Data

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurilenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo
Director: Joseph Kosinski 
Producer(s): Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Joseph Kosinski, Barry Levine, Duncan Henderson
Writer: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: 4/19/2013

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