Monday, April 22, 2013

"Don't Drone Me, Bro!" : A Review of Oblivion

Science Fiction is making a comeback this decade.

I don't mean movies filled with aliens, space ships, and large explosions. Those are nice, but they fit more in the category of Sci-Fi. I mean films that focus on how technology, or scientific events, affect a person's character. Movies that use tone and timing instead of loud bangs and creature effects.

I'm referring to the movies that Oblivion tries so hard to be. Oblivion marks the stepping stone of better things to come in science fiction cinema. I say a stepping stone because Oblivion isn't necessarily great. It's not bad either, but something about it felt disappointing. I'll refer to this mystery effect as it's X-Factor. As much as I try to reimagine my experience in the theater, I can't explain why this movie wasn't great. Perhaps Joseph Kosinski was so lost in trying to get all the pieces that define classic science fiction into this movie, that he didn't leave any room for it to have it's own soul? Then again, maybe Tom Cruise just over acted the hell out of it? I can not say with certainty.

Most likely, it's due to the part my expectations played into the experience. I admit I went into this expecting typical Hollywood Sci-Fi. I may have even craved a little mindless space action, honestly. I wanted Tom Cruise one-liners fired off at mean looking aliens blowing up. While there is some action in this movie, it's not as much as I expected.

Illustration from the Graphic Novel
The movie does a great job of recreating the tone and mystery of a 70's Science Fiction film, like Blade Runner or 2001. The pacing here is much slower than I anticipated, which may be the big cause of my X-Factor experience. There's more plot to this than expected, with decent writing and human emotions being portrayed. While most of it is predictable, there was some nice emotional build up to Andrea Riseborough's declaration that "they are not an effective team". The cinematography is also gorgeous, much in tune with the graphic novel that inspired it.

Tom Cruise's performance is mostly spot on, if not maybe guilty of over acting a bit here or there. That's possibly the only real obvious complaint I have. Even the movie's "epic" conclusion highlights a Cruise monologue that, while well written, pulls the viewer out of the emotion of the moment. I'm sure it looked great on paper, but mixed with Cruise's taste for intensity it just doesn't flow right to me. Oh well ...

Again, I stress this movie is a big step in the right direction for science fiction cinema. 

Oblivion is a good movie, just not ... great?

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