Friday, April 19, 2013

Movies: Oblivion

Oblivion is the second science fiction epic directed (and in this instance co-written) by Joseph Kosinski, whose previous work was the sequel Tron: Legacy. While both films are beautifully art directed and meticulously designed, Oblivion has a stronger story and more of an emotional connection to the characters from the audience, with crackerjack VFX to boot. Overall it's solid, if not spectacular, and Kosinski does need to keep working on those story skills, but he has improved picture-to-picture.

In 2077, we meet Tom Cruise as Jack, a drone retrieval and repair specialist. Andrea Riseborough plays Victoria, a communications officer. They are a professional and personal partnership (living in the most impressive bit of impossible architecture you'll never have the pleasure of inhabiting), acting as the 'clean up crew' before the remaining members of the human race gather up all the converted ocean hydrogen they can get and leave for Titan in a giant orbiting ship called 'The Tet' (short for tetrahedron). Years previous, Earth was attacked by an alien race (called 'Scavs', possibly short for scavengers) who, as their first offensive, smashed the Moon to smithereens, creating all sorts of earthbound collateral damage. They followed with an invasion that was stopped by humanity going nuclear. The migration to Titan is borne of necessity, as much of the Earth is uninhabitable for one reason or another. The drones are a necessity to protect the giant hydrogen processing plants from attack by the remnants of the failed 'Scav' invasion.

That's the setup, and the setup, as we learn the particulars of the world and the relationships of the characters within it, is the most enjoyable part of the picture. After a certain point Olga Kurylenko is along for the ride, as is Morgan Freeman. There are some man-versus-machine moments that are awesome and terrifying in their fury (those drones!). Interesting twists occur which could have been mind-blowing in the hands of a more skilled director. Toward the end of the film, the story settles into some sci-fi clich├ęs that evolve to their forgone conclusions, and Oblivion loses some steam along the way (for example, reminding the audience of the cheesy film Independence Day during your climax is never a good thing). In retrospect, some of the internal logic (including the twists) doesn't exactly hold up to scrutiny.

One strength Kosinski exercises is his choice in music, again hiring a famed French electronic band to do the score. Where Legacy had Daft Punk making their first go at a motion picture score, here it's music by M83. You can officially stream the whole album from this site. I have to admit that one of the only reasons I went to see Legacy was to hear the Daft Punk score, and M83 is one of my favourite bands. The soundtrack was a little disappointing in that I found it had a little less of the M83 sound I love, and more of the generic Hollywood synth score that I'm mostly indifferent about. Not that the score is bad, but if you've heard their other work, you know how epic it could've been. That's sort of how I feel about the film as a whole.

Recommended to see on the big screen because of its beauty, but with reservations. As I said, it's solid, not spectacular.

Now bring on Elysium!

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