Oblivion


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io9, a popular science fiction blog, recently reported on nine separate movie reviews that describe the movie Oblivion as lifeless, but they’re wrong.

Oblivion is an intelligent, thoughtful, well-plotted movie with liberal doses of suspense, tension and action. Sure, there’s a couple of minor plot holes, but for me it was 8/10 and can be forgiven for a few trivial issues.

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Put your popcorn down. Stop slurping on your frozen coke.

You can’t switch-off and zone-out during Oblivion. You’ll have to pay attention to the subtleties, right down to the lyrics of a 70s rock song playing softly in the background, but it will be worth the effort.

This is no movie for 7th graders. Oblivion won’t spell out the plot for you, but all the clues are there if you pay attention to the details, and before long they’ll become blisteringly obvious.

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Personally, I cringe at the association between Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology, but, damn, can that boy act! He doesn’t look, sound or move like a fifty year old. Sure, there’s the typical Cruise mannerisms, but they don’t overplay the character and he fits seamlessly into the role of a droid technician.

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The scenery is stunning, the panoramas breathtaking, and the story is paced to match, with just the right balance of intrigue and character development.

If I have one criticism it would be that they give too much away in the trailer, and this is a trend we’re seeing across a lot of movies lately, including Star Trek Into Darkness. When it comes to Oblivion, the haunting beauty of the shattered landscape would have been better served as a surprise. The producers could have held back on releasing so many “money shots” in the trailer without losing out on audience attendance. Trailers should be teasers, not a compressed short for the entire movie minus one or two plot points.

If you’ve enjoyed books like Galactic Exploration you’ll love Oblivion.

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21 thoughts on “Oblivion

  1. You got that right on many points Peter… Cruise makes great movies, personal beliefs, meh.
    And OMG, movie trailers are getting out of hand… there are 24 different teasers, clips and trailers for IRON MAN 3. But it works in the marketing department, and thus, it will probably continue.

    • The reviewers hate it… the Daily Mail said they were crying with tears of boredom.

      If Oblivion came out in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or even the early 00s it would be hailed as one of the classics today. I suspect we’ve grown too jaded, and the critics hate the way Oblivion goes for a Planet-of-the-Apes style hidden twist, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      • I saw that Peter… but often times critics write for and to themselves and their brethren. There are a few I like/trust and they haven’t chimed in yet. When critics dislike a film, it’s either too smart for them or it’s too popcorn-ee for them… I mean, how many mega hits make millions of bucks but is trashed by critics? (clue: Transformers, etc.) Hmm, that clue might have been a spoiler. I’m not sure yet.

      • ha ha… well, Oblivion is no Transformer 🙂 I think it’s in the “too smart” category. There’s a few minor glitches in the story line, but nothing major, and overall it was a really enjoyable, thoughtful movie to watch. A pleasant surprise

  2. I disagree in only one respect – Tom Cruise does look like a 50 year old. He is ageing badly and not gracefully. Those once boyish good looks are a dim memory now. But it’s a great film!

  3. It’s hard to imagine any action-packed film Cruise has been in that would be labeled as lifeless. I just went to see Jurassic Park 3D and was surprised to see how few were in the audience on a Saturday night. After the movies, I heard a group (late teens or 20-somethings) talk about the movie they went to. I was curious and asked. It was “Dead Evil” which they described as crazy and lots of deaths. The films that require deeper thought might not be what most audiences are going for. More’s the pity.

    • Yeah, I must admit, I enjoy zoning out during movies too… Oblivion wasn’t philosophically heavy or preachy, but you had to keep track of who’s-who-in-the-zoo. And as for “Dead Evil,” that’s a pass from me 🙂

  4. Hideously bad “science fiction” from Hollywood. It has the same ending as Independence Day! Am I to believe that this Godlike super alien AI is tricked by a bluffing human and is conveniently vulnerable to earth-made nukes? No attempt is made to communicate with “Sally”, Jack just blows it out of the sky b’cause it did the same thing humans have been doing to the planet and each other for 6,000 years. Stupid stupid meaningless movie. A much better take on these themes is “Moon” (2009) which is both good science fiction and good filmmaking. I would also recommend “Alphaville”, “Solaris” (1972) and “12 Monkeys” as better examples of how to handle these themes. The actual story elements are as old and moldy as they get, I’m sure if you flipped through a year’s worth of Galaxy Magazine from the 60’s you’ll find every idea here, only better written and thought out.

    • OK, you’ve got me on the ending… I liked the slow pace of this movie, but, yes, there were some bug-bears like why go to all the trouble of getting rid of Earth’s population when what you’re after is water and there’s more water on Europa. And, yes, you’re right about the ending, it was very Independence Day (minus the virus). I did have a laugh about New Jack turning up at the cabin. Wouldn’t another 50 of them come wandering into camp as well at some point. Now that could complicate things for his wife…

      I think I got swept away by the visuals and the slow reveal (which I really like in a movie), so my disbelief was suspended and able to bear these flaws while watching the ending unfold the first time. It will be interesting to watch it again on DVD to see how I come away from it a second time.

      As for 12 Monkeys, it’s a wonderful science fiction movie, but it too has plot holes… Cole dies to lead a future female scientist to our crazy virus doctor and the movie ends leaving the audience with the presumption that she gets infected with a pure strain of the virus that can be cured in the future. But the past/present could have been changed at that point. Now she’s tracked Dr Evil down and knows he’ll be on that plane, she could have taken any number of options, such as blowing it out of the sky with a rocket. Hell, nuke the airport if you have to – it’ll go down as an unexplained terrorist act that killed thousands but would save billions, but point being, once she caught up with the doctor the past could have been changed. There was nothing stopping her from knifing him in the neck, etc. Anyway, it’s wonderful to speculate, and it is a brilliant movie regardless, but tying up loose ends is never easy.

      • The scene on the airplane was forced on Gilliam, it’s not in the original script. The big difference is that 12 Monkeys spends most of its runtime exploring the implications of its ideas and even pointing out the absurdities in the concept. It even comments on the its own nature as a film and as a film meant to be rewatched to mine all of its layers – when Cole is watching “Vertigo” and he comments that the movie never changes but the viewer does, so for every viewer a film keeps becoming something different as they change over time (a beautiful grace note for a time travel story!) — that’s pretty deep and way beyond anything in Oblivion.

        Hey if we’re plugging projects look up “Carrot Field” on Amazon. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel of mine that was just published this past May. It’s kind of like The Wind in the Willows meets Lord of the Rings with elements of 1984 & His Dark Materials. There’s some serious “mind bendy” stuff in it ala The Prisoner etc. heavily influenced by PK Dick, Vonnegut, Alan Moore etc.

        If you ever finish your novel & it gets to three polishes, let me know, if I have the time I’ll check it out 🙂

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