So there I was leaning on the railing of the front row as the credits rolled on Oblivion tonight. I am listening to the score by M83, which keeps reminding me of the epicness of Dune (Lynch 84), it’s powerful, it’s moving and fitting. I look back on the past two hours and twenty minutes and wonder – is big budget science fiction making a resurgence? We’ve had some OK Sci-Fi in the past year or so and some really good Sci Fi. Where does Oblivion fall?
It’s a trick question. It doesn’t quite fall in the mix because it *is* the mix. Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) is clearly and strongly influenced by the science fiction cinema of his age – which happens also to be mine. As an aspiring writer trying to find my voice and my style for the so-called original vampire novel I am working on; I understand how challenging it is to write a purely original story in a world where so many have been told. I am aware like few others that its nearly impossible to not lift elements from your favourite works of fiction that you are trying to tell a story within. I see Kosinki’s love for Dune, all the cinematic works based on Phillip K Dick (if I name specific ones it’s nearly a spoiler), 2001, 2010, Event Horizon, and so many more sci fi films of the late 70s and early 80s. I almost want to say this movie is his love letter to the works of that time. Yet, it isn’t quite that either, he has managed to tell a beautiful three act story with elements of so many others in his own way and in his own narrative vision.
Let me tell you about his vision. We have Jack and Vickie, “the clean up crew” and an “effective team” on an earth ravaged by a war with an alien race. Because there are still aliens on earth, hiding and attacking that which Jack and Vickie protect our protagonists have their memory wiped to protect the security of the mission. Jack has a curious streak a mile wide and during his routine patrols explores areas of the ruined earth in his hi-tech ornithopter. Kosinki’s vision of a ruined earth years after the war is nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and that is no small feat. There are a flybys that had me scratching my head on the environment they presented, but I let it slide for the beauty and wonder it brought.
Now we get to act two of our story and we introduce the survivor of a crashed ship. She knows something and hiding it. Jack and Vickie both know she’s hiding something but react differently. Vicky just wants to complete the mission according to protocols and head to Titan with the rest of the survivors of the war. Jack, well Jack needs to know. This takes him deeper into the rabbit hole and where the story really starts to bloom. I would tell you more of act two and act three but to do so risks spoilers even with the most careful of writing. Suffice to say I didn’t see a few elements coming; while others I saw in the trailer and figured out instantly.
Breaking it all down –
While I normally could rant about trailers for hours, the trailers here did the movie justice and kept hidden what needed to be kept hidden.
The visual design of the world – nothing short of astounding.
The tech – I have problems. You won’t be able to unsee it once I say it, but I consider it lazy on the prop department so I cannot forgive. Jack’s rifle is a modified Nerf Longshot. The thrusters on his craft are the ear pieces to a standard call center headset.
Music – Nearly overpowering when it needed to be subtle, but it fit the movie.
Science – I often rant about the science in science fiction. This one has a few elements leaving me wondering, only one of which truly bothered me. A storm system that was fairly persistent.
Pacing – hit and miss.
So at the end of another day in paradise we have a film that embraces all the things we love about science fiction. We have a director that knows how to get a good performance of his three main actors and has a visionary eye that needs to be encouraged by the studio and fans. Is it flawless? No. Is it something that hearkens back to the best of the 80s sci fi? Without a doubt.
For the TL;DR crowd
Sci Fi fans – See it
Tom Cruise Fans – See it
Kosinski fans – You have already seen it and are just reading my review to confirm or refute me.
If you are a die hard cruise hater – pass
Sci-Fi not always your thing? – pass, this won’t change your mind.
If you aren’t sure on this – Matinee it and let me know what you thought below.
I do think people need to see this movie so that the studios take more chances on science fiction. It’s nearly a lost genre and when we lose it we lose something special. I think in the end I am looking forward to the Blu Ray release already so I can add this to my collection and watch it in my living room with the surround sound and a smile on.