Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In short: Oblivion (2013)

Warning: at least structural spoilers are inevitable when talking about this one

For the first hour or so, this is a fun SF adventure flick with light elements of the mind-bender sub-genre, a plot twist that is so honestly prepared by the film it’s pretty easy to see where the film’s going for the genre savvy much earlier, and decidedly enhanced by some really beautiful digital work on the post-apocalyptic Earth. Unfortunately, neither director Joseph Kosinski (who also directed that dreadful Tron sequel, so is clearly rapidly improving by making a movie that doesn’t completely suck) nor his script are in the end prepared to go anywhere interesting with the melange of weaponized clones, drones, and mind-wiping on offer. Instead, we get the usual stuff with an over-complicated alien plan to steal something (water) they could acquire on a lot of planets where they didn’t need to wipe out the local population, Tom Cruise, superhero, and a heroic suicide bombing to dreadful poetry. Though it’s not much of a heroic sacrifice, really, seeing how the film then just puts all questions about the nature of identity it nearly asked aside to not only get its heroic sacrifice cake but eat a happy end, too.

Other problems are the film’s determination to keep its female characters deep in the 1950s (wasting perfectly good actresses Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough), Morgan Freeman’s usual lazy special effects movie performance (because there’s nothing better than an actor who doesn’t put any work in but still cashes the check), and Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise, which is to say, in turns blandly professional and vain. Well, there’s also the strict conventionality of a plot and structure that the film doesn’t manage to hide well enough behind the spectacle, which in itself is a bit too conventional.

It’s still a perfectly watchable big dumb Hollywood SF movie, mind you, and at least a particularly pretty one.

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