Oblivion Review

Oblivion-IMAX-Poster

Christ, it’s like I don’t know what to do with my weekends any more. With new releases slowing to a crawl, presumably because no one wants to compete with the Kentucky Fried Tripe that is Scary Movie 5, I’m sad to report that it’s been a dull weekend at the movies. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Tom Cruise’s latest shenanigans, Oblivion.

Director Joseph Krosinski is quickly becoming known for directing movies that look drop dead gorgeous but are ultimately disappointingly hollow. His resume, now including Tron: Legacy (2010) and Oblivion, seems to be heading steadfastly in that direction. Based on Krosinski’s own unpublished graphic novel of the same name, Oblivion is very much an auteur pet project. My guess is that Krosinski was so infatuated with his brainchild that he neglected to ensure it’s story lived up to its own aspirations. Like a proud parent, blinded by the slightest glimmer of potential in his thoroughly average child, Krosinki’s beloved Oblivion could do no wrong in his eyes, and ultimately suffered for it. Direction by itself is serviceable, with well executed action sequences and a well realized artistic style, but more on that later.

Tom Cruise is an actor who is finding in increasingly difficult to prove that he is still relevant in the industry. Instead of accomplishing this task by, say for example, taking more challenging a varied roles, he chooses to prove that he’s still young and hip by taking very physical and action-heavy roles, because that’s what the kids are into these days, gramps. Ultimately, Cruise gives a stilted and unconvincing performance which doesn’t really warrant an outright condemnation, but certainly deserves not praise either. Fans of the hit series Game of Thrones might also enjoy Jamie Lannister’s absurd impression of an American man.

Oblivion could best be described as an infinitely more pretentious, nonsensical version of Independence Day, set in a post apocalyptic wasteland designed by Howard Roark. That being said, the visuals are jaw-dropping, as the semi-stylized setting is beautifully realized and at least proves that Krosinsi knows what he’s doing where visuals are concerned. But that’s the thing: Krosinski comes from a graphic design background and is in fact an assistant professor of architecture at the Colombia Graduate School of Planning and Preservation, where he works with 3D modeling and graphics. He’s an art director at heart, not a writer, and we’re unfortunately subjected to his unapologetically horrendous dialogue and story.

As far as the plot is concerned, it’s contrived, nonsensical, and thinks it’s much more clever than it actually is, as the myriad “twists” (if one is generous enough to call them that) can be seen coming a mile away and don’t really make much sense anyway when they finally come to fruition. Dialogue, likewise, could have almost been written by Capcom in the grand tradition of the increasingly insipid Resident Evil series. What I mean to say is that it could have almost been written by a child, if the way in which the characters interact with one another is any indication. Shoehorn in some blatantly unnecessary exposition and you’ve got what’s commonly referred to in the business as “a mess.”

Oblivion is, unequivocally, a film from our era. That is to say, it’s a film with interesting and engaging visuals masking a weak and flimsy story which falls apart under the lightest of scrutiny like a fundamentally vapid teenage girl wearing too much makeup, posing hesitantly in front of the mirror as she tries to determine which of her party dresses will show off the most cleavage. It’s disheartening that this trend is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays, to the point that I’m almost nervous when I see an announcement for a visually appealing movie because I automatically begin to suspect that the narrative is a miserable, half baked excuse for storytelling.

You know what I’d like to see? A cyberpunk odyssey with Krosinski solely responsible for visual design. That way, the director can leave him to what he does best without having to worry about him systematically murdering the story. Nevertheless, Oblivion is the epitome of ‘pretty lights on a wall,’ and may succeed in holding your attention so long as you don’t think about it too much.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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7 thoughts on “Oblivion Review

  1. Morgan Mussell April 24, 2013 / 10:46 pm

    Great review. I didn’t go see this because I have become suspicious of excessive digital effects in trailers too. Sadly, even The Hobbit fell prey to this fad…

  2. Jordan Richardson April 24, 2013 / 11:08 pm

    Very cool distillation of Cruise. I like the description of him taking on action-packed, adrenaline-based roles to prove his mettle. Seems apt.

  3. Steve April 24, 2013 / 11:29 pm

    Haven’t seen this yet but gathered from the trailer it would be much as you describe it. It’s a waste and a shame modern visual effects potential is squandered by not being married to great story/plot more often.

  4. keith7198 April 24, 2013 / 11:52 pm

    Nice review. I’m a pretty big fan of this movie and of Cruise’s performance. It’s not a perfect piece if science fiction but I found it to be a lot of fun.

  5. Gregoryno6 April 25, 2013 / 2:01 am

    I was left dissatisfied by Tron Legacy, and with the same director at work here, I have to ask: Is Joseph K the unacknowledged bastard child of George Lucas?
    Is there a gene that combines stunning visual sense with woeful incapacity for the written word?
    Having seen the preview for Oblivion, I’ll be looking for the theatre that’s showing Iron Man 3.
    The presence of Mr Cruise doesn’t help much, either. He made one good movie as an actor – namely, Taps – and then became a movie star. Okay, he got lucky with Collateral, but apart from that…

  6. Mr Rumsey April 25, 2013 / 8:22 pm

    Like Keith I had fun with this movie despite its flaws. It’s visuals were miles above everything else though!

  7. jonnyhavey April 26, 2013 / 5:29 pm

    Agree with all of you. I honestly had no interest in seeing the film because of the trailer. I just didnt get it, but I actually enjoyed the visual aesthetics and sound design of the film. Joseph may not know how to articulate a story, but he has the entertainment factors down. He was lucky he had two solid leading actor/actress performances because of the convoluted plot. Here’s my review if you are interested:
    http://vlizz.com/2013/04/21/oblivion-review-a-sound-design-back-massage-featuring-tom-cruise/

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