They Lied to You. It’s Time to Learn the Truth.
When I went to the theaters to catch Star Trek, I had no reservations. Today’s movie was less so. I had seen the commercials for this movie and had an inkling of interest in the movie, but never enough that it would be the reason for me to make the trip to the theater. Attaching it to a movie I wanted to see more made it much more palatable. And I think it’s odd that I had no interest in this movie because I loved the game I assume it was based on. In fact, I’ve loved the whole Elder Scrolls series. I don’t know why they skipped past Daggerfall and Morrowind, but I’m still suspicious of how this game could be turned into a movie. Do they just ignore all the side quests? Otherwise, it would be way too long. Well, we’ll find out as I review Oblivion, based on a graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski, written for the screen by William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt, directed by Joseph Kosinski, and starring Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, and Zoë Bell.
It’s the future so Earth is having a bad couple of days. In 2017 the Earth was destroyed in a battle with some invading aliens when we decided to drop some nukes all over this bitch. The surviving humans moved to a colony on Saturn’s moon Titan, with a few sticking around to repair survey drones to keep the remaining aliens (called “Scavs”) from destroying the fusion power stations that power the colony. Two such humans are Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria “Vic” Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), Jack’s navigator who sits on her butt while he does all the work and chats with their weirdo mission Commander Sally (Melissa Leo). Things are going smoothly and Jack and Vic are preparing to end their stay on Earth when Jack stumbles across a radio tower that summons a pre-invasion American spacecraft back to Earth, containing a sexy astronaut named Julia (Olga Kurylenko) that Jack has been having dreams about (but who hasn’t been?), as well as some secrets that will rock the foundation of Jack’s world.
My low expectations for this movie allowed it to exceed my expectations. It didn’t blow any minds, but the story was solid, the look was great, and the performances all worked for me. The biggest problem I had with the movie is that it had nothing to do with the game it took its name from. No Daedra or anything! What the movie is similar to is the Matrix, various post-apocalyptic movies, and Independence Day. We fuck up the planet like a child breaking a toy so no one else can play with it. Never really makes sense. Man apparently has the resources to build a space station to escape on, but we’re so stubborn about not giving up our planet that we’ll destroy it first. Either we win or everyone loses. On the other hand, I could kind of see us doing that. The story can kind of be slow going throughout, having not a whole lot going on other than watching Jack fix robots and having little hints at the larger story be revealed slowly. I started getting bored around the halfway point, especially when it was going pretty heavy on the relationship stuff. Julia showing up creates a love triangle between her, Jack, and Victoria that they really drained for all it was worth, and it wasn’t worth a whole lot to me. The only thing it got out of me was a laugh at how much ‘splaining Jack was going to have to do to the two ladies. ::SPOILER ALERT:: Then the movie turns into Independence Day because the big plan is to fly yourself into the mothership and blow up. Not the greatest plan to be sure, but I’m sure Jack took solace in the fact that he had plenty of spares if his plan didn’t work out. But I don’t know how that even got close to working in the first place. Sally is a super smart computer intelligence, but she can’t figure out that something is amiss when Tech 49 rides up in Tech 52’s ship, even though they shouldn’t know each other exist? The numbers are written on his shirt and the ship. Infants and monkeys can tell if two things don’t match. ::END SPOILERS::
The movie does very well with its look. Everything is visually well-realized. It looks dystopian while still being pretty beautiful and spectacular. It shows a lot of imagination in the designs of everything, from the fusion plants to the ship that Jack flies to the tower he lives in. A dystopian movie is always able to solicit a bit of a reaction by showing familiar landmarks like the Empire State Building buried up to the top floor in sand. The action is fairly rare in the movie, but most of it is good. I liked the fight between Jack and the Scavs in the library because the look of it reminded me of Gears of War, with 80% less raspiness.
I was not surprised by the quality of the performances in the movie so much as I was surprised by the quality of the actors they got. I only knew one of them going into the movie, but I knew he was good. The ones I didn’t know were in the movie were also as good as they usually are, but I didn’t know they were in it. Tom Cruise is the only person I knew would be here, and he typically brings some quality. I didn’t know who Andrea Riseborough was, but she was also pretty good. I had no idea that Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, and the Kingslayer himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, were in this movie, but they tend to be good as well. Kurylenko helped make it easy for me to relate to Tom Cruise in this movie because I dream of Kurylenko too. Who wouldn’t? Morgan Freeman’s appearance was a bit bothersome to me at first, but only because he came off as a bad guy in the movie. I don’t like Morgan Freeman as a bad guy. He’s a great actor with a lot of range, but he’s just so likeable. That was one of the main problems I had with the movie Wanted. That and it being entirely mediocre. Melissa Leo also did a good job. Her role didn’t seem to require much out of her as she was just vaguely robotic, but also somehow bitchy. And she got much more bitchy by the end. They should’ve called her HAL-E from the way she looked at the end. That’s not a WALL-E reference, but a HAL reference, just so we’re clear. The only performances I really took issue with were those damned surveyor drones. Those things were ungrateful pricks.
Oblivion was a fine enough movie, but perhaps not fine enough to inspire me to recommend that you see it in theaters. The story was okay, but nothing spectacular and a little slow moving. But the visual style and the performances were all impressive. I could get behind recommending this movie as a rental eventually, but for the time being you can do without. Oblivion gets “We won the war, but they destroyed half the planet” out of “Classic game.”
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