Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie Review - Oblivion

For quite a while now, it seems that most sci-fi/action blockbusters have either been comic/book adaptions or sequels rather than something new or different. Oblivion, however, was a breath of fresh air after last year's glut of testosterone-y big budget offerings.

It's one of those films you don't see very often – a pure slice of sci-fi that gives makes you think combined with gorgeous and epic visuals.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a drone repair man, left behind on a post-apocalyptic Earth ravaged by an attack from alien invaders. The rest of humanity have fled to Titan, while he and his partner complete their tour of duty protecting 'Hydrorigs' (huge facilities that convert seawater into fuel necessary for humanity's rehabitation offworld) from the remaining aliens – or scavs – on the surface. So far, so very science fiction-y.

Tom Cruise really needs to pee now...
It's when Jack rescues a female astronaut from a crash-landed ship that questions begin to come up. Not only has this survivor been in cryo-sleep for sixty years, but she is the very same woman that Jack has been dreaming about constantly while he's been on Earth.

If you've been unfortunate enough to catch the second trailer, you will probably have been able to work out the rest of the story and key twists that show up along the way, which is a shame. Luckily I didn't see the trailer before the movie so was able to appreciate the plot turns that make this such an engaging story. I've written before about how trailers spoil everything for the audience, but when a story such as this – which relies heavily on keeping the audience guessing in order for it to work – gets the thoughtless trailer treatment it negates the whole point of actually going to see the film.

Whilst this isn't a perfect sci-fi film, it is in my opinion very close to one in spite of the similarities to other movies such as Independence Day, Planet of the Apes or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

True, it's a big-budget outing with two big name stars attached. Having Cruise involved was no doubt essential to getting the budget needed to make the film and sure, that meant compromises to keep the studio execs happy: one or two slighlty shmaltzy moments that were completely unnecessary, references to the present-day so as not to alienate Cruise fans who don't like sci-fi, a booming soundtrack that could have done with being a bit more subtle. But, hey, I can live with that.

You can't watch this movie without being impressed by its design and look, which was stunning. From the minimalist outpost sitting high up in the clouds to the graceful 'bubble-ship' to the grand vistas featuring fossilised cities, the work involved in bringing this story to the screen is phenomenal. It made me yearn for the future again (something a film hasn't done to me for a while) – one which is clean, shiny and new.

Thankfully, this film isn't part of a trilogy. Neither will it have a spin off TV series. It's just a standalone film that tells a story and does it well. And for me, that's a very good thing!

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10.

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