Wednesday 17 April 2013

Review: Oblivion

Year: 2013
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Screenplay: Joseph Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Zoë Bell, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Synopsis is here:

I've been living in Peterborough for two years now and it's only now that after visit upon visit of my local cinema, an employee not only spoke to me about what I saw, but engaged in a bout of verbal jousting. The sheer fact that the guy took his time to talk to me about Oblivion made the trip all the more fun, because while we disagreed with the movie somewhat ("it's one of the top five movies of the year!" he exclaimed), he at least showed me there was one person at the cinema who actually watched and enjoyed the product. When you ask the girl at the concession stand if they've seen a certain film and they respond with "I never knew it existed", things are more than a little disconcerting. 

The cinema usher was very quick to set me straight about my thoughts of Joseph Kosinski's second feature. I felt he was going to burst with glee when I stated I enjoyed JohnCarter more than this. The look on his face was one that said "I no longer care what you think now, my opinion is of higher value" but I stick by my wrong opinion. As a board adventure feature, I had fun with John Carter's energy, and the film isn't trying to be smarter than its audience. Oblivion meanwhile is clearly paying homage to many sci-fi films, but didn't have the spark to make me see past the gears and the mechanics of its thin screenplay. This is a film which could have subtext and subtly in it's well threaded themes, however when you spend this much ($150 Million) you’re not really going for that. 

You can't say, however, that the money doesn't end up on the screen as Kosinski's world building is his major threat. Far from the neon girders of Tron: Legacy, we are thrown into an earth that is desolate and yet astonishingly beautiful. Kosinski's broken earth is one you could wander for days. Pity it's then filled with flat fire fights and secondary characters that have little time to establish themselves. Cruise is at the height of his heroic maverick qualities but has little chemistry with at least two characters that would give me more faith in the plight. 

But in the end, I wasn't too bothered about the Oblivion's more derivative aspects. I was more frustrated in the lack of freshness Kosinski places within the story. The film's environment would give Prometheus a run for its money, but is not as interested in question asking. The film touches on matters we've seen in many sci-fi films of its ilk but instead goes for a more blunt, straight-forward approach. It turns down alleyways that other directors navigated with a better sleight of hand. No doubt those with a certain affinity for (or not seen) the other sci-fi texts Oblivion references may get a kick out of what it places on the table. For others, they may wonder why accented cinema ushers are getting so worked up about.