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Evil Movie Review: Oblivion

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When I end up at the movie theater I get just as excited about the trailers as I do the main feature, and I get particularly stoked when a science fiction film reveals itself during the trailer portion of my experience. However, when I first saw the trailer for the 2013 sci-fi film Oblivion I was a little leery of it, mainly cause Tom Cruise played the main character, and let’s face it, he leaves us all with a lot to be leery of.

I did however hear some good reviews about flick on my favorite daytime listening program, NPR. And most of the time I can trust NPR for an honest review, so I eventually did invest in the blu-ray of this film and finally got around to watching it last night. Be forewarned, spoilers to follow.

Our film starts out with some beautiful scenes of a deserted and destroyed planet earth. The main character, Jack Harper (played by Cruise) sets the scene that an alien raise known as Scavengers (Scavs) attacked earth, blew up the moon, and tried to take over the planet. But the humans defeated them, though at great cost by using extensive nuclear force, destroying the majority of the world with radiation. The humans were able to move on to a habitable moon off of Saturn known as Titan, but a few humans like Harper and his partner Vika are stationed on earth to protect the remaining water conversion stations that are harvesting as much freshwater from the planet’s surface as possible before moving all remaining people on to Titan. In addition to the few remaining people on the planet like Harper and Vika, there are surviving scavs that are perpetually attacking the humans and their water conversion stations. To aid Harper and Vika, the humans have built flying machines called drones that are weapons constantly searching for scavs and protecting the remaining human outposts.

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That just about sets the scene for the movie. The first half hour follows Harper around on his day to day missions. And there were several things about the movie here that I actually started to like: the cinematography was beautiful. Now, the scientist in me realizes the shattered moon in the distant sky would not actually all stay in orbit like that, but it was beautiful. The forts that Harper and Vika are stationed in are set high in the sky so as to only be accessible by their helicopters and ships, and they are stunning. It of course screams science fiction with all its gorgeous metal curves, and their outdoor glass-bottomed swimming pool is beyond beautiful. Scene after scene are both horrifying and breath-taking being that they are of a post-apocalyptic world.

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Another thing I liked about the movie were the drones. These circular, flying robots were fully equipped with lots of weapons, but I really like the sounds they made. I have commented before about how obsessed with soundtracks in movies I am. These drones weren’t really parts of the score, but the sounds they produced made them all the more believable as a sort of artificial intelligence. Even though many of us Star Wars fans, myself included, would love for many parts of Episode 1 to be wiped from history, I have to admit there were some fun parts like the pod-racing. I think I loved the pod-racing because of the awesome sounds the machines made, and felt the same way about these intimidating drones in this movie.

Of course there were parts of the movie that were not as well done at this point too. In particular, as I expected, Tom Cruise was a bit painful to watch. It doesn’t help that I think the guy is a loony freak as it is, but I realized watching this movie that damn, he really overacts. In one scene he jumps from his chopper in to a wreckage of a space pod and runs around with his gun up looking for scavs. I couldn’t help but laugh as it looked very corny and over-done, which actually reminded me of one of the few movies that I actually liked Cruise in as his role was unexpected: Tropic Thunder. But Cruise fell in to his type-cast role of pathetic epic hero in this movie, much more resembling Ben Stiller’s role from Tropic Thunder as opposed to something more elegant or unique.

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And speaking of music: the score was definitely not what I expected. This music score was exactly what you would have expected from a stellar 1980’s science fiction/fantasy classic. At first I thought it was incredibly cheesy, seeing Tom Cruise racing along on his motorcycle to this airy, techno 80’s intergalactic mix. But it actually did grow on me, and by the end of the movie I was pretty pleased with the way they mixed the music with the story.

As for the story itself, I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say it was a bit confusing for me to follow at first. I think most people watching the movie get the impression that the Scavs are not what they are meant to be (aka aliens) and sure enough it is eventually revealed that they are actually surviving rebel humans. What I did not expect was the revelation of Cruise’s character, as well as Vika, actually being clones manipulated and mislead by the real aliens.

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The ending of the story brings us to the space station just off of earth’s orbit, known as the “Tet”. While it was really horror-caliber, it was quite creepy. They did a good job with these aliens, a sort of combination of the monsters from Prometheus and reminiscent of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have to hand it to them, despite my initial jokes and jabs at Tom Cruise’s over-acting, and the overly corny scenes accompanied by epic 80’s music, by the end of the movie I was sold. And I remembered how NPR had praised the movie: unlike today’s amped up science fiction films featuring X-Men and Avengers, this movie embraced the classical genre of science fiction perfectly. I would have to agree.

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Posted on February 17, 2014, in Evil Movie Reviews, Movies, Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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