director Joseph Kosinski
viewed: 04/20/2013 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Trailers for Oblivion, the new Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle, didn’t inspire me to see it. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where Cruise and pretty, English actress Andrea Riseborough are sole caretakers of these giant sea-sucking machines (collecting sea water to convert to energy) and their drones left on the planet, the world is abandoned. Riseborough is the monitor, Cruise the handyman. But Cruise runs into odd things in the desolation, not the least of which is the scavengers, supposed leftover aliens from the invasion that broke the moon and wiped out the human race.
Directed from a screenplay that he co-wrote from a graphic novel that he also co-wrote, Joseph Kosinski isn’t yet an inspiring name for science fiction or film. His only other movie to date is the slick but lame Tron: Legacy (2010). So, matched with a trailer that seems to tell you too much (the supposed scavengers are humans! led by Morgan Freeman! in a leather suit! and they’re whole existence seems to be a lie!) didn’t urge me on to see it either.
And of course Tom Cruise. I guess that I don’t hate him. But he’s not someone that I want to see in a movie.
What it came down to was timing. Free day and happened to be at the theater at just the right time.
The movie has a slick, refined aesthetic. Especially the design of the housing and craft that Cruise and Riseborough abide in. It’s a penthouse perched above the world, with a dangling, see-through swimming pool (how cool!). And while Cruise wears functional futuristic adventure gear, Riseborough is clad in some pretty haute couture. The craft that Cruise flies around the planet is a cool design, with pivoting spheres allowing multi-directional flying, shooting, seeing. It’s all very nice. But in the context of the movie: Who designed it?
Outside of the movie, sure, there are designers fantasizing all cool about the future. Designs perhaps not practical or real today but might be possible. And the aesthetics of the house…it’s a rich fantasy.
But here comes the spoiler.
In the movie, it turns out that Earth was invaded by an artificial intelligence. It is in the form of the giant spacecraft floating in Earth’s atmosphere and presumably in the forms of the drones and the sea-sucking mechanisms. For some reason, they needed a couple of humans around to maintain things, a maintenance crew. Why not robots? Not clear. Thus we have the duo, duped as they are with erased memories, working to solve the mystery of what is really going on. And it does have some twists. Maybe I haven’t spoiled them all.
I guess the bottom line for me about Oblivion is that it’s a pretty decent movie. Not great, not special, not unique. Very slick-looking. I’m not sure that it reflects any greater depth. Like I kept wondering about the false family of Cruise and Riseborough and their lush penthouse life as in what does that mean to signify? The false life they lead, does it mean to represent society or something? Marriage? Science fiction typically is loaded with social commentary. Oblivion is mostly oblivious to this, I believe. It’s a scenario but not necessarily one for us to think too much about. A devastated Earth with a broken moon floating in space looks cool. It’s just not too likely to happen this way.