To my mind, the purpose of a movie is to entertain, or raise—maybe answer—a pertinent life question, or document a historical event. I realize that the sequence of moving pictures that people pay considerable sums of money to watch on the big screen are sought first and foremost for their ability to entertain. So what then, to make of a movie like Oblivion?
Right off the bat I’d like to state that this movie looks awesome. The computer-aided wide-open landscapes, as well as the more controlled interiors shots are beautifully realized. I know a few things about reflections and how difficult they can make it for a filmmaking team to superimpose computer graphics on them but this movie just goes places most compositors would fear to tread. The imagery is rich, beautiful, and quite reminiscent of our present day world of touch screens and glossy interfaces.
With names like Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman in the cast there is sufficient star power to gain a certain measure of audience curiosity. I’m just not sure what those early audiences will make of the film though.
The film moves along at a steady clip and I am aware that the costume design and overall aesthetic of the film has drawn comparisons to WALL-E from certain quarters of the Internet. I can see it but that’s really not a fair comparison. I was reminded of Prometheus (a little) while watching the film, and I found out later that certain portions of this movie were also filmed in Iceland. So I guess that makes sense.
Understand one thing though: the story you’re being fed as the supposed plot of this movie is just a hint at the larger picture. And, unfortunately, that is a picture that filmgoers—especially fans of sci-fi—have experienced a few times before. Which lends a certain sense of ennui to this whole exercise. Not to mention déjà vu. So yeah, a couple of French words, that accurately describe an American movie shot in Iceland.
I don’t go to the movies looking for meaning in my life. I don’t require all my entertainment to deliver a message at the end, or a happy ending. Which is why the conclusion of this movie leaves me with a sense of…really? That’s what you’re telling us makes everything okay?
Director Joseph Kosinski wrote a graphic novel in 2007. It shares the name—and I imagine the contents—of this movie. It took a while for that graphic novel to get optioned and turned into a feature film. Along the way he directed the sequel to TRON. So it is clear that Mr. Kosinski is a creator of big budget extravaganzas—the kind that major movie studios like to have on their release slates. I’m just unclear about whom this movie is for.
Final Analysis: There is absolutely no faulting the visual flair on display in this movie. As long as the bigger picture remains hidden, the storytelling is competent. But it all kinda breaks down when the major pieces begin to fall into place.
My Advice: If you’re in the mood to watch Oblivion, do it while it’s playing on the big screen. It really is something of a visual delight. Be warned that other filmmakers—in the very recent past—have told similar stories with greater facility.