Sunday, May 5, 2013

More Than Meets The Sky

Universal Picture's Oblivion Shows Us There Is More Than One Kind of Artificial Intelligence


ARTH VADER (AV): Continuity is a curious topic here, Pontificator. The movie is the brainchild of a graphic novel that never was. Released as an exclusive preview at San Diego ComiCon in 2009, the beautifully illustrated spreads were breathtaking. The rumor is that the limited content was always meant to be a storyboard for a movie proposal. Regardless, the story is as visually stunning as those wonderfully rendered initial promotional spreads. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Again, I don’t have any reference to compare continuity (in other words, I haven’t read the book... that never was). I’ll leave such comparisons to those that have had the exclusive opportunity to indulge in both the limited content and the film.


AV: For me, Mr. Tom Cruise has had a solid–if not stellar–run of sci-fi and fantasy films. Mission: Impossible, War of The Worlds and Minority Report  are all solid sci-fi flicks. Heck, I even dug him as the Vampire Lestat in Interview With A Vampire. Even Morgan "I-Can-Do-No-Movie-Wrong" Freeman joins the cast along with British relative newcomer Andrea Riseborough to help Oblivion–the cast is well stacked. The character-driven storyline is well shot and laden with enough effects shots to keep any SFX studio busy (and proud). The movie is a stunning victory as, according to creator Joseph Kosinski, an "… homage to science fiction movies from the 1970's." That is certainly evident in the breath-taking, post apocalyptic Manhattan scenes the movie displays. Ponty? 

TP: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now again, Tom Cruise is one of the premier action sci-fi hero’s of our time. Despite his age, he continues to deliver physically impressive performances and is actually a really good actor (Born on the Fourth of July and Jerry Maguire anyone?). Adding Morgan Freeman to the cast is just sealing the deal for viewership. I didn’t see anyone in a role that wasn’t a great choice for their part. The direction of the film was predicable, at first, but quickly became a series of interesting surprises.

AV: First rate. The visual effects are masterful. The landscapes are immersive and tech is believably 'near-future'. Here's what I saw; ever since Chuck Heston pounded his frustrated mits into the rolling surf after identifying the blasted remains of the Statue of Liberty, Sci-Fi films have treated us with scenes of the ruin and decay of New York at the hands of some horrible catastrophe. Whether it's being blown to pieces in Independence Day or engulfed in water in The Day After Tomorrow, the Big Apple has suffered devastation aplenty. Such is the case in Oblivion. Deep Canyons remain of mid-town and cryptic spires jutting out of the landscape are just gorgeous. The effects folks over at Pixomondo lead the way with the stupefying effects for this film. Well done, folks. I would almost encourage seeing this movie for the effects shots alone. 

TP: I will sum up the special effects in two words: top notch. The landscapes were convincing and awesome and the drones were believably menacing. I know there was CGI in this film... there had to be, but I never noticed it. That’s the best kind of CGI, the kind you know is there, but just can’t spot. The props were also very impressive. As small of a scene as it was, especially in the overall. 


AV: This movie, while not entirely original, did have a unique spin on the "after the end of the world" story arc. While I believe we are (purposely) left with as many questions as answers, the movie was fun and exceptionally entertaining. Indulge me, oh reader, with these questions. If the clones of Jack and Victoria are told of the horrible outcome war with the "scavs" and the terrible price for victory 60 years earlier—is that all just a lie? Even if the devastation is six decades old, why does it look like hundreds of years prior–even thousands? Are the scavs aliens or a human construct? Why would Jack be 'allowed' to have a secret cottage/refuge? Does that mean ALL Jack clones have this? Why did the Scavs need so much ocean water? How do the 'survivors' eat? Where is their water supply? I could go on but there a great many holes in the story. You want to see Oblivion and enjoy it, I strongly suggest you turn your brain off. It will be for the best. Thoughts, Ponty? 

TP: Certain plot points were very easy for me to see early in the film Vader. I basically called it within the first ten minutes. The impressive part of the movie is the rest of the story that I never saw coming. That said, I really wanted to know how they intended to tie the loose end of multiple clones already earth-side and operating when the Tet is destroyed? I thought is was genius to flip what we were being told...and things be the opposite of what Jack believed. Earth lost the war, and he has become an instrument for hunting the remnants of his own people. Ironically, the survivor’s of Earth (Scavs) have indeed become “alien” to him. The word “oblivion” means to forget, and it was an apt title given the fact it was Jack’s memories, which survived being systematically wiped, that were the key to finally changing everything.


AV: I could see having more of this story unfold before me. I don't know if that's in the works but the movie has merit and offers plenty of scenarios that could easily inspire sequels. I would also love to have some of the above questions answered. While the trend in Hollywood is to offer multiple installments to even half-baked stories, this movie could see more fleshing out. That said, I could take or leave a part two. How say you, sir? 

TP: I have to say that there need not be a sequel to this film, it stands very well by itself. However, if they wanted to make one... I know a few angles that they could approach it from... not the least of which is a prequel to show the invasion and subsequent destruction.


ARTH VADER rates Oblivion: You could do a lot worse than seeing this movie. Pensive, serious, great  characters driven by a cryptic story, this film entertains and offers a unique twist on the alien invasion cannon. If you are NOT a Tom Cruise fan, this movie is filled to the brim with Jack so you might want to consider that before plunking down your digits for a ticket. Rest assured, this is an excellent first round salvo to kick-off the 2013 summer movie season to which I gladly give up seven (7) Busted Blocks for Oblivion because Earth is–indeed–a memory worth fighting for. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Oblivion: A great film and a very interesting and engaging story made this one a very entertaining view. It wasn’t overwhelmed with action, but had enough of it and it was intense enough to keep the film exciting...and explode seven (7) busted blocks.

Oblivion: 7/10 Busted Blocks

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