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Gavin Grades The Movies


Director Joseph Kosinski is a lucky man.  He came out of nowhere, complete obscurity; and for his first attempt at directing he was given the highly anticipated Tron: Legacy by Disney.  That was a success and had a decent budget.  For his second attempt, he teams up with Tom Cruise who helps produce and star in Oblivion with a budget considerably bigger than Tron.  Now it's easy to say right there that that makes him lucky but what trumps that is that Oblivion is based on a graph novel that HE wrote!  Only one other time has the author of a graphic novel been allowed to direct the film version of it and that was Frank Miller with Sin City and he didn't even really get to direct (giving him the credit was a nod from the real director, Robert Rodriguez).

Oblivion follows Cruise as he oversees and fixes the giant equipment that is used to suck all the water out of Earth after the last of the remaining humans have left to live in Saturn's moon after a war with aliens destroyed our home planet.  But as things become obvious from almost the opening credits, all is not what it appears to be.  Make no mistake that this is some heavy Science-Fiction and will alienate (no pun intended) some of you.  But those of us that enjoy a little Sci-Fi will feel right at home.

The reason for getting so comfy is Oblivion is because virtually nothing in this film is original.  You can tell that Kosinski is a fan of the genre because Oblivion steals or pays homage (depends on how generous you want to be) to several of Sci-Fi's greatest.  You'll quickly recognize themes or imagery that invoke 2001, Wall-E, Moon, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Mad Max...the list can go on and on.  The fact that there are so many allusions makes me think that it is intentional but if you want to be harsh, you can scream at the screen that it's all hack material.

Regardless of how you feel, Oblivion is a gorgeous film.  Although there are FX in almost every shot, it doesn't feel like a film made entirely in a computer.  The scenes on Earth seem like actual locations that you vaguely recognize and what has destroyed them seems very logical.  When you add to that a marvelously composed score of synth pop, sharp details in design and some of the best audio FX I've heard in a while, it makes you realize this is a film that is to be expierenced.  (But maybe that was just because I saw it at the Esquire IMAX Theater...which I highly recommend.)

Be warned though that this is a film that doesn't come together until the final 20 minutes.  Prior to that it meanders and confuses with plot points that come up and are not explained nor logical.  However, when the final act begins it is and although the big "twist" you see coming for miles, it's satisfying and makes Oblivion a film that probably watches much better on a second viewing.

Cruise is great, which he usually is, and is a treat to see in Sci-Fi again.  Say what you will about him on a personal level, the guy is a consistent performer who is intense and present, although everything he's done, for the most part, has been the same role.  Morgan Freeman shows up in a small and silly role and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo gives a warmly sinister performance that is no surprise but easy to enjoy.

I fully plan on watching Oblivion again since it's a film I didn't really enjoy until it was almost over. Movies like that are fun for me because the ending is so good that a second viewing feels like I'm watching it for the first time.  The Usual Suspects was like that for me.  Now, Oblivion doesn't have an ending as shocking or goosebump-enducing as that but it's good enough to make me think and spark conversation afterward; and that's rare for movies now it seems.
Oblivion  (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B

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Topics : Entertainment_Culture
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Locations : Saturn
People : Frank MillerGavin GradeJoseph KosinskiMelissa LeoMorgan FreemanRobert RodriguezTom Cruise


04/19/2013 2:04PM
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