Wednesday, April 24, 2013

21 Apr 13 - Oblivion

...Are you and Jack an effective team?”

The future looks even more bleak in the latest Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion, blogspot readers, and it’ll have you questioning the whys of your life and mission.
Based on an unpublished graphic novel by Tron Legacy director, Joseph Kosinki, it appears Earth has been devastated by earthquakes, tsunamis and more after an alien invasion destroyed our moon according to the narrative monologue by Cruise’s character, Jack Harper Tech 49, at the beginning of the movie. In a last ditch effort to save our planet, we unleashed a nuclear destruction which turns it into a radioactive wasteland. Jump to 60 years later, the war is over. We won but actually lost since the planet is no longer inhabited by humans. This opening premise of Oblivion tries to make you believe that everything presently is okay in paradise, blogspot readers, yet appearances can be quite deceiving.
Tom Cruise’s character spends his days fixing the Drones (like 166) that roam desolate planet on guard for aliens only known as Scavengers (or affectionately “Scavs”), exploring the desert wasteland that was once New York City and spends his nights in a seemingly effective team-run home with his communications partner and “lover” Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). She on the other hand is oblivious to Jack’s troubled mind (because of a recurring dream of a woman at the top of the Empire State Building) yet enjoys skinny dipping in the pool. Still there’s something about Jack compared to his counterpart. While he stays in awe with growing signs of plant life, Victoria’s more of a straight-to-the-point bot who doesn’t see the beauty of the potted plant when Jack brings it home ...she claims it could be radioactive and whatnot.
Yes, life for Jack may seem simple and somewhat mundane but he’s really the guy who heavily clings onto the past. If he’s not recalling the final Super Bowl moment ever played before the war, he retreats to his hidden cabin in the woods (that’s not within range of Victoria’s watchful tracking system) where he has keeps his collected memories ...mementos and remnants of the past civilization such as vinyl albums (look for Pink Floyd’s The Wall along with others like Duran Duran, Blue Oyster Cult), literary classics (like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities), and other things (look for his Top Gun sunglasses too). Here, he can “escape” life as a drone technician to fish while wading in the cool water and listening to Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On (or Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale, Jack’s favorite song). However, any kind of normalcy within a life like Jack’s has a way being interrupted, blogspot readers, especially when you meet two characters who can ultimately change and/or reshape it.
First comes Julia (Olga Kurylenko) whom Jack saves from Drone termination after her ship (named Odyssey) crash lands on Earth due to a homing signal allegedly planted by the “scavs” at the top of the Empire State Building. Her presence not only disrupts the seemingly “happy” life Jack and Victoria have built for themselves but also causes Jack to remember and relive memories from his past ...for example that Julia is his wife. Next comes Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), leader of the remaining human survivors living in an underground Matrix-like colony for the last 60 years aka the “scavs”, who tells Jack the real purpose of the Drones that he repairs. They were designed to kill humans. Things suddenly begin to unravel as well as start clicking for Jack. He begins to remember more about his former life he once had while discovering the truth about the “company” he works for and ultimately himself after being advised by Malcolm to search for it within the radiation zone. Sorry, blogspot readers, no spoilers here but just know this ...all is not what it truly appears to be in Jack’s world ...he’s not really what he appears to be thus leading him to take action and fight against the Tet, the alien lifeforce that invaded Earth many years ago, with Malcolm and the other human survivors in the end.
Though Oblivion is actually an homage to the sci-fi films of the 70s (i.e. the spaceship Odyssey for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), Joseph Kosinki’s movie in way also borrows a few bits and pieces from other sci-fi movies like Independence Day (aliens invading Earth for our natural resources), Matrix and Terminator (machines designed to destroy the human race), Moon (references to cloning) and the original Planet of the Apes (the desolate landscape after some sort of nuclear attack). And despite that, he imaginatively creates a world where you can beautifully behold the visually stunning wasteland along with Tom Cruise’s character as he explores it on his Tron-like cycle. SouthSide at times was in awe at the amount of thought he and his team of set designers put into the contrasting destruction the alien invasion and nuclear aftermath for the New York area in the year 2077 ...aging naval ships laying stuck in sands to the Brooklyn bridge and underground decay of the famed New York Public Library (where Jack finds a copy of Plays of Ancient Rome). It’s not really a paradise you hope not to see 64 years from now, blogspot readers.
This reviewer enjoyed the contrasting characters between Tom Cruise’s Jack and Andrea Riseborough’s Victoria which sometimes had her sensing of two being cold and distant as well as loving towards each other ...sometimes at the same time. True, they were an effective team but not that effective if Julia’s presence could cause a rip between Jack and Victoria. Some might see that as the characters having no chemistry between them yet that’s not really the case, blogspot readers. Jack and Victoria are mainly paired together as co-workers and nothing more. It is until after Jack realizes that Julia is his wife that you’ll see Victoria’s jealous streak showing for her to report they (Jack and her) are not an effective team. She also liked how Morgan Freeman’s supporting character, Malcolm Beech, was channeling Lawrence Fishbourne’s Morpheus (of the Matrix trilogy) speak and wisdom when first meeting Jack during the latter half of the movie. The smaller role did have commanding performance even though information he tells Jack might seem a bit cryptic but as Jack unravels the truth about the Tet and himself, you understand why Malcolm didn’t shock him with truth all at once. Even the drones and the ominous “Sally” (think of her as Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey) who can terrify the mind with her “are you and Jack an effective team” to “I created you, Jack. I am your God”. Talk about putting some sci-fi terror into a few words like that, blogspot readers, especially since it had this reviewer constantly wondering what would happen if Victoria said no they weren’t an effective team. Well, she definitely found out towards the end of the movie.
SouthSide knows there are complaints that Oblivion doesn’t have much or that it lacks in the action department than your typically average sci-fi genre movie, blogspot readers. Well, in honesty, this movie wasn’t designed to be an action sci-fi flick since the “action” part wasn’t truly its main focal point. There’s action but it’s strategically placed in between a well-scripted plot cleverly building itself as a thought-provoking cinematic feature that’s deeply rooted in an Alfred Hitchcook-inspired mystery. Some clues are quite obvious and pop out at you while others are more subtle yet they do gradually reveal themselves as the movie progresses towards the conclusion which is neither happy nor sad ...just hopeful. And as a music critic, she liked how the French electronic/shoegaze band M83 was tapped for this project to provide that futuristic feel and sound for Oblivion just like Daft Punk did for Tron Legacy, blogspot readers. The soundtrack features an opening sequence (titled Jack’s Dream) that gives the audience seemingly look at happier times as Jack monologues what happened to Earth before feeling the attention grabbing blast of electronica upon seeing the movie title. Other notable tracks off the Oblivion soundtrack include Tech 49 when Jack is exploring the desolate wasteland (beautifully highlights visual effects of a world that’s no more) and Oblivion (featuring vocalist Susanne Sundfer) at the ending credits.
Highly recommended.
Until next time, support your local scene,

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