Watching: Oblivion

Oblivion is a great compilation of some of the top concepts from recent science fiction film and television history. It was a very interesting ride, that I rather enjoyed. [spoiler alert, turn away now]

Since I don't read science fiction, I can't attest to the level to which this movie borrows from scifi literature as well, but I'm sure it does so a fair bit. I can think of Ray Bradbury right off.

The hallmark of any good science fiction story is the human element and struggle. Characters who engage in introspected questioning: who am I, what can I achieve, what is, what might be, and what might happen. And don't forget the big brother issue. That always pops up, sooner or later.

Technology is a sidecar. A supporting character. Although it is omnipresent and perfectly awe-inspiring on our ride along this story, for the characters it's completely pedestrian. Technology is the foundational status quo upon which the human struggles and dreams unfold.

I've been curious about the types of movies Tom Cruise has been pursuing lately. I might even go so far as to say he's nostalgic for some part of our collective cultural past--maybe the 1980s. A definite maybe.

He's reached a particular level of stardom where he has complete freedom in his choices of projects, and although he has a history of assured hits at the box office, he can definitely take on fringe-creative projects without batting an eyelash. This is a perfect example.

The soundtrack to oblivion is very synth heavy and reminiscent of Tron. It's what captured my attention very early in the film. It takes the life among the clouds--in a future too extreme to fathom but near enough to play with--to lofty heights without being too precious or overachieving. It sets a good tone for the story.

As a matter of fact, if it hadn't been for the soundtrack capturing my attention so early on, I would have fallen asleep tuned out with the initial monologue introducing the facts of the present day. I am a big huge believer of showing rather than telling. A montage would have helped the audience catch up on their own rather than be told what to see and hear.

The scenery and images are incredibly well photographed/choreographed. The skins on the computer images are so realistic. Kudos to the fx artists. There's a glimpse of forgotten landmarks, destroyed but thought-provoking landscapes, and amazing new-world atmosphere that linger just enough to register and form an opinion. Ruin pr0n at its computer graphic best. Destroyed landmarks reminisce of Waterworld's dry land under the sea, and society's remnants from films like Deep Impact and The Day After Tomorrow--in regards to the latter, The New York Public Library makes a cameo.

The residence/operations tower is not unlike the Jetsons' own skypad apartment, high up among the clouds. I was desperately looking for Rosie (j/k). And yet it was so much like the residence in Tron 2 as well. Why do we always imagine far future residences equipped with square cornered furniture, see-through materials, industrial quality construction? This particular home away from home has the added benefit of a very unique take on an infinity pool. As a matter of fact, the glass walled residence also reminded me of The Lake House.

I loved the 60s/70s style of minimalist modern decor. Efficient, see-through but offering all the comforts. Alas, I cannot imagine where they stored the touch screen cleaning supplies, or, much less, all the window cleaner they required to keep those glass walls as freshly polished and see-through as they seemed.

Perhaps the drones had a second job of doing all the housework? The drones are what I imagine the love child of Eve from Wall-E and the Star Wars death star would be. Annoying little trigger-happy machines that look like shiny, spit-polished, spherical iPod death squads.

The human resistance is not unlike the Terminator, Matrix, Waterworld, or Star Wars resistance groups.  Secondary or tertiary in importance, and a little sad. A population that's been hardened by events, yet who is not smart enough to get out of the way when the bad guys come a-shooting. Drudging along...I admit I was unable to stifle a guffaw when I saw Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

Now for the disappointments...we don't know why Odyssey popped up out of nowhere after such a long time. Even Ellen Ripley looks more mussed than that when emerging from stasis. Why leave that thread untied? Was she really the original wife or yet another clone? Why does Victoria play housewife? Why does she barely show any emotion or facial expression? How does she stay so thin sitting all day at a console with no exercise equipment around? Traditional gender roles raise my hackles. The more things change, the more they stay the same?

And finally, let's not forget that L. Ron Hubbard was big on fantasy and scifi. So maybe this return for Tom Cruise (after Minority Report and War of the Worlds) to scifi isn't that strange after all. It's interesting how things come full circle in the end.

Speaking of the end, I don't need to ever worry again about what a love child between V'ger and HAL-9000 would look like...